I think alternative awards can be the most awesome thing ever. It seems like everyone gives medals. Maybe they’ll give a trophy or a plaque. It’s usually one of those three things. When I won something that wasn’t one of the above I always remembered the race…even when it was a failed attempt at being unique.
I called my mom last year and I asked her for a few specific medals out of a lifetime of swimming. She asked me, “Well, what do you want me to do with the rest of them?” I said, “I don’t know? There’s a lot there. Can dad take them to the scrapyard and get anything for them the next time he goes?” There you have it. I have thousands of medals that have absolutely zero meaning to them and maybe five that do. I couldn’t even donate the rest to this organization that takes medals!
You could say the same thing for trophies. Man, those suck even more because they’re plastic and I ended up breaking a bunch of them. They mostly collect dust in my parents’ house. There’s probably boxes of them stored in their attic they should just throw away; I wouldn’t miss them and probably wouldn’t even notice if they did.
Some of the plaques I’ve won are cool, but for the most part I don’t remember any of them. The only one that holds sentimental value was from the first triathlon I won when I was twelve. The rest you can toss.
So where does that leave us? You have those people who said, “None of the above!” I’ve had a handful of out-of-the-box awards before. Sometimes they bombed horribly and other times they were awesome, but points for trying because it made your race memorable. Hell, I swam a 4th of July Firecracker Swim Meet when I was 10 in Alliance, Ohio, and they gave out pairs of those really cheap $0.10 Chinese made sunglasses as awards. There was also an outdoor swim meet that same year in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, held in a wave pool and gave crappy plastic visors as awards. It’s over two decades later and I still remember those meets even though they were just a blip on the radar in my swimming career.
The first Olympic I did upon returning to do triathlons I placed third in my age group. The thing they gave me…I don’t know what it is and they didn’t tell me. We think it’s either a candy dish or a key dish. It could even possibly be an ash tray. All I know is it’s clay, it’s ugly, and you can’t mount it on the wall. They could have gone a different direction.
Let’s look at the Chattanooga Rat Race this June. They decided to give the age group winners a piece of original artwork from a local photographer. I thought, “Hell yeah, I could use some art because my walls are looking a little bare!” I’m not really the type that’s into art to begin with. I’m like Zoidberg from the tax surplus episode of Futurama, “Is this what rich people like? I’ll take one art please!” Anyway, I did end up winning my age group at the Rat Race and picked a nice photo with the Aquarium in it, which is one of two prominent architectural landmarks in Chattanooga.
Going the route of giving alternative awards is like brewing a sour beer; it’s really easy to screw up. The thing is no matter how good or how bad of an award you’ve managed to give…I’m likely to remember this event because it was unique, just like I’ll always remember how awful that botched sour beer tasted. Hell, I know I remember the road race I did where the age group winners also got a cake! I really wanted that cake too, but sadly there was no cake for 2nd place.