Tuesday, February 07, 2006

what a beautiful face i have found in this place


So there's a huge basketball game tonight. It's a mismatch in Duke's favor, but both teams always rise to the occasion, so we should expect a close game. It should be fun, anyway. I think there was a football game of some importance the other night, too. That's what I came here to write about. Sort of. Quick. What's the name of the trophy given to the Superbowl Champ? Think you could pick it out of a police lineup? I stumbled on this article, in the McPaper the other day. Yes, the NFL is envious of the recognition enjoyed by, and the mystique surrounding Lord Stanley's Cup. They think that, with the right marketing gurus, they can put it on the same level with hockey's holy grail.

Here's what they have in mind, followed by what I think of their ideas:
Pigskin Presentation Stand. The league is building a sleek, high-tech presentation stand shaped like a football with a red carpet leading up to it.

Are they serious? Do they really think that anyone gives a rats ass about the podium? Or how it is presented, or who presents it? Since they were the ones to draw the comparison, I'll reference the presentation of the Stanley Cup. When the Cup is presented to the Captain of the winning team, it sits on a fucking card table at center ice. That's about as low-tech as it gets. Sure, the table is draped with a special table cloth, and there is a "Stanley Cup" red carpet, but there's nothing sleek or high tech about it. The commissioner of the NHL hands it over. No celebrities, no hall of fame player. Just the commish. Nobody cares about the table or the carpet. They just want to see the victors hoist the Cup. I would think that the NFL would be wasting their money on a "sleek high-tech presentation stand" that nobody will give a shit about.

Super Bowl highlights. NFL Films will try to keep the crowd around for the trophy ceremony by debuting a 41/2-minute long film featuring highlights from Super Bowls I-XXXIX. The league hopes broadcaster ABC will then seamlessly cut from a commercial break to the trophy presentation.

Yeah the highlights are all good and well for the 80,000 in attendance. But what about the 10 million people watching on television. I seriously don't think this would be in aid of promoting the Lombardi trophy, anyway. The "One Magic Moment" highlight reel does wonders for CBS during the NCAA Final Four, but it does nothing to promote the actual trophy. I couldn't even tell you what the NCAA basketball trophy looks like. I can sing that song word for word, but you could whack me in the head with the trophy, and I wouldn't even know what hit me. Which brings us to the third point...
Hail to the trophy. The NFL is creating signature theme music and protocol for the trophy that Supovitz describes as its own Hail to the Chief for this and future Super Bowls.

Maybe this is the most laughable. Theme music? Yeah, right. I can imagine the following conversation NEVER taking place:
  • Hey, Chris... Have you heard that new Lombardi Trophy song?
  • Yeah, dude, that's a fucking jam! I totally have the utmost respect for that trophy now.

  • Um... right. To my knowledge, this would be the only trophy that has its own gay music. Maybe it'll work, but it seems silly to me.

    Here's what might be my favorite part of the article:
    "We're building a mythology around it," says Frank Supovitz, the former NHL executive turned senior vice president of events for the NFL.

    Building? a mythology? around it?

    The reason that the Stanley Cup has a mythology around it is that it is the very same cup from one year to the next. The original cup sits in the hockey hall of fame, and is kinda banged up, but it has been a challenge cup since 1893. By comparison, the NFL manufactures a new Lombardi Trophy each year. The trophy is inscribed with the year, and the name of the winning team. That trophy is the permanent property of said team. The Stanley Cup, however, moves along. It is never the property of any team; they simply have possession of it for one year. The name of every team, and of every player who has ever won is etched on the Cup. And in a tradition that's only about 10 years old, each player gets to do whatever he wants with the Cup for one day. That's part of the mythology. Players have baptized their children in the cup. They've taken it to the boobie bar and let fans drink beer from it. They've thrown it in the bottom of swimming pools. They've taken it on roller coasters, and on mountain climbing excursions.
    Before the era of players having personal time with the Cup, there were quite a few tales of mistreatment of, or misplacement of the Cup. For instance, in 1905, when the Ottawa Silver Seven won the Cup, one of the drunken players dropkicked the Cup into the canal on a dare. It sat there overnight, and was later retrieved (a little worse for the wear) from the frozen surface of the canal. So there's stuff like that which can never be part of the "lore" of the Lombardi Trophy.
    Players in the NHL get a real kick out of being able to hoist the exact same Cup that hockey's legends have. To have their name etched permanently on the same Cup with hockey's legends. To have in their possession, the very same Cup that (so-and-so)'s dog ate out of. The very same Cup that was accidentally left on the side of the road by the 1924 Montréal Canadiens.

    First of all, it would take years, maybe decades for the "created" mythology of the Lombardi Trophy to take hold. And the chances of it taking hold are lessened by the simple fact that every year, a new trophy is made. Nobody will ever say about the Lombardi "Wow... I'm holding this object that Bart Starr held 40 years ago." Or "wow, this thing sure has had some adventures, and my kids are eating cereal out of it right now".

    My advice to the NFL if they want the Lombardi Trophy to be more famous than the Stanley Cup would be to make it into a challenge trophy. And change the design of it. It's frankly very boring that the football champ gets a trophy in the shape of a football. If you want it to have some of its own mythology rather than some invented mythology, it should be designed such that the winning players can do stuff with (or in) it. It works for the Stanley Cup.

    I would also advise the NFL to start handing out more hardware. And speaking of which, "Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Year Award" isn't gonna cut it. That's something else that hockey fans get really pumped up about -- the multitude of different trophies that are handed out each year. Some of those trophies are, admittedly, pretty lame. Most, however are not only beautiful awards, but they have rich tradition as well. I could go into detail about them all, but I'll spare you that.

    Now playing:

    Drop Nineteens Delaware


    doug said...

    shew! I thought this was gonna be one of those "this sport is better than that sport" posts. Agreed on your point though. Incidentally, I think the name of the basketball trophy is a sponsored name, so it changes (I think, I couldn't find the name in a quick search) - how lame is that? 2 Questions: who is this stanley person? what happens if the cup fills up with names, and how close are they to that happening?

    Reid said...

    Excellent points, and you're very right on the Super Bowl trophy being boring, and it really would be exciting if it was just one single trophy.

    But...the key phrases here are: "in 1905" and "the 1924 Montreal Canadiens" and "since 1893". The Stanley Cup has a kind of tradition that the Super Bowl can't possible compete with. We just had Super Bowl FORTY. It's barely even older than me. So I think this is the NFL looking to start creating some traditions that won't necessarily be that great now, but they hope will be a big deal in 40-50 years. Makes some sense.

    Unfortunately, money talks a lot louder these days than it used to, so I don't really see them being real successful in trying to create traditions, since we all know that if they don't make money quickly, they'll get dropped. Ah well.

    Here's my question about the Stanley Cup: do the winners get a replica or plaque or something that they can display in their offices?