Saturday, April 25, 2009

Winners’ plight, trophies’ fate

My grandfather's High Jump medal, Presidency College, Madras, 1921, as thick as a two-rupee coin

Who would not like to be a winner, esp. in sport and other competitions? Of course, parents push kids to ‘win’. The ‘problem’ comes after that, to winners. The prize distribution ceremony! Winners are handed over objects that are called ‘trophies’ or mementos. Of course, the occasion is absolutely thrilling.
I’m not talking about those ‘objects’ we see on television which is usually national or international events – they are of a class of its own. I want to share what I have seen from personal experience at other lower levels of sport and some other competitions. But first let me take you back to a golden era. Good things first!

Are such trophies given these days?
My grandfather was a ‘winner’ in various sports. He was a fine all-round sportsman in his days in the early part of the last century. Athletics, Hockey, Cricket, Football, Bridge, Billiards, Golf and Tennis brought him laurels, esp. the last one for which he was more renowned, needless to say, in his profession also, as a lawyer. He played the sport as it should be and used to mention some incidents proudly. One of them was ‘keep Subba Rao away if you want to win’! He was such a sure-shot winner esp. in Athletics in his college days. Some beautiful medals he was awarded are shown here. As beautiful as they are made and presented with full information like name, year, event and occasion, neatly engraved they became ‘proud possessions’ for the third generation as well!
One of his Tennis cups.
He had great pride in his achievements and was very fond of saying or showing “there are seventy cups” (that matched a riddle ‘seven tea cups’) that he won during his active playing days spanning about 60 years. These are lovely trophies made with expert craftsmanship which he preserved in a special showcase. Engraved details add to the glory and value. They are show-pieces that have never lost their sheen after decades, though the winner of them is no more for long. They require no polishing!

This is a medal that was awarded to my granduncle - I had never seen him. Look at that engraving. I learned that he too was a talented sportsman.
In high contrast, objects presented nowadays are mere junk, more like fast food. They are of cheap metal or breakable plastic in weird shapes that occupy a lot of shelf space. They are kept glimmering on the stage at the time of presentation (to please the concerned). In less than a year, quite expectedly, they dull beyond recognition! Some of them are actual potent weapons that can give a cut as if from a blade. So what do you do then? We have to be merciless.
Which one of these 'weapons' to keep? That is not a showcase you see here!
Some perpetual winners have a real problem in storing these gaudy trophies [of course there are odd and lucky exceptions]. They reach a stage when shelf space and much later suitcase space becomes a premium. Cricket brought me some such and I know how hard it is to ‘maintain them’ after reaching a stage where I’m asking myself “Which one to keep and which one not to keep out on show”. Think of disposing? Where and how to dispose? Trophies are not recyclable as well! It is an unsportsmanlike idea, a painful dilemma. But such winners have to draw a line and get moving. Sportsmen have to be practical, you see! The pleasure and memories of winning remain long if not the trophy. I tried to read the engraving (poorly done) on a certain trophy. I was lost!

Look at the two of them on the right.
My young musician-relative has the same problem, on a much grander scale. A real pain in the neck for her mother!

Sportsmen ought not to sell their prizes unless it is for an emergency. We have heard of pathetic stray cases of old sportsmen selling their medals to survive poverty!

Nowadays, not many people go up the showcases in houses they visit and inquire about a displayed item! So disheartening! Because the TV is a horrid distraction! Or is it the general commercial mindset that has set in? Trophies are not usually the priority for others besides the few interested. Often, showcases become a dumping place for such things that were won with so much pain and pleasure!
I have begun to wonder when the organizers of events will realize the importance of handing over a ‘useful item’ for the winners as a memento, instead of such cheap showy things called ‘trophies’ on which they spend so much! Presenting trophies of the quality I told about my grandfather’s time is simply unthinkable today. They always find space in the showcase. None manufacture such quality.

"All that glitters is not gold." But old!
People seem to have no fancy for “trophies” in recent times and in that background, why not the organizers of various events think of awarding the winners with other useful things for mementos for the same cost? After all, don’t we curiously inquire these days “how much does it cost?” even after winning? Let’s hope some horse sense shows up on the horizon.

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