The an­cient sport of tro­phy bat­ter­ing

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Daniel Schofield

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.

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