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Opinion: James Harrison And The Dangerous Lie Of The Participation Trophy


As the old adage goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. While I never thought it would happen, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has actually said something with which I completely agree.

Harrison, who has hurled homophobic slurs at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and is often fined for cheap and dirty hits that backup his claims that he is out to hurt other players, revealed that he made his kids forfeit a participation trophy because he wants them to earn a real trophy.

“While I’m very proud of my boys for everything they and will encourage them until the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…”

The former Kent State Golden Flash is no stranger to “real trophies” winning two Super Bowls as well as a host of personal defensive accolades. Many people are against the notion that everyone is a winner and contend that it engenders an attitude of entitlement and complacency but it goes further. Participation trophies encourage kids to do the bare minimum to get things, mere objects. Trophies are trinkets, anyone can buy one and get it engraved with anything they like.

In Hollywood Boulevard souvenir shops, replica Academy Awards are available for purchase with accolades ranging from “Best Father” to “Cutest Dog” and everything in between. If you have enough money, you can even buy someone ELSE’S trophy, the San Francisco Giants, for example have offered an authentic World Series ring in a charity raffle. But you cannot buy accomplishment.

We are, in no small manner, enabling kids to settle for less and reap the rewards.

We are telling them that what is important is not the game, not sportsmanship or fair-play or teamwork or even the memories and camaraderie intrinsic in athletic performance, but the material representation of the season.

No matter how much I donate, I will never score the winning goal in the World Cup. I have, however, earned as a high-school soccer player two state and one national championship title and those medals are priceless. My myriad participation trophies are a dime a dozen…literally.


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

2 thoughts on “Opinion: James Harrison And The Dangerous Lie Of The Participation Trophy”

    1. What’s sad is that as Steve stated that we live in a world of self-entitlement and soft-ass people. I got my fair share of academic and sports awards, but I earned them as I finished in the top 15% of my class. Thanks for reading!

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