The ancient sport of trophy battering
The Stanley Cup has been used to feed a horse, a dog and as a makeshift lavatory
It’s a tough life being a trophy. You spend 11 months of the year being gawped at in an airtight cabinet and then when your moment in the sun comes you are treated with all the care that Donald Trump applies to First World War references.
This month alone we have
Oops: Collin Morikawa loses control of the giant Wanamaker Trophy after winning the US PGA on Sunday seen Arsenal forward PierreEmerick Aubameyang drop the FA Cup and US PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa send the lid of the Wanamaker Trophy flying. Then it emerged this week that the Crusaders rugby team had damaged the Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy. After initially denying responsibility, the
Crusaders admitted it had been dropped, chipping the wooden base and dislodging the centrepiece pounamu stone. Being New Zealanders, the Crusaders were po-faced about the incident. “It’s not a good look. Is it good enough? No,” Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge told
The New Zealand Herald. “We have notified New Zealand Rugby, and sought cultural advice.”
In truth, the Tu Kotahi Aotearoa trophy got off lightly. If trophies are what athletes spend their careers aspiring to hold, it is somewhat of a mystery why they are handled with clumsiness bordering on hostility.
A personal favourite is Real Madrid red card collector and wannabe Hackney barista Sergio Ramos dropping the 2011 Copa del Rey from a double decker bus, which duly ran it over. Cue a frantic effort to recover the carcass of the trophy, which brings to mind the Simpsons episode where Homer attempts to retrieve a suckling pig which goes through a hedge, falls into a river and ends up being projected past a nuclear plant. “It’s just a little crushed by a double decker bus, it’s still good, it’s still good.”
You would have thought that Ramos’s faux pas would have represented fair warning to all professional footballers about the perils of mucking around with trophies on an open-top bus. But no. Just a month later, Ajax’s Maarten Stekelenburg dropped the Eredivisie plate, which rolled under the wheels of another bus. This crime was compounded by the fact that Stekelenburg is a goalkeeper. Perhaps it was no coincidence that Manchester United dropped their reported interest in him soon after.
In South America, they do things a bit differently. Merely crushing the trophy seems a bit vanilla. In 2009, Corinthians were celebrating winning the Paulista Championship in customary “olé,
olé, olé” fashion. As their captain, William, was lifted on a cherrypicker style lift, a combination of streamers and fireworks set both William and the trophy on fire.
All of these incidents can be classified somewhere between careless and clumsy. The fate that befell the Calcutta Cup trophy on a cold March night in 1988 belongs to a different category. England had beaten Scotland 9-6 at Murrayfield and after a boisterous post-match dinner Dean Richards and John Jeffrey decided to take the Calcutta Cup for a little walk down Princes Street. Soon an impromptu replay of the match broke out with the cup serving as the ball. Seeing as copious drink had been consumed, their handling was not the best and by the next morning the cup was in a far worse state than Richards or Jeffrey.
“It was a mix of alcohol and high jinks,” Jeffrey recalled. “I think I had sobered up a bit by the time I got back to the hotel. I remember looking at the cup and thinking, ‘hmmm, we could be in a spot of bother here’.” That much was true. Jeffrey was banned by the Scottish Rugby Union for five months.
Still no trophy has been as badly neglected and in some instances abused as much as ice hockey’s Stanley Cup. Many of these have been documented in a book by Kevin Allen called Why is the Stanley Cup in Mario Lemieux’s Swimming Pool? Answer: because Penguins captain Patrick Roy threw it from the top of an ornamental waterfall. Nor was that the last time it was thrown in the swimming pool. Had a human being experienced such treatment then politicians would be rushing to pass Stanley’s Law through their legislatures demanding lifetime sentences for the perpetrators.
The pattern of abuse began in an 1905 when an inebriated Ottawa Senator drop kicked it on to a frozen canal. Showing how ahead of the curve the Stanley Cup has been it was set alight by the New York Rangers in 1941 – the flames were put out by the players urine – and in 1962 when the Toronto Maple Leafs placed it on a bonfire. It has also been used to feed a horse, a dog, to baptise a child and as a makeshift lavatory to several players’ children.
By those standards, Aubameyang, Morikawa and the Crusaders can be forgiven.