Here's something I can't wrap my head around, and I'm a fairly open minded guy: The concept of everyone gets a trophy. Back in my day, you got a trophy if you worked harder than the other guy, if you beat him (or her), if you were the fastest, hit the ball farther, knew more stuff ... any single one of those or a combination of them all would get you awarded the top prize. Yes, the participation trophy existed and it was handed to you after the banquet was over and you were on your way out the door.
Of course, I'm predominantly talking about how we raise kids, and dispatching them with this feeling of everyone who participates deserves something; they don't! It's not that I'm looking to exclude people. We're just creating a culture of folks who aren't rewarded for reaching higher. We're creating a nation of non-launching adults living in their parental homes into their 30s. If you're one of them now, let me tell you something — yes, your parents love you, No, they no longer want you living with them. They're just too nice to tell you.
I'm not saying that we have to be mean, but how about we stop awarding mediocrity and award excellence. Awards are there to give others something to strive for, to get that feeling you get when you reach the pinnacle achievement in whatever you are doing. I can remember in college, after every win the coach would award the game ball. You could have gotten it because of one single play that saved or won the game, or because your play on the field was head and shoulders above your team mates. I had played a game where I went five for five with eight RBIs and three extra base hits and one of those was a homer. One game ball coming my way, right? Wrong! Our pitching fell apart and the other team quickly tied the game and we went into extra innings. In the top of the first extra frame we scored a run, in the bottom of that inning while our pitchers continued to struggle, the opposing team got two runners on with one out and that's when the shortstop made an unassisted double play (it was incredible), and it saved the game. We won 11 to 10, and the shortstop got the game ball. He deserved it; without that play, nobody gets the game ball. I would have to wait and work for the rest of the season to get mine. But that's the point — I worked, I wanted it, then I got it and I wanted another one. It's the best affirmation you can get.
But let's say the coach handed out balls to everyone after every win? Boring! Game balls are for those who achieved a higher level for the team, and he would always say because of this one player we all feel victory, and because of all nine players we live fight another day. Basically, there's no "I" in team, and yes we won and lost as a team because "Together Everyone Achieves More." So in effect it was the audio version of the "participation trophy," but if you wanted the hardware you played hard.
I think that we are quick not to hurt feelings. I think that we are too quick to reward those that haven't necessarily earned it. We cave to the pressure that society puts on us to not be exclusive rather than inclusive. So, here's where I both agree and disagree. I agree that we should never exclude anyone, and if we're talking about team sports, that's easily reached. You're part of the team, whether you play every day or four times a season. But if we continue to hand out the attendance awards and participation trophies, I really feel like we are doing everyone a huge disservice. We develop a nation and culture that says if you just try hard that's good enough. Yes, maybe that will get you through most things, but not everything, and frankly it lowers the bar and we all lose.
So, I would say that we should go back to only awarding those who achieve, without isolating those that didn't, you know ... how we did it in the '70s? What the hell is up with that?
Fish is the opinionated morning jock on Classic Hits 92.7. He offers up his opinion at 7:50 a.m. every morning (Monday through Friday). Let's start the revolution. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.