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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Me And Stan

Every athlete in every sport does it "for the ring," or so they say. Ask them all and it's for the championship ring that comes with winning a title. In the NFL they don't say it's for the Lombardi Trophy, and in MLB and the NBA I can't even tell you the name of the trophy that goes to the champions.

The difference, of course, is the Stanley Cup. That's why hockey players play the game. They get rings, too, but they want their names on the Cup. That's permanent, and every team that wins joins the past legends in immortality.

There's a new trophy every year for the World Series champions. Because of that, nobody flocks to see the Series trophy. It's usually displayed at the entrance to the front offices of the teams that have won it.

But the Cup goes around the world, and everywhere it goes fans line up to get a look at the most famous trophy in all of sports. The Cup has been to the tops of mountains. Players have baptized their babies in the Cup. The Cup has been greeted by thousands of people at airports in the Czech Republic.

The Cup has been to ESPN. It was there last week, and it was glorious.

I of course had to go see the Cup. I didn't realize I would be underprepared. I got to the cafeteria, where the Cup was being displayed, and found myself in a line with people wearing jerseys, holding sticks, bringing their kids, etc. One guy had not only a stick, but gloves and a helmet, as well.

There are actually two Cups. One, which is a replica, sits in the Hockey Hall Of Fame in Toronto full-time. That one was created in the '90s. The one that travels around the globe is on the road 300 days a year, and it's the real deal. I'd seen the fake Cup, but never the original.

I got my moment with the Cup. I gave it a hug, and I pointed to Ken Dryden's name with a big grin, and someone in a Devils jersey snapped a Polaroid of me (the Devils thing kind of bugged me, but they are the defending champs). And ESPN even gave me a little folder for the picture with an ESPN Cup logo on the front and "The Stanley Cup, April 1, 2004" inside.

Crazy as it may sound, I think I'll die a little happier now.

Short, related story: When my ex-girlfriend sent me a picture of herself with the Cup this summer, I was really freakin' jealous. I actually was upset. I thought, "I got her into hockey! I deserve to see the Cup!"

Of course, now I'm over that.

I also met the guy who has the title of Greatest Job On The Planet, Mike Bolt. Actually, his title is really "Keeper Of The Cup," which is only different semantically. He babysits the Cup. The Cup goes somewhere, Mike is there. Consequently, he's been around the world, keeping a watchful eye on the most prized possession in sports.

I have a pretty cool job - I get to crunch stats and watch sports all day long. But I'd love to give that a try. I can't imagine any experience in the world that could compare to that. It must be such a unique feeling to be the guardian of the Stanley Cup. Everywhere you go, you see people smiling and awestruck at what you carry around.

By the way, I told him I expect to see him in Philly in a couple months.

***

Martha Burk, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, is continuing her crusade to force Augusta National, the club that hosts the Masters, into admitting a female member. And I have a problem with that, for two reasons.

First, Augusta National is a private club. They are prominent and influential in the world of golf, but they are a private club nonetheless. If they choose to remain all-male, then they should have that option. Think of them as a fraternity. Would it be ridiculous to force Delta Chi to admit a female member? If you think so, then why is this any different? Both are simply private, all-male clubs.

Second, and this bothers me more, is that Burk herself has admitted that "Augusta National is just a symptom of a much deeper problem." Well, if that's the case, then erasing a symptom isn't going to fix the problem. Go after the cause, not the effect of the problem. If you're running a business, and your stores are failing, do you put your efforts into saving one of them? No, you should try to figure out why they're failing and fix the problem at the source.

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