TASTING GLORY, with Gold or Diamonds?

Posted: April 27, 2011 in Sports just because

I was recently involved in a discussion with friends about what means more: winning a gold medal for your country in a sport of your choosing, or winning the championship in any of the major leagues inNorth Americaand the oversized ring that comes with it. To my surprise the vote was not unanimous for the gold medal, rather some votes were strongly for the ring(note only vote heard so far was for super bowl, not Stanley cup surprisingly as it’s viewed as the hardest to win amongst the four major leagues in North America). Which got me thinking, why did I choose so quickly?

I think the first portion that we need to look at is why do we treasure the rings so much? Is it because they are so absurdly large and shiny? The Chicago Blackhawks valued their 2010 Stanley Cup Rings at an estimated $30,000 apiece! And in recent years the rings are getting more elaborate each year both at Collegiate and Professional levels. Yet there is something about it that just doesn’t seem that amazing to me anymore. Now don’t get me wrong sports fans, I like everyone else dreamt and still dreams of one day owning one of these rings we see players wearing on their hands(granted mine would be won from an executive/front office position and not on the field) but you’re still part of the organization. The argument I will make in favour of the ring is that it’s THE RING. When you wear it out people notice it, they ask questions, if you’re a star player they immediately are reminded of whom you are and that you are or were a champion. You were the best in the league that year; you survived the regular season and playoffs and still came out on top. Now to see what I feel makes each league different and the order in which I place the rings and their value with respect to difficulty to achieve, see post “LEAGUE vs. LEAGUE”. However without argument the ring is still something that we all cherish as sports fans no argument here, but it just doesn’t have the same allure as representing your country. On a sports team you’re there because you worked to get there most likely from some form of struggle in your early years. For a lot of athletes they’re professionals now because when they were young they had a gift and they knew they had to be the one to bring their family out of poverty, or to bring them to a better life. Countless NFL and NBA players grew up in small city apartments filled with family members, many working multiple jobs and sometimes the athletes themselves worked jobs in high school until they could go away and play. This in on way diminishes their accomplishments, but they started out looking at the sport as a source of income. To me that makes sense sure, millions to be made each year as a pro with salary and endorsement opportunities. Look at all the $100 million or more contracts in professional baseball, Ovechkin has a $124 million hockey contract, and football players are now getting the $100 million deals (granted not all guaranteed money). So I can’t blame so many kids for looking in that direction as a future career, there’s just too much to be had.

With all that said there’s something about the stories of Olympians who knew they weren’t going to make any money and still did it. Look at lugers and skeleton athletes. Are there international competitions? Sure, but how many of them do you see on TV drinking Gatorade of pushing cars? I say a gold medal in a sport of your choosing would be more significant to win and I would much rather have one on my mantle than a ring. Why? It’s for my country. I love my country more than any sports team I’ve ever cheered for and I think that should apply to all sports fans however you do have the right to cherish a team ring instead. But I look at the Olympic medal as something that has no price tag. These championship rings are valued at around $30,000 these days but tell me what price would you sell your men’s hockey gold medal for? The emotions of all that hard work you put in and all the people (friends, family, fans, fellow countrymen/women watching) who feel the same way you do when you win is something I can’t begin to imagine. When you win the gold medal your country is watching, cheering you on because you are one of them and you are competing for yourself but you are knowingly representing them in part as well. I can’t even begin to think what it is like to say “this win is great for me I worked so hard, this is for youCanada!” Obviously every athlete is competing for themselves/teammates but the Olympics you are representing your country as well and the country as a united populous is supporting you. Secondly you are remembered forever depending on the sport. Donovan Bailey will forever be remembered for winning the 100m inAtlantaand setting a then world record 9.84 seconds. Or Alexandre Bilodeau, more recently, will always be remembered as the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal on his home soil. I watched that event live and get shivers when I think about that moment and how it will be remembered forever. The men’s and women’s hockey gold is a priceless achievement in North America now, mostly in Canada but the USA would love to have claim to that title as well.

What’s most telling about the Olympic gold is two-fold: 1) you are competing against the very best of the best, every athlete in the world has a chance to compete against you through the countless trials and international competitions around the world. When you win in the Olympics you are without a doubt claiming your spot as the best in the world because you beat the very best the world had to offer. 2) It is only every four years! If you lose you have to wait another four years to try and win again. It is the ultimate do or die because there is no next year. You have to compete and stay in shape for four years until you may have another chance at those athletes. International competitions are fine but the importance and pressure brought on by the Olympics is rivalled by none. Most Olympians do not make the millions that professional athletes do, they do not make the salaries nor the endorsement deals only the very few do (Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are the top among the few). They are competing on pure passion and intensity and desire to win for their country and themselves.

Winning in professional competition is like nothing else and sadly something I will never get to experience. Raising a trophy above my head, being honoured in front of the fans and my family is a feeling I, and most sports nuts, will never get to experience. It is a feeling of emotion that only a lucky few get to experience and for that I am eternally jealous. In conclusion, although the four major leagues in North America each has their own  importance and difficulty in achieving glory, I would take an Olympic gold medal for Canada over them any day of the week. My pride and passion for the country I love is too strong to ignore and to represent it and it’s people on the biggest stage and to win knowing they all feel like they won too would be the best moment a boy could dream of.

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