If you turn on a major sports network these days it is common to see highlights of champions parading around golden basketballs and cups made out of gold and silver. If you were an alien to this planet it wouldn’t add up. After all, shouldn’t their name in the history book and bragging rights be enough? Where did this tradition of bringing home gaudy objects come from?
The term trophy actually doesn’t come from sports at all. It is an ancient practice of keeping parts of large game to celebrate a successful hunt. This grizzly practice dates back as far as we can trace human history with prehistoric graves being found ordained with antlers and pelts. The practice of hunting trophies being displayed in civilized society ebbs and wanes as tastes change. The “Trophy Room,” where stuffed big game is displayed, was popular architecture feature into the early 20th century while it has largely fallen out of taste now. The concept of trophy taking hasn’t gone away though.
The notion to bring home souvenirs as keepsakes is well ingrained in human nature. So it is natural to translate this to sports when looking to reward the best competitors. This is why as cities and cultures started to become prevalent the competitive sports world used trophies to show off their cultures. There is evidence going back thousands of years showing if an athlete won an event they would want something representative of that event. Perhaps the best olive oil of Athens or best wines in Tuscany would be awarded to these champions of olden times. This is where the cups, vases, and bowls come to us today from those traditions; they were used to serve the real prize and remained after it was gone.
Those urges have not left our blood stream. Even today Florida State University takes sections of grass from the fields where they win while competing on the road. Competitors love competing and even more than that they love celebrating when they win. When the souvenir of their victory of their accomplishment sings the virtues of their event it is even better. At a certain point the concept of the trophy itself can overshadow the event. Looking at modern championship logos the trophy is almost always front and center. It is pretty remarkable that the hunk of metal is heralded more than the logo of the league, the teams involved, the players, the location, everything.
What is there to learn from this? Winners don’t just enjoy bragging rights. They want something they can take on parade. They want something that speaks to the event they won and can’t be found anywhere else. After all, all competitors are human and humans want to celebrate. You can take a look at our sculptures page to see how some of our clients have celebrated their champions.
A true American brand, Malcolm DeMille, Inc. was founded in Southern California in 1989. For nearly 30 years, clients have recognized MDI as a renowned jeweler, artisan, and sculptor known for craftsmanship, quality materials and pioneering techniques.