- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Considerably more stingy was the British nobleman, Earl Grey, who provided the Grey Cup, the award for Canada's pro football championship. The Grey Cup game has been extolled as "a lively manifestation of Canadian culture." It puts the whole Dominion into a flap. The prime minister tries a ceremonial kickoff and gets political points if he performs well. But as trophies go, the Grey Cup is probably the cheapest and most ordinary presented in any big-time sport competition. First, it is not made of silver but of soft metals with a coat of silver plate. The cup cost less than $50 when it was donated by Earl Grey and would be worth considerably less now. Like Lord Stanley before him, Earl Grey was a Governor General and a sports buff. In 1909 he announced he was offering a challenge cup for the rugby football championship of Canada. All Canada prepared for the event. Two weeks prior to the game someone wrote to the Governor General's secretary suggesting that the earl's cup should soon be in the hands of the football authorities. But on Dec. 4, 1909, when the first Grey Cup game was played, there was no cup. Finally it arrived, but when it was taken from its box it was found to have no inscription. Trying to give the Governor General the benefit of the doubt, the football men suggested there might have been an oversight on the part of the manufacturer. Correspondence continued and finally Earl Grey seemed willing to commit himself to pay for a "very simple inscription." Frustrated by the long delays, the football association went ahead and paid for the engraving. The Governor General was informed that "the work has been very well done and the appearance of the cup is considerably improved thereby. The base sent out from the old country was quite inadequate, being too small. The cup did not look well on it and it would have been quite impossible for the winning teams to have affixed shields recording their names." A bill was sent along to the Governor General, but there is no record indicating he ever paid it.
After the earl's departure from Canada, and despite the fact the engraving on the cup read—and still reads—"For the Amateur Rugby Football Championship of Canada," the Grey Cup became a pro football prize. In the years since, it has been lost and smoke-blackened and left by thieves in a locker in the Royal York Hotel basement, but it is still around telling more about one Governor General of Canada than history books ever will.
Sports trophies are sometimes revealing of both men and motives. Last June a publicity-conscious Louisville firm, Scholl Trophies, donated a 6'2" trophy for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Pro Celebrity Golf Tournament. Such largesse was designed to dwarf the tournament winner and it did, for he was 5'10" Bob Murphy. But that cup was a toy compared with one a Baltimore man received a few years ago for winning a midget-car race. His was nine feet by four feet and weighed close to 400 pounds.
Martini & Rossi, the vermouth firm, has an awards program for the more elegant sports—yachting, point-to-point racing, fencing, tennis and such. "Our product does not cost much, just $3 or so a bottle," a company spokesman explains, "but we want it known as a luxury product. Our vermouth is something not sold to winos. Yachtsmen, fencers, point-to-point people drink it."
In the American Basketball Association's first season it was trying mightily to outdo the NBA wherever it could. One place it could was with its trophies, which were a couple of feet taller than the rival league's.
Among commercially motivated sports prizes, the mammoth Borg-Warner trophy of the Indianapolis 500 race is the most prominent and probably the most valuable—it is insured for $52,000. Thirty-five years ago the manufacturer of automotive parts offered it for the first time, and since then the sides of the 80-pound cup have been decorated with gargoylelike metal sculptures of the successful Indy drivers. The trophy's handles are enormous wings, and stylized racing cars roar round a frieze. On top of the cup is a naked flagman who has watched impassively as beauties like Linda Darnell, eyes closed, gave themselves unto the embraces of the victors.
Another annual witness to the Indy celebration scene, and just about as mute as the flagman, is Jack Mackenzie, a high school science teacher who is the trophy's keeper. For 17 years Mackenzie has carried the trophy on race day from the starting line to Victory Lane, 400 yards away. "When the temperature is 95° and the trophy has been soaking up the sun all afternoon, that walk can be the longest in the world," he says.
Mackenzie got his custodian's job in 1953 while he was a student at Butler University. He went to the Speedway looking for work that would let him see the race. At 6'5" and 200 pounds, he was well qualified for trophy carrying. Annual photographs in Victory Lane since then show Mackenzie growing bald and slightly paunchy through the years. Now he begins doing push-ups and sit-ups in April to get in shape for his trophy walk. "I could drop it if I wasn't in condition," he says. During the month preceding the race Mackenzie keeps the cup in his home in suburban Indianapolis. If the family goes out of the house, a trophy-sitter is hired.
The Indy prize was made by Chicago's Spaulding & Company, the jeweler that also designed the Masters golf trophy, a four-foot-by-four-foot, $30,000 silver facsimile of the Augusta National clubhouse. "It took 18 months to make it," says Gordon Lang, president of Spaulding. "When I was asked to construct a trophy for the Masters, I went down to Augusta with the idea of trying to design something novel as a perpetual trophy. The most cherished thing there was the clubhouse, so I employed a photographer and we spent three days taking pictures from all four sides and from the tops of nearby buildings." So exact is the silver version which resulted that the blinds on the windows close tightly, except for one. As in the clubhouse at Augusta, the first window on the first floor, west side, is faulty. The Masters' champions do not get to bring the toy building home—it weighs 125 pounds—but receive instead a plaque with the clubhouse in bas-relief.
Valued, too, at the Masters is another form of trophy, Steuben crystal vases, urns and highball glasses that are awarded for eagles, double eagles, holes in one and the day's low score. Using tools that are centuries old in design—they do not vary from ones that appear in Diderot's 1751 encyclopedia—Steuben's glassblowers in Corning, N.Y. shape molten glass into pieces fit for kings. U.S. Presidents have long given Steuben glass to their visitors—to royalty from England, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Ethiopia, to de Gaulle, Adenauer, Nehru and Khrushchev. The Masters glassware is made in the same furnaces and by the same craftsmen.