Marolt: Here’s to the participation-award trophy wife

Roger Marolt
Roger This

I wish I had gotten into trophies when they were big and brass and came with a lifetime guarantee of bragging rights. The economic challenge has always been to build a better mousetrap. Who knew that the awards business was a gold-colored, plastic junk mine?

It started with kids and preserving self-esteem. It wasn’t enough to focus on stopping bullies from taping “Kick me!” signs on the backs of oxford shirts, hoisting skinny kids up the flagpole by their belt loops and generally ruling the school by intimidation and then going out on the sports fields to be appointed captains and win the MVP awards. We had to throw salt in the wound by giving the nerds big trophies, too.

The feel-good trend grew. There are now awards in everything for everybody. If you haven’t won one lately, it is probably because you haven’t been to the post office in a few days. Check your junk email folder; there’s probably one waiting for you. You are a valued customer, club member, airline passenger, whatever; your prize can be claimed with a simple phone call or by filling out a brief survey.

The writing was on the leaderboard wall at a junior golf tournament in about 1980. I got 17th place and was awarded a waist-high trophy that has led to a lifetime of embarrassment. The tiny golfer mounted on a base of faux marble on elastomer oak did a headfirst dive into the Dumpster long ago (and probably was awarded some gaudy token for the effort, I don’t know), but somehow the photos of me accepting it in a long lineup of participants surface at family gatherings from time to time, providing an eternal Polaroid hammer for pounding me down a peg or two.

In this light, can we do away with the term “trophy wife”? It never meant what it should have to begin with — a beautiful wife with high intelligence, a nice job, and a good sense of humor, who could whip up gourmet meals on a whim while raising perfectly adjusted kids in a neat and tidy house. All it ever really signified was a young lady hanging out with an old man for the love of money. It’s so common these days that it’s not trophy-worthy.

A trophy wife can be a lot of things in the modern world. They do give trophies for a booby prize, right? But it doesn’t stop there. It’s not uncommon to hand out ribbons for being in the top quartile of anything. How about the “sportsmanship,” “most improved,” or “best attitude” trophies? And let’s not forget the participation award. How about a trophy wife whose claim to fame is begrudgingly showing up to most practices and complaining about her lack of playing time?

If you eat at a restaurant this weekend, look at the walls around the bar area, peruse the menu cover, or read its ad in any one of the many award-winning travel magazines available at the concierge desk in your two-, three-, four- or five-star winning hotel. Chances are really good that you are about to partake in an award-winning dining experience. If, by remote chance, the walls are bare and the menu only describes the food they serve, you can rest assured that you will be treated courteously and professionally at our own award-winning hospital.

Our streams are stocked full of gold-medal trout. Every spa has decorated trainers and masseuses. The architects of our buildings are renowned. The grocery stores all have been recognized for outstanding customer service. Every real estate firm employs a half dozen “top producers.” Don’t believe it? Just ask one of the many employees of the month who work at these places.

Even the local Fourth of July parade is contaminated and overpopulated by the destined to be recognized. There are so many categories and first-, second- and third-place trophies handed out for each that it is almost impossible not to win something for walking or riding even half the route through town with a smile. Hey! Let’s keep track of the floats that don’t win. They deserve to be acknowledged for that!

Of course, this opinion is brought to you in one of two award-winning daily newspapers in town and by this award-winning columnist with no apologies. The actual awards are made of paper these days, and while they are multi-colored and the salutations are laser printed in an impressive font, they don’t come with their own frames. You can get those at Target, if you are interested.

At any rate, I will quit now before somebody hands me an award for pointing out the obvious. I hope you enjoy a fabulous Fourth of July, the best holiday at America’s No. 1 year-round mountain resort!

Roger Marolt remembers when paperweights came without engraved brass plaques glued to them. Contact him at