Jewelry — or bling, as the kids are wont to say — is not my thing.
I do not wear a watch, a ring or any type of necklace. I am not sure anyone rocks cuff links anymore. Now championship rings, they fascinate me. I have spent the past week studying them, learning why they are so coveted, what coaches think of them and what they cost. My accompanying article explains all of that.
The championship ring is a motivator in professional sports, and we all know high-schoolers mimic the pros.
Michael Jordan earned six championship rings for his work with the Chicago Bulls. The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, with three, is chasing him.
Kevin Durant had no rings until this year and had to defect to the Golden State Warriors to get one. He took much flack for that, but in this ends-justify-the-means society, he got his bling and picked up an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award as well.
This is a materialistic era, and one influenced by youth sports leagues filled with participation trophies. Effort, it seems, is for naught if a dust-collector is not given. The playing itself, and the feeling of hitting a line drive or sinking a 3-pointer or finishing a race, are simply not enough.
It has become routine at post-season All-Star baseball tournaments for players from opposing teams to exchange bags of trinkets. There is nothing wrong with that, and it does show good sportsmanship, but I am not sure it is necessary. Stuff itself is not necessary.
When I played youth baseball in the mid-1960s, my parents did not attend all of the games and there were no bags of goodies afterward. We would pass by 7-11 walking home and buy a Slurpee – a new invention at the time – for 20 cents. The brain freeze was worth it.
I have never trusted awards. I picked up my share of trophies as a kid and as an adult coach, some deserved and some not. It all seemed random. I threw them away years ago, save for a tiny coaching trophy that a youngster’s mom purchased because I think the other parents were too cheap to contribute.
Nobody I interviewed could absolutely pinpoint when championship rings for high school athletes came into vogue. My sense is that it happened in Southern California in the 1990s.
My nephew, Chris Murphy, played baseball and golf in the same season for Serra High School in San Mateo in 1998, and both teams won section titles, but he got no bling. However, he did say the all-night, post-season baseball party was a doozy.
Trophies and parties do not cut it in 2017, though. The ring is the thing. But should it be?
Joel Aranda, who helped Selma High to league and section titles in football last season, fancies them.
“It means a lot,” Aranda said. “It’s something I’ve looked forward to all my life. It’s a great accomplishment and, really, a dream come true.”
Back in 1966, I thought the Slurpee was a dream come true, but times have changed, and I suppose that is OK, too.