Championship bling keeps getting gaudier and gaudier
Somewhere along the line, boxing decided a tuxedo was the ultimate way to battle its seedy image, like a crucifix warding off a vampire. It’s why you almost always see the ring announcer in a tux at fights. A promoter might wear one, too, as might some of the big shots sitting ringside. Sure, that’ll class things up.
America’s major sports don’t have similar self-image issues. So there’s no good explanation for why, given the opportunity to commemorate a title, teams are producing championship rings so gaudy that a pimp might find them over the top.
To honor last season’s Super Bowl victory, the Patriots ordered rings with 283 diamonds each for their players. According to the team, they are the biggest Super Bowl rings ever made. Logic dictates that there should be a “because’’ here, but I don’t think there is one other than “because bigger is always better.’’ One Super Bowl victory is not more important than the one that came before it, but try telling that to the team that won the most recent title.
When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory said, “Because it’s there.’’ Then he put on a massive ring that wailed like an air-raid siren. No, he didn’t. Actually, he uttered his famous words, then dropped the mic and walked away. No, he didn’t do that, either. He let his words and efforts speak for themselves. That’s called “understatement.’’ I know: soooooo boring.
What we have now is an arms race for fingers. There are chandeliers that feel inadequate in the presence of some of these rings. Lest you think I’m picking on the Patriots, whose rings contain double the number of diamonds that their 2004 and 2005 championship rings had, know that the Cubs’ rings from their 2016 championship season look like they just finished a three-week engagement as an Elvis impersonator in Vegas.
If any team deserved to shout from the mountaintop ring-wise, it would be the Cubs. They hadn’t won a World Series since 1908, and clearly something worthy of the accomplishment was necessary. But, man. Here’s a description of the bauble from the team:
The Chicago Cubs World Series Championship Ring, designed and produced by Jostens, is made from 14-karat white gold. Its top features the traditional Cubs bull’s-eye logo, masterfully crafted from 33 custom-cut genuine red rubies that are surrounded by 72 round white diamonds, all within a circular perimeter made up of 46 custom-cut, genuine blue sapphires. The bezel is surrounded by 108 round white diamonds lifting the Cubs’ logo to victory and signifying the end of an historic 108-year championship drought. Overall, the ring contains 214 diamonds at 5.5 karats, 3 karats of genuine red rubies and 2.5 karats of genuine sapphires.
One side features the player’s name set atop the iconic W Flag, which is created from 31 round white diamonds and a fire blue corundum understone that forms the “W.”
That’s a gob of bling. I don’t know why anybody would want to wear one of these things in public, other than at the kind of pickup bar where you can succeed with lines like, “Kiss me if I’m wrong, but dinosaurs still exist, right?’’
As ostentatious as the Cubs’ rings are, their fatal flaw is the image of the goat on the inner band. For a franchise that tried for so long to distance itself from the silly curse of the Billy Goat to then acknowledge it with a rendering of a cloven animal on a ring is like wearing a wedding ring etched with the name of the girl who called you year after year to tell you she still wouldn’t go to the senior prom with you.
I don’t know where this ring race is going except onward, upward and bling-ward. Rings that can double as disco balls? I think we’re there already. Rings not meant to be worn, ones that come with their own unbreachable display cases, like you see at a museum? Clearly, we’re on the road to that. Maybe a movable display case that could follow the athlete around.
The Patriots, of all people, should know how out of control the rings have gotten. In 2005, team owner Robert Kraft allowed Russian president Vladimir Putin to look at his Super Bowl ring. Then Putin promptly stole it, according to Kraft.
“I took out the ring and showed it to [Putin], and he put it on and he goes, ‘I can kill someone with this ring,’ ” Kraft said. “I put my hand out, and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out.”
What kind of man covets garish Super Bowl rings enough to steal one? The kind of man who would allow himself to be photographed shirtless riding a horse.
We elevate sports so much in this country that I suppose it makes sense that winning teams would create rings that reflect their sense of scale and value in relation to the rest of us. But isn’t it enough that we mere humans are the plastic rings you used to find in Cracker Jack boxes? I guess not.