Monday night’s four-hour West Sunberry, PA Town Council meeting featured abundant citizen comment regarding youth athletics, and was capped with a vote to continue the time-honored tradition of awarding participation trophies to members of youth sports teams.
Following more than three hours of debate, legislators ruled 5-2 in favor of continuing to award participation trophies to children age 10 and under in all town-sanctioned sports leagues.
Councilman and West Sunberry Warlocks Varsity Football Coach Bud Kilmer cast one of the dissenting votes, saying, “If kids can’t be winners, they ain’t worth shit to me or to nobody.”
The other was cast by Councilwoman Janice Brady. “This topic infuriates me,” she said. “I never would have been the athlete I was if I had been rewarded just for showing up. How does that build work ethic? Please, someone explain that to me. If I wasn't good enough for a trophy, I didn't pout; I worked harder. Why are we raising our kids to be mediocre and to expect the same perks as those busting their butts?”
Councilman Harvey Northman pointed out that Brady played Division III volleyball, calling the sport “the participation trophy of collegiate athletics.” Brady promptly severed ties with Northman on Facebook, leaving him with just 41 friends in his social network. As of this writing, Councilman Northman still has not uploaded a profile picture to his five-year-old account.
In West Sunberry, a rural “Steeler Nation” outpost, the debate escalated quickly and, according to police, was the catalyst for two physical altercations in just 24 hours. The first came at a local bar, where Mark Barth III allegedly struck Norman Haller multiple times after Haller disagreed with Barth’s assertion that participation trophies were “pretty much 100 percent responsible for the pussification of America.” The second incident occurred the next day when, at a Pop Warner practice, Rocky Calico asked fellow West Sunberry resident Dennis Katz about his stance on the issue. Bystanders had to physically restrain Calico, who grew enraged when Katz responded, “I’m just trying to walk my dog.”
“Quite frankly, this seems like a ridiculous thing for us to be addressing, given all the other issues we’re having in this town, but my hope is we can talk about it, vote on it, and then move on to more important topics,” Councilman Northman said prior to the meeting. When asked which issues might take precedence over participation trophies, Northman was quick to cite the town’s high unemployment figures, rising methamphetamine use, and the unexplained accumulation of 976 Heinz ketchup bottles (at last count) in Burton Creek.
Councilwoman Martha Delaney said just before casting her vote that she was ashamed that the town had endured its longest meeting in more than a decade over such an issue.
“Getting a participation trophy is not going to do anything to negatively influence a kid’s work ethic,” she said. “If anything, they’ll be dissatisfied with it and work harder so they can get more meaningful trophies in the future. It works in a way that’s kind of similar to an unsatisfactory report card. It shows the child that the team has room for improvement, but acknowledges his or her ability to help make that change.”
Some other notable remarks from the meeting:
“We’re talking about this because of James Harrison, right? Shouldn’t that guy have spent more time learning proper grammar and respect for women? I mean, do any of you have any idea the kind of stuff that guy got up to even before he slapped his girlfriend? I mean, look at his . I’ve brought printouts.” —Jayne Hawkins, English teacher
“Good Lord. I will either give every kid in the county a goddamn participation trophy, or I will melt all the existing ones down and make one gigantic trophy for whoever wins next year’s 8-and-under Pee Wee Bowl. I. Do. Not. Care. Can we please just get to the next topic on the agenda, which is whether or not we can close down Main Street for a couple hours a few Saturdays from now to host a 5K for charity?” —Brock Barrett, varsity cross country coach
“I tell you one thing. I never once gave my husband no participation trophy for his terrible skills in the sack, but he expected to get it whenever he wanted it anyway. Some people are just entitled idiots. A trophy ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.” —Jennifer Marie Winston, junior high gym teacher and Coach Kilmer’s ex-wife.
“Participation trophies changed my life. If I’d never found out that people will give you plenty of stuff without your having to work for it, I might’ve, like, busted my ass through high school, and for what? To get some job I have to go to every day? Don’t you people know about welfare? We need to keep giving out participation trophies. It’s the responsible thing to do.” —Giuseppe Sanders, unemployed
“Two things: this world is a cruel, unshaven bastard when you’re an adult. Adults get told every day that they're inferior and not worth their weight in chest hair. Why push kids into that system so soon? Give them a damn trophy. Secondly, we all know the kids who get the winners’ trophies are the ones who peak in high school. Participation trophies go to kids who aren't stupid. They know they didn't win, but they still want to be appreciated for their efforts. Plus, youth sports mean nothing, in the grand scheme of things. I’m 29, and I don't remember the trophies I won.” —Chris LaFuria, journalist
“If it matters one way or another, if yinz stop giving out participation trophies, I’ll probably be out of business within the next year.” —Jay Broche, owner of Broche Engraving & Supply
Scott Muska has received many participation trophies for his writing. You should follow him on Twitter.