Saturday, July 27, 2019

Should Only Winners Get Trophies?

This is a question that divides Americans in many ways, for example 80% of Libertarians opt for winners only, vs. 53% of Democrats. But the biggest difference is by income. Scott Alexander comments:
The richer, whiter, and better educated you are, the less likely you support prizes-for-everybody and the more likely you are to support winner-take-all. In other words, the people saying everyone’s participation should be celebrated whether they win or not are probably the people who don’t expect to win very often.


Shadow said...

You can have the trophy if I get the Nike contract.

G. Verloren said...

How about no trophies for anyone?

Seriously, isn't the idea of a trophy just a bit old-fashioned?

The basic concept comes from needing a physical object to back up some claim to fame. It probably started with hunting trophies - you kept the antlers off a particularly large deer you managed to hunt, or you made an ink print of a particularly large fish you managed to catch, because the physical proof of the deed (the corpse) gets consumed or decays away in short order, and your tale is more impressive if you can produce physical evidence that it actually happened.

There are also war trophies, which serve much the same purpose - if your army came home from war with famous monuments looted from the cities of your enemies, everyone could see those for themselves and know the stories are true, even though the fighting itself was far off and couldn't be witnessed directly.

Even modern sporting trophies originally served the same purpose - in the time before modern mass media, a trophy served as one of the very few tangible pieces of evidence to show that a sporting match played out a certain way, especially decades after the fact. It was a necessary component of preserving the history of events in a verifiable form.

But today, that's no longer the case. We routinely film all our sporting events in great detail, and trophies are now a fully redundant gesture carried out purely in the name of tradition. So why not get rid of them? Everyone knows who won the big game - you don't need some silly trophy that's going to sit on some shelf and never actually be shown to anyone to prove it.

Now, some might argue that the value of a modern trophy is commemorative, and that alone justifies their continued usage. But if that's the case, then surely everyone who takes part in an event should receive one?

Why should only the winners be allowed to commemorate an event? If it's not enough for the winners to simply cherish their memories of winning, then surely it's also not enough for participants to simply cherish their memories of participating? If winners need trophies to validate their victories, then participants need trophies to validate their participation.

Or we could just stop wasting money on cheap hunks of plastic and metal that serve no purpose, because their entire reason for existing has become obsolete...