SURF THIS: A site to satisfy your Super Bowl ring fascination

February 26, 2007

It seems strange that a piece of jewelry that I won't own and will only see on passing occasions should hold my interest, but it does. And judging by how often I hear other people discussing Super Bowl rings, ("What do you think the design will look like?" "Will everyone in the Colts organization get one?" "How much will they cost?"), I suspect there are many others feeling the same.

Perhaps it's because this victory seems so sweet, so picture perfect. Could there have been a better way to slay all the demons in one compelling, dramatic, roller-coaster ride to the championship? Or perhaps it's the inherent right of a season-ticket holder to have more than a passing interest. After all, we're all financing this purchase to some degree.

The ring has become the symbol of greatness, the talisman of a champion. It's no coincidence that players talk about winning the Super Bowl, often the pinnacle of their lifelong dreams, with references to the ring, not the game. Some players are ultimately judged in terms of "rings won." The game is the means; the ring is the end.

While pondering this recently, I came across a Web site created by ESPN that serves to address these feelings in all of us, tinyurl.com/292z54. This beautiful little site, so simple in design, so pointed in focus and purpose, takes a historical look back at all the Super Bowl rings commemorating every champion. Sure, the up-close-andpersonal photos provide a perspective that few of us will ever have otherwise, but the true jewels of the site are the stories behind the rings and their designs.

Some rings-and some championships-mean more than others. Even a passing fan can understand Jerome Bettis' need to be involved in the ring design after 13 seasons of effort. Says Bettis, "I thought to myself, 'This is my only one. I want to make sure it's done the right way.'" So he sought out owner Dan Rooney in the locker room after the game and asked to be involved. Rooney responded, "Tell you what, it'll be me and you." Just as it is for every player that wears one, that ring occupies a special place in Bettis' heart.

You can also read about Steve Young, who doesn't wear any of his three rings because he feels they're too flamboyant. "You're announcing to everyone in the room that you're there and they have to deal with it," Young said. But the other (maybe real) reason? He's afraid to lose it.

Consider Walter Payton. He was serving as a volunteer assistant with a high school basketball team in 1996 when he gave the ring to a player to keep for a few days. Players passed it around among themselves and it eventually disappeared. Its return in 2001 is the stuff of legends.

In the end, all the rings are special and all have a tale to tell, but each subsequent ring loses some measure of importance from the first. I think that's why we care so much about this ring, this time. And why I'm looking forward to seeing the story of the Colts' first ring in 30 years added to the site.

And then we can get back to talking about winning the next one.

Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.
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