Saturday, August 27, 2011

Best Blog Post 2011

A couple days after I wrote last week's post, in which I declared the cover of Sports Illustrated to be irrelevant, the Milwaukee Brewers made the cover for the first time in 24 years. And just like that, my Facebook and Twitter feeds blew up with mentions of Sports Illustrated. Local media outlets reported on the occurrence almost as if the team had accomplished an objective level of success, not as if a national competitor had simply made an editorial judgment on what story would be featured that week. But for all that, I'm not about to retract last week's post. I still think the cover of Sports Illustrated is irrelevant. And I should know. I was in Who's Who of American High School Students four years running.

Wikipedia tells me that this publication ceased to exist in 2007. We always hear that our education system is in need of reform, but who knew there are no more noteworthy high school students in America? Or, a more likely explanation for the cessation of the publication: Google made it easy for people who receive notification of the award to realize that it was essentially meaningless, that it existed simply to sell books to proud parents. To call inclusion in "Who's Who" a "recognition" would be wrong, since a "recognition" requires a third-party to execute the verb.

But although the Who's Who may be an extreme example, in reality most awards, honors, and recognitions exist in such an arrangement. There is no shortage of plaques, trophies, and certificates of achievement in this world. And the vast, vast majority of them would be recognizable only to those who have ownership of them or those who feel that they should own them (though I suspect that a surprisingly large percentage of owners wouldn't even be able to identify their own hardware).

Some awards exist in order to help recipients pad resumes, some serve the legitimate function of determining who should have access to limited resources, and many are simply there in order to allow individuals to feed their egos. But the common threads among many are 1) like the Who's Who, the award serves the additional purpose of building the reputation (or the bottom line) of the institution bestowing the award and 2) after a minimal passage of time, very few remember who won the award. I'd say that if either of those criteria are present, it should serve to temper any enthusiasm for a recognition, or alleviate any frustration at not being a named recipient. In short, it calls into question the relevance of the distinction.

And this brings the discussion back to Sports Illustrated. No doubt in the future a fair amount of Brewer fans will remember when Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Nyjer Morgan graced the cover in 2011 (moreso if the Brewers go on to experience postseason success). But fans of other teams? SI subscribers in general?

And, as is sometimes the case, the words of an anonymous Internet commentator can reveal a lot about a situation. A poster on Brewer fan site wrote: "Does anybody know where I can get a Sports Illustrated in the Milwaukee area?"


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