The World’s Greatest Trophy

Every athlete has his or her holy grail.  It is their ultimate championship moment, the culmination of years of hard work and dedication.  You train for this, you live for it having turned your body into a finely tuned machine of physical excellence.  And when you get there, when that clock strikes zero (or 90 plus minutes for all my soccer pals), when the final out is rung up or the finish line crossed, you get to raise above your head the object of your desire, the physical manifestation of your success.  You get a shiny, beautiful trophy.   And while every champion loves their trophy, not all trophies are created equal.

If athletes can compete to be the best, why not their prizes as well?  What else is the internet good for except comparing things like championship trophies?!  There are many contenders, but let’s get real here.  Truthfully, there are only a handful of legitimate contenders in our engraved heavy weight division of hardware.  Let’s call them the “Big 6.”

  • FIFA World Cup Trophy (soccer)
  • Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy (NBA)
  • The Stanley Cup (NHL)
  • America’s Cup (sailing)
  • The Vince Lombardi Trophy (NFL)
  • Commissioner’s Trophy (MLB)

First, let me quell the discontent of those left out.  No, golf, winning a tacky green sports coat at The Masters is not cool.  It makes you look like a 70s real estate agent.  Race fans, I love the Daytona 50o trophy as much as the next guy, but there’s a giant trophy given away every week in motorsports, which sort of lessens the impact of an overall title.  Tennis?  You guys have four majors and some of them hand out plates!  Speaking of weird wedding registry trophies, college football has a crystal football that they hand to 300 pound linemen.  Did Risky Business teach you nothing?  Everyone else, just walk away.

So, who is the best of the best then?  Let me cut the suspense.  The winner is quite simply, The Stanley Cup.

Yeah, you heard me, The Stanley Cup.  At 108 years old, Lord Stanley of Preston’s gift to the hockey world just keeps on giving.  Why is it the best?  First off, there is only one.  Okay, three.  The original bowl is too frail to be handled anymore and sits in a vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.  There is also a replica that sits on display at the Hall when the main one is traveling around, but when you win it, it is the same trophy that has been hoisted up by every great champion for over a century.  It is that connection to history that makes Stanley so sweet.  The NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NFL have new trophies manufactured every year.  Sure you’re sharing the same title of champion that greats like Magic Johnson or Babe Ruth once did, but when you lift Lord Stanley, you are gripping the exact same silverware as Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky.

Which brings me to my second reason: the names.  There is nothing like it amongst our finalists.  Upon the Stanley Cup, the name of each and every (eligible) team member is engraved for all eternity.  Part trophy, part history book, champions of today can run their fingers over their childhood heroes names and their father’s heroes names.  The Cup is virtually alive with the souls of each of these great players.  If you are lucky enough to win it,  your grandkids can see your name on it.  The honor of winning this prize is spelled out for all to see.

Finally, the legend.  Vince Lombardi is a legend, his trophy is not.  Sure, some people would probably be pretty pissed off if the NFL changed the design of the trophy, but ultimately, fans would get over it.  Look at baseball, that trophy, while I find it very interesting and beautiful, has had it’s basic design tinkered with over and over again through the years with the current configuration only dating back to 1999.  Do fans care?  No!  They only care about the title.  Same goes for basketball fans, who, quite frankly, have one of the more uninspired trophies I’ve ever seen to admire.  They renamed it once already, so I doubt altering the Larry O’Brien would remain a thorn in the sides of fans.  You change The Stanley Cup, you will have a riot on your hands.  The league would shut down after players and clubs refused to play for the new trophy.  Fans would seize the New York offices of the NHL and take control.  Changing the Stanley Cup would incite revolution.  As passionate as other sports fans are, in hockey, it is not just the title, it is the Cup itself that drives the sport.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for the other trophies.  America’s Cup is the oldest trophy awarded in international sports (1951), but the competition is still a challenge and occurs at irregular intervals, making it’s allure (and the sheer magnitude of money involved to participate) highly unrelatable to everyday fans.  Soccer’s World Cup is arguably the most desirable trophy in the world, both for what it represents and the fact it is 11 pounds of solid 18 karat gold!!  (Plus a case by Loius Vuitton!)  The World Cup even engraves the names of each winning nation on the bottom of the trophy, which I like, and winners only receive a replica, bringing it much closer in line with Stanley than the other contenders.  I would rank it a  fairly close second. 

 But in the end, there can be only one, and that one has to be The Stanley Cup.

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The World’s Greatest Trophy — 103 Comments

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