Steelers linebacker James Harrison created a bit of a ruckus over the weekend when he took to social media to explain that he was giving back participation trophies his two boys received for doing fun sports stuff that didn't result in winning. As everyone knows, even if you work hard and give it your all, if you don't win, nobody cares (just ask the members of the Steelers Super Bowl XXX team).
I agree with Harrison. After all, he's 37, which means he grew up pretty much in the same time-period as me--the 80s. Anyone who remembers the 1980s knows that we youngsters had it rough. Whatever amenities we did enjoy, they certainly weren't anything like what kids have today in an era where participation trophies and even ice cream are handed out to little eight year old kids after sporting events--even if they lose. (Instead of worrying about trophies, they should be working on technique so they can become winners.)
When I was a kid, cable TV consisted of only 50 or so channels, and, get this, one HBO! One MTV! One Showtime! Can you imagine that? Anytime I think of such harsh living conditions I grew up in that also included mowing the lawn and being driven to and from school by my grandfather each day--both ways--it makes me a little bitter knowing that someone like Shaun Suisham, the Steelers place kicker who will be out for the season with a torn ACL, may actually "earn" a ring if Pittsburgh wins Super Bowl 50. This is a pretty common practice--just ask Daniel Sepulveda and Rashard Mendenhall, two members of the Super Bowl XLIII team who own rings even though they contributed virtually nothing to the '08 season thanks to injuries. Talk about entitled.
I can appreciate Harrison's perspective, because when you grew up in a time with cordless telephones that would only allow you to walk like 20-feet away from the base before they lost their signal, you learned to appreciate hard work and what it meant to EARN everything in life.
Speaking of entitled, I once played on the same flag football team with this woman who worked for the Steelers and "earned" a Super Bowl XL ring, even though she didn't appear in the game or the season. I mean, how many touchdowns did she score in 2005? At the time, I was so impressed with this ring (and her beauty) I asked her out on a date, but that's because I lost track of who I was and my roots. Sometimes you forget where you came from and that you once had it so tough, your Nintendo gaming system would often freeze when you were right in the middle of a great game of Tecmo Bowl and Dan Marino was on his way to throwing 11-touchdown passes.
Deebo surely remembers those harsh Nintendo models of the late 80s, where you often had to take a cassette out and blow on it, put it back in, take it out again, wipe it off with some rubbing alcohol, put it back in and just pray for the best. Such memories and experiences are probably what drove Harrison to work so hard and eventually become the Steelers most ferocious and feared defensive player.
Those experiences molded and shaped my hard-working mentality, which is why, back during the holiday season of 2008 (just before Harrison won the Defensive Player of the Year Award), I returned my little trinket I "earned" for running in the Hartwood Acres Celebration of Lights. I said to the event coordinator, "I did not win this race. In-fact, I do not recall even seeing any sort of finish line. Therefore, I cannot accept this little Christmas bell with a red string looped around it, and I certainly won't be merry. Only winners earn the right to be merry."
James is doing a great thing with his kids, shaping them into men who will learn to appreciate that coming in first is the only thing that matters. (By the way, I have a hard time with second or third place finishers receiving any sort of medal or trophy. After all, like Silverback, I grew up in an era where you had to wait two or three minutes while your VCR rewound your VHS tape to the favorite part of the movie you were watching. I firmly believe that participation and second and third place trophies for little kids are what ultimately led to DVD players and the ability to watch any movie scene you want at any time you want.)
Much like Sepulveda, Mendenhall and Suisham (if Pittsburgh wins a seventh Lombardi this year), every former Steelers player who owns a ring but didn't participate that season (you know who you are) should give their rings back to the organization so they can be melted down and made into a life-size statue of James Harrison, holding a trophy that says, "Nobody remembers second place."
By the way, that game ball given to team founder and non-player Art Rooney following the Steelers Super Bowl IX victory? Don't even get me started.