What Sports Trophies Mean to Us

By Dennis Phoenix

Dennis Phoenix is an avid sports fanatic. He writes primarily on topics of human relations in sports and business for Able Trophies, a supplier of glass awards and crystal awards.

The smiles on the faces are all the same. Age means nothing. From the little guy holding his first trophy after a season of pee-wee league baseball to the professional athlete wielding the NBA Championship Trophy over his head, the smiles say it all. Even highly paid professionals that have won trophies for most of their lives can point to one from years ago and reminisce on its meaning.

Trophies have been around for a long time. They have marked victory since ancient times. The English word trophy originated with the French word trophee in 1531 which meant "a prize of war." The ancient Greeks would make trophies on their victorious battlefields. They generally were made from captured arms and standards, arranged to resemble a warrior, and dedicated to their gods.

Today, as throughout time, trophies represent something woven into our human fabric. They stand for victory of course, but they also mean much more. When we earn the right to hold a trophy in our hands, it means we have prevailed. We have prevailed against a worthy opponent. We have prevailed against our own limitations. We have prevailed, if only for a passing moment, against our own human frailties and reached the epitome of the human condition. Trophies represent our brief interlude with perfection.

At any level of sports, once we have clutched a trophy in our hands we are hooked forever. They become the one tangible goal that represents everything pure in sport. They are the material representation of our efforts to succeed. As Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis player once stated, "When I need to push myself, I think of all those nicely polished trophies waiting to be lifted up by the winner - and how that winner might be me."

Maria Sharapova (RUS) and Serena Williams (USA)
Jun 8, 2013; Paris, France: Maria Sharapova (RUS) and Serena Williams (USA) pose with their trophies after their match on day 14 of the 2013 French Open at Roland Garros. Photo courtesy by Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports.

Athletes may reap fame and fortune, but their trophies are the one thing representing all they have striven for over a career. Ask a professional athlete about his expensive vehicle and he will be happy to tell you about it, but it is only a possession. Ask him about his professional trophy and he'll actually start beaming.

Many professional athletes have had criticism heaped on them for the outlandish trophy rooms they have built for themselves. Why shouldn't they? Earning a professional league trophy means you are either the best individual or a member of the best team in that sport worldwide. It is something to revere.  For some, maybe even worship. Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Stargell speaks for many of us when he once said "A ... trophy is a wonderful thing to behold."

The feeling of invincibility is not just something the professional athlete feels. It is written on the faces of everyone who has held a trophy in their hand. As Matt Hagens of east coast golf sales observed, "The faces of athletes getting a trophy says it all. It is the fruit of their toil and labor, regardless of their age or skill level." That pretty much sums it up.

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