Indianapolis, IN - February 24, 2007
I had several different sites I was considering telling you about this morning, but ultimately decided to go with a topic that has been the subject of many conversations I've either been around or been involved in recently. Not global warming or emerging business trends or the latest social networking craze... No, this is something far more important and ultimately nearer and dearer to all our hearts: Superbowl rings.
It seems slightly strange to me that a piece of jewelry that I won't own and will only see on passing occasions should hold my interest, but it does. And judging by how often I hear other people discussing it ("What do you think the design will look like?" "Will everyone in the Colts organization get one?" "How much will they cost?"), I suspect there are many others feeling the same.
Perhaps it's because this victory seems so sweet; so picture perfect. Could there have been a better way to slay all the demons in one compelling, dramatic, roller coaster ride to the Championship? I think not. Or perhaps it's the inherent right of a season ticket holder to have more than a passing interest. After all, we're all financing this purchase to some degree. The truth is, I don't care much why I care, but I do.
The ring has become the symbol of greatness, the talisman of a champion. It's no coincidence that players talk about winning the Superbowl, often the pinnacle of their lifelong dreams, with references to the ring, not the game. Some players are ultimately judged in terms of "rings won". The game is the means, the ring is the end.
While pondering this recently, I came across a web site created by ESPN that serves to address these feelings in all of us. This beautiful little site, so simple in design, so pointed in focus and purpose, takes an historical look back at all the Superbowl rings commemorating every champion. Sure, the up-close-and-personal photos provide a perspective that few of us will ever have otherwise, but the true jewels of the site are the stories behind the rings and their designs.
It probably comes as no surprise that some rings and some Championships mean more than others. Even a passing fan can understand Jerome Bettis' need to be involved in the ring design after thirteen seasons of effort. Says Bettis, "I thought to myself, 'This is my only one. I want to make sure it's done the right way.'" So he sought out owner Dan Rooney in the locker room after the game and asked to be involved. Rooney responded, "Tell you way, it'll be me and you." Just as it is for every player that wears one, that ring occupies a special place in Bettis's heart.
You can also read about Steve Young who doesn't wear any of his three rings because he feels they're too flamboyant. "You're announcing to everyone in the room that you're there and they have to deal with it," says Young. But the other (maybe real) reason? He's afraid to lose it.
Consider Walter Payton. He was serving as a volunteer assistant with a high schools basketball team in 1996 when he gave the ring to a player to keep for a few days. Players passed it around among themselves and it eventually disappeared. It's return in 2001 is the stuff of legends.
In the end, all the rings are special and all have a tale to tell, but each subsequently loses some measure of importance from the first. I think that's why we care so much about this ring, this time. And why I'm looking forward to seeing the story of the Colts' first ring in thirty years added to the site.
And then we can get back to talking about winning the next one