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The Quiet Trophy: Team Rings

By Yong-Yi Zhu

COLUMNIST

Getting my Brass Rat Friday night got me thinking about sports rings and sports championships. MIT is not so different from a sport anyway: it’s physically demanding, it’s mentally painful and if you can do well enough, you can get yourself a little ring to boot.

Okay, so MIT is not the NBA, NFL or MLB. But in a way, the Brass Rat is the championship ring of engineers. For us, the rat is a way of representing our life at MIT and showing all that we have endured in the quest for our degree. But our ring is distributed at the end of our sophomore year, not at graduation. In sports, that is the equivalent of giving everyone that makes the playoffs a championship ring.

If the professional sports gave out their rings this way, Karl Malone and Gary Payton would each have a ton of rings, and consequently would not need to sell their souls to the Lakers to get a shot at winning one. The Buffalo Bills would have gotten four rings in a row in the nineties, and would not have been such a disappointment even with the kick of Scott Norwood.

But something else struck me considering sports rings: why give out rings at all? Don’t the athletes hoist an enormous trophy to signify their winning of a championship? Why make little pieces of jewelry that can be adorned on their fingers, but most will keep in a little velvet box?

Perhaps rings signify a sense of unity. The team won a championship together and therefore the team members should all wear something similar; a ring is an unobtrusive item that can be worn in any occasion. Wearing a ring identifies not the individuals on that championship team, but the team itself. Just think, after the San Antonio Spurs’ championship run last year, Tim Duncan gets the same ring as Mengke Bateer, even though Duncan was a tad more productive in the postseason. Anyone who owns a particular ring had to go through the same kinds of experiences as anyone else with the same ring. Perhaps that’s why championship rings are only advertised to the members of the team to which it is going.

Just try to remember whether you have ever seen a sport’s championship ring. We know what the trophies look like, but the fans are never made aware of how the rings look. It’s because the trophies represent the more public half of the team’s accomplishments, while the ring showcases each individual’s pride in the team’s overall achievement.

For example, the Marlins accomplished something quite remarkable last year beating the New York Yankees to win the World Series. When I heard that the Marlins’ World Series ring this year was one of the biggest rings ever, I got interested in how it looked. With 228 white diamonds, 13 rubies and a teal diamond representing the eye of the marlin, this baby weighs in at around a quarter of a pound! One would imagine that something this prominent would be on some Web site somewhere, and one would be wrong. It’s hard to find even a more detailed description of that ring.

I guess sports rings are publicized that little because they are designed for each team or group to appreciate. Who outside of MIT would understand Kresge or IHTFP? Better yet, who outside of MIT would appreciate those things? Maybe that’s why we never really explain our rings to outsiders. And maybe that’s why the sports teams don’t show their rings to us.