I love Bill Simmon’s periodic podcast with Kevin Wildes in which the two discuss half-baked ideas. Why? We all have half-baked ideas that we think could be doable if only we had the resources to make them happen. But many times we keep those ideas to ourselves (or our spouses, depending on the level of support you can predict) for fear of derision. It’s refreshing to hear a guy openly talk about his ideas and have his friend critique them.
Many of Kevin’s ideas are more than half-baked. Like his ideas for alternative sports trophies, or even championship belts, in the latest podcast. Love it. This entire post is about taking that idea and running with it. I will focus on individual awards first then team awards.
The coolest pieces of individual hardware, hands down, are the championship belts used in boxing/wrestling. What makes these belts so cool? Their functionality. Unlike a trophy you leave at home, belts are worn to events, especially to title-defending matches. They become part of the champions’ persona which rarifies their status. This is one reason why Lord Stanley’s Cup is known as the best major sports trophy – the winning players get to spend a day with it, be seen/photographed with it, and generally do awesome things with it. Nobody lugs the Larry O’Brien trophy around to parties.
So first and foremost, individual award trophies need to need to be just functional that players would bring them out but a little ridiculous as well. I’m also looking for things that work well for the sports they represent. Since it’s baseball season, I’ll start with the American pastime.
Cy Young Award - Ball Cap
New Era already produces awesome hats. The idea would be for the 2 Cy Young Winners to get together with those guys and make an awesome hat that will be worn during games. Just like the yellow jersey lets the audience know who the man is in the Tour de France, distinctive caps will let fans know who bossed last season on the mound. And pitchers need the swag – usually it’s the position guys that are the prima donnas. Not so if the ace has a hat that only he can wear.
This is best part of this idea: the first pitcher to beat the Cy Young winner the next year gets to claim the cap until he himself is beaten, after which it reverts to the Cy Young winner for the remainder of the season. This is awesome for a few reasons: Once the guy with the cap goes on a run, it will be a thing for the media. Can you imagine how hard the guys with the cap will try to not take a loss? And the managers – we already know managers make suboptimal decisions because of dumb stats (like pitcher saves). Can you imagine Clayton Kershaw winning the hat then going undefeated in his first 10 starts next year? How long before Don Mattingly starts pulling Kershaw as soon as he gets in trouble? One out and two on in the 4th with a 2 run lead? Send in the bullpen! I am generally in favor of anything that can make the jobs of managers/coaches more difficult.
MLB Gold Glove - Gold Glove
Let's see him try to repeat his performance with an actual gold-encrusted glove. Good luck. After 5 wins, we move to platinum.
MLB MVP - Alternate Uniform
Kind of like the Cy Young cap, I wanted something the players could wear that would A) look awesome, B) stir resentment in the clubhouse, and C) turn guys into preening showboaters. Unlike the Cy Young cap, the MVP would keep his uniform the whole year.
NFL MVP - Gold/Silver Helmet (depending on team color scheme)
We hardly know what football players look like. They are always stuck under helmets, facemasks, eye shields, eye paint, and the works. Might as well make the helmet look dope. As an added bonus, bright reflective helmets make the MVP a target for the other team. We’re pretending that football doesn’t have a concussion problem.
NBA MVP - Necklace
Remember how NBA players rolled before the dress code? This is a throwback to that era. The trophy would be an awesome bling necklace that players can wear to games. The MVP gets to re-design it every year – the NBA can even stipulate how big it can be depending on how impressive the MVP season was (another Simmons idea). I would love to see KD rock up with a golden, diamond encrusted Bible strewn around his neck. He can afford it and he has the security.
NHL Hart Trophy - Different Uniform
Hockey was hard to do. Like football player, they have a lot of equipment. Unlike football players, it's hard to tell in the fray who is who. Seriously, flip on a hockey game and you spend 5 minutes trying to figure out what lines are out, who's doing what, and such. They need a red jersey or something so you can tell which of all the guys is the MVP at all times. Yeah, I recycled an idea.
CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY - INDIVIDUAL
It's pretty customary to get a ring after winning the title. Mark Cuban discussed bracelets after his Mavs won the 2011 Finals, but was shot down. It's actually not a bad idea, but not for basketball:
MLB World Series Champs - Bracelets
Every member of the Series-winning team gets a sweet bracelet. I've always liked the WSOP bracelets - they're different and iconic. Baseball needs some of that. The bracelets would also be wearable in-game. Can you imagine the Yankees winning the Series, ordering massive, diamond-filled bracelets for their players, then watch as guys try to bat and field with the things on during the game? At what point would the manager light himself on fire? What if someone strained a wrist? Hilarious. Moving on...
NFL Super Bowl Champs - Rings
Football rosters are so big that it necessitates something a little laid-back. The other idea is just to give the entire team new jerseys the next year that make them stand out. Sports apparel companies are doing fantastic things with jerseys, give them something to run with.
NBA Finals Champs - Watches
These guys have enough rings. Bill Russell has too many for his hands. Let's give them something awesome, like a sweet IWC Portuguese or a spanking Breitling Navitimer or a kickin' Bell & Ross aviator. Way, way, way better than a ring. An awesome watch is something you can actually wear out to parties and not feel ridiculous with. And the players want to feel rich. Last of all - imagine the marketing potential. Best thing is, each year, the winner would try to out-do last year's model. I can't wait.
CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY - TEAM
NHL - Lord Stanley's Cup
Just wanted to get this one out of the way. The Stanley Cup is perfect. And the player's get to spend a day with it, so it qualifies as their individual trophy, too.
MLB - Babe Ruth's Bat
I know the World Series trophy is supposed to represent the game or something, but it's stupid. It has nothing to do with baseball. But a gold-plated, titanium bat named after the Babe? THAT's something. Easy to hold and hoist, players could even take practice swings with it. Teams would get replicas so the Yankees could display a couple dozen sticks on their wall. Players get a day with it - done.
NFL - Vince Lombardi Trophy
The Lombardi trophy looks pretty cool, is easy to hold, and is named after a legend. Works for me.
NBA - Naismith Trophy
Seriously, enough with Larry O'Brien. Name the thing after Dr. Naismith (or at least Dr. J). The trophy itself would be a golden hoop mounted on an awesome pedestal. The O'Brien trophy is hard to hold, looks awkward, and can't be used for anything. Can you imagine the possibilities with a mini hoop? Like the Stanley Cup, players get to spend time with it - let's say a week each. Trick shots with the Naismith hoop! Beer pong into the trophy! YouTube videos galore!
That's a wrap folks. Many of these ideas are more baked than others. Vote for your favorite in the comments!