Last week, I went down to Destin, Fla., to attend the Georgia Press Association's awards dinner. The awards dinner is designed to give awards to newspapers for excellence in coverage, articles written, editorials, etc. I was a beneficiary of one of the awards and will not bore you with the details. Rather, I noticed a growing trend concerning awards.
Basically, each industry wishes to give awards to as many people possible in the industry so that everyone in the industry will be happy they have won an award. At one point during the awards ceremony, I glanced over at the row of tables, which held stacks of plaques to be given to each first-place winner. There were enough plaques stacked on the table to give everyone in the room at least one first-place award.
Now understand, it is truly spellbinding and riveting to walk on stage and receive a first-place award for newspaper accomplishments. Watching the other 487 winners, however, is not so spellbinding.
I suppose, all in all, I should not complain or I will be accused of looking a gift horse in the mouth, given I did receive some type recognition. It was not always that way.
When I was growing up, there were few awards given for any accomplishment. If you played on a sports team, you could win the most valuable player award and that was about it. There were no other trophies, except for the possibility of winning the dreaded hustle award.
The hustle award meant that you had spent the entire season on the bench and it was an honor earned by excruciating humiliation. Winning the hustle award meant that you were not good enough to be on the team, did not have sense enough to quit and everyone felt sorry enough for you to decide to give you a trophy. It ranks right beside winning the good citizen award in my book.
You might also qualify to win the most improved award. Most improved simply meant that you sucked the year before and, although you still were not good enough to actually win any type merit trophy, the coach was proud to see that you could now run out on the field without stumbling and falling. Thus at the conclusion of my high school career, I had a total trophy case consisting of exactly no trophies. I now lie and tell my children that all of my trophies were burned up in a house fire.
But nowadays, everyone gets a trophy. If you play on the team, you get a trophy. If you don't win most valuable player, you get top scorer, best defender, most aggressive, best endzone touchdown dance routine, fanciest shoes, and on and on it goes. And, it doesn't stop with athletics.
We now have awards banquets for each grade as the children progress through school. When I was in school you could win only two academic honors. One, you could be on the honor roll and this meant that your parents would receive notice from the school that you achieved this result. No one else on the entire planet would be aware you won this award, which is probably a good thing considering no one else on the planet, except your parents, gave a you-know-what to begin with. The second award would be if you graduated valedictorian.
Now, prizes are given for first, second and third place in each class subject. Students also win awards for most improved, reading the most books during the year, computer skills and on and on it goes. There is usually some catch-all award, such as most creative writing, which is generally equivalent to winning the hustle award.
My kids now both have rooms full of trophies. They have trophies for playing T-ball, soccer, grades, football, softball, etc. I guess that is all well and good, but somehow I think the winning of a trophy has lost its meaning. No wonder no one thinks they need to earn anything anymore.
All the same, I'll keep my trophy, in the burned up trophy case, beside the MVP trophy that burned up.
Contact columnist T. Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org.