Saturday, February 06, 2010

Rings and Things

Twenty-four hours from now, an NFL champion will be crowned--figuratively speaking, of course. Rather than a literal coronation ceremony (which actually might be kind of cool, come to think of it), winning players will have to settle for the right to fondle a trophy. Due to contract incentives, some of them might even see a direct fiduciary reward for their efforts. But most tangibly, they will be awarded a ring in a few months time. The championship ring has become an important cultural symbol. Announcers speak of athletes' burning desire to "get a ring," and viewers know that this is not a commentary on a players' overwhelming urge to find a worthwhile spouse. The significance of the championship ring (or in some individual sports, the championship belt) is completely understandable. Much like graduates would historically require a sheepskin diploma, the need is present for something concrete to represent the magnitude of the achievement.

From my understanding, athletes aren't the only ones who receive these rings. Coaches and even front-office employees are also entitled to their just deserts. This does seem fair to me; players aren't the only ones who invest in a franchise's success. But come to think of it, if "investment" is the criteria that is used to determine rewards, I would have to think that another group of people need to be considered-- fans. Even setting aside the notion that fans do directly and indirectly contribute to team success (from financial contributions to the very real phenomenon of "home field advantage"), the sheer continuity that fans lend to franchises should count for something. Players, coaches, uniform colors, stadiums, owners, broadcasters, and corporate sponsors are always in a state of flux. But as long as a franchise stays anchored geographically, there is a fanbase that remains constant. You will never have a quarterback attached to a team for 70 years, but it is entirely possible that a fan would remain loyal to a franchise for that amount of time. And to return to the concept of "investment," we should not underestimate the time and emotional energy that a fan exerts.

So how can such a fan be rewarded? It is obviously unrealistic for a franchise to purchase hundreds of thousands of championship rings. In actuality, it is unrealistic to burden any franchise not only with the task of purchasing any kind of reward, but also with the task of determining the criteria for what type of fan is most deserving of an award (certainly, the bandwagon jumpers shouldn't be entitled to anything, but how can we know who falls into that category?)

Of course, fans could take the initiative to reward themselves. I actually remember an advertisement back in early 1997 for a "fan championship ring" to celebrate the Packers' Super Bowl triumph. But I never saw one of these rings in real life, so I doubt this idea had or has much traction. What I have seen evidence of in real life, however, is officially licensed championship apparel. I myself have owned a few Wisconsin Badger Rose Bowl shirts and Green Bay Packer championship sweatshirts. The problem with apparel, though, is that it has a relatively short shelf life. Even if the fabric of a shirt stays together, it seems kind of lame to be wearing a shirt celebrating a five-year-old championship.

But then again, one of the defining characteristics of fandom is the cyclical nature of one's team's fortunes. No matter how great or how terrible a game or a season, the next game or season is right around the corner. So in the final analysis, though players may be entitled to a permanent symbol of achievement, the fan reward must needs be more fleeting. So to review the criteria I have established: it has to be significant, it needs to be tangible, but it needs to be ephemeral. And this is why I shaved my facial hair on the night of January 25, 1998, and why, should I ever grow facial hair again, it will be my way of asserting that by virtue of my status as a fan of a championship team, I have earned the right.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in a love-hate relationship with digital memory because of how prices are always dropping. I absolutely hate buying SD Cards for my R4 / R4i at (seemingly) a cheap price only to see it become a whole lot cheaper a few weeks later.

(Posted by Nintendo DS running [url=]R4i[/url] cPost scPost)

8:28 PM  

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