2-10-10: 5 Best Trophies in Sports

Hello again everybody...

It's the middle of the week again, and those of us here in the upper Midwest are doing what we can to dig out of the latest round of the Snownami that is this winter. Fortunately, we're better prepared to do that than our friends on the East coast who apparently don't believe in investing in snow plows.

Seriously? They've got to shut the Federal Government down for two straight days because of a couple feet of snow?! That delays us a couple of hours tops here in Minnesota.

My God, what am I saying? I think my brain has frozen. Why does anyone live here?! I need a vacation!

(31 days til Phoenix... not that I'm counting.)

Seeing the Saints hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 44 got me thinking. The VLT (not a bad acronym, huh?) is one of the better trophies in sports. So what would be my 5 favorites?

Glad you asked. Let's find out!

”I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I've ever known.”
- Walt Disney (1901 - 1966), American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon and philanthropist

Think about that little chestnut next time you wonder why they call it the “happiest place on Earth”. Oof.

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Time for a debate starter. Just what are the “5 Best Trophies in Sports”? Here are mine...

5. Paul Bunyan's Axe

I'll get my homerism out of the way first. College football trophies are amongst the best in sports. They represent the best in traditional competition. And no rivalry has been around longer than Wisconsin v. Minnesota.

The Badgers and the Gophers first met in 1890, and have played a total of 119 times, more than any other rivals in all of college football.

The Axe was created by the National “W” Club, the Wisconsin letter-winners club in 1948. And the scores of each game are etched in the handle. Wisconsin's wins on one side, Minnesota's on the other. If the team who currently possesses the Axe wins the game, they get to parade it around the stadium. If the other team wins, they get to rush the opponent's sideline and “steal” the Axe back.

As college trophies go, how can you not love the Axe? It's a natural trophy for teams from areas with a lot of wilderness. It represents the pioneer spirit. And it embraces the enduring legend of Paul Bunyan. Throw in the ease with which games are recorded on it, and you have my favorite college football rivalry trophy.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Badgers own a 35-24-3 advantage over the trophy's history!

4. The Commissioner's Trophy

Regular readers know that baseball is my favorite sport. And it's nearly for that reason alone that the World Series trophy ends up on this list.

Baseball has the richest tradition of any sport known to man, and the Commissioner's Trophy is part of that tradition. It's the only trophy that represents all the teams in its league regardless of whether they've won the championship or not.

The baseball, the crown, the pennants... all speak to the wonder of baseball.

But as I said there are limitations. First of all it's kind of unwieldy. It's not easily raised or passed around amongst the championship team. Plus, if someone were to stumble while holding it, they could get impaled about 30 times. Not something you want in a trophy.

The thing just doesn't look all that sturdy. I mean if you drop it, and break off one of the flag poles, how do you fix that? Can't be easy.

But between my two favorite teams (Minnesota and Arizona), they own three. And seeing as how I can't say that about the rest of my favorites, The Commissioner's Trophy makes the list.

3. The BCS Trophy

As an adamant opponent of the BCS system, it pains me to say it. But their trophy is pretty damned cool.

Think about it. A crystal football. Valuable, yet not your same old standard gold trophy. Plus when the Championship winners are holding it up and all those flashbulbs are going off around it, it creates it's own little light show!

Add to that that the football comes free of the rest of the trophy, and it's like the winner has their own semi-erector set!

No, it doesn't have the same tradition as other sports trophies. But it's just too damned cool-looking for me to leave off the list.

2. The Heisman Trophy

Okay, I know I said baseball is my favorite sport, and yet I'm claiming my third college football trophy as part of my Top 5.

What can I say? College football has a lot of trophies!

First awarded in 1935, the Heisman Trophy has created a legend all it's own. Other sports have MVP trophies, but none are as hotly debated as the Heisman.

It's also the only trophy to create its own pose. How many times have we seen a player score a touchdown in a big game and “strike the pose” while celebrating? Hell, how many times have we seen some schlub in a backyard touch-football game score and strike the pose? You won't see anybody trying to balance a basketball on the rim and imitate the Larry O'Brien Trophy after a big win!

The Heisman is also the only trophy on the list cast from bronze. I don't know why that matters, but I dig me some uniqueness!

And before we get to my #1 trophy, why not drag things out with some Honorable Mentions:

The World Cup Trophy

I came this close to putting this one in the Top 5. The World Cup is the biggest sporting event on the planet. And nations battle each other relentlessly for this trophy.

Tune in this summer and watch the passion and energy exerted by players and fans from around the globe as “the beautiful game” plays out on it's biggest stage.

Alas, Ricky Martin had to go and record that dumbass song called “The Cup of Life” and damned near ruin the whole bit. Hence, it doesn't make the list.

The Green Jacket

Okay, it's not “technically” a trophy, and that's a good portion of why it doesn't make the Top 5. But it is the most recognizable prize in all of golf.

You can have your Claret Jugs, you can have your Wannamaker Trophies. They're nice. But the second you see someone in a Green Jacket, you know which tournament they won and where they one it. The Masters. Augusta, Georgia. You can almost smell the azalea blossoms just looking at the thing, can't you?

The Lombardi Trophy

Simple. Elegant. Easy to hoist.

What's not to like about the Lombardi Trophy?

Named after perhaps the most recognizable name in all of coaching history, the NFL's championship trophy is also instantly recognizable.

So why didn't it make the Top 5?

It probably should have, I just ran out of room.

So let's get to the winner already. I'm sure you've guessed what it is by now...

1. The Stanley Cup

Like there was any other choice?

The only trophy that is actually functional, the Stanley Cup stands alone amongst legendary trophies.

Unlike the other major North American sports, the NHL doesn't create a new trophy each year. Instead, the Champion retains possession of the Cup until a new Champion is crowned.

And unlike most championship trophies which only list the name of the team that won it, the Stanley cup etches the name of every player, coach, management and staff member of the championship organization on to one of the rings which wrap around the trophy. Maybe not the most efficient use of space, but when more space is required, a ring is “retired” to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a new ring is added providing a new palate for future champions.

I mentioned that it was functional. The Cup has been used as a beer mug, champagne flute, cereal bowl and yes, a jello mold. Each member of the winning organization gets a day with the cup to do as they please... within reason... mostly. The stories of where the Cup has been and what it's been witness to are many and wildly varying. Mostly, it's brought to home towns, and shown off to friends and family. Though legend has it, it's been witness to things that would make my Mom go gray - so I won't mention them here. Use your imagination. No, not you Mom.

It's also the only trophy with its own employee. The NHL has hired an individual with the unique title of “Keeper of the Cup”. It's the Keeper's job to travel with the Cup and make sure it stays in tip-top shape for every appearance. He gets to wear those kick-ass white cotton gloves. Some might think they're to maintain the polish on the trophy. But I suspect they function as much as protection for the Keeper. Seriously. Given where that thing's been, I wouldn't blame him if he wore gloves lined with lead and asbestos.

Hockey is a unique mix of athleticism, passion and guts. It's fitting that it's trophy should be equally as special.

So what do you think? Did I leave one off the list? Is there an egregious misplacement in my rankings? That's the beauty of a Top 5 list. It can be endlessly debated. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and ideas!

That will wrap things up for today. One more column to go this week. I'll be back on Friday with your weekly Update which will include a troubling home loss for a certain basketball team.

Until then, thanks for reading!


  1. Why wouldn't you have chosen the photo of Tiger getting the green jacket?