- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2001

On the front page of The Washington Times sports section yesterday was an all-too-familiar sight: An athlete in this case, British Open champ David Duval kissing a trophy. Why, after all these years, are our sports figures still doing this, still smooching claret jugs and loving cups and crystal bowls and what have you? Is it just a Photo Op Thing? Shall we blame it on the cameramen? Nah, it seems like there's a lot more to it than that.

There are indications strong ones, in fact that athletes actually enjoy laying their lips on trophies. That they look forward to such moments.

Billy Andrade after his victory in the 1998 Canadian Open: "The whole day, … I'm thinking about winning the tournament and kissing that trophy."

Kobe Bryant on his MVP prospects: "As long as I'm kissing that big old [NBA championship] trophy at the end of the year, I don't worry about that stuff."

Following Duke's win over Arizona in the NCAA title game, USA Today reported, Shane Battier "kissed trophy. Once. Twice. Three times. Four."

Is that an athlete trying to give the media what it wants or is that love?

Canadian golfer Gayle Borthwick kinda answers the question for us. "I love that trophy," she said when she captured her second U.S. Senior Women's Amateur crown three years ago. "This morning when I got here I kissed the trophy, and I kissed it again before the final [match]."

Kissing a trophy. I just don't get it. Hugging, I could understand, even nuzzling. But putting your smackers on the thing for all the world to see? To me, it's one cut above kissing a frog.

And it's very difficult to how shall I put this? do it gracefully. Check out the photo of Duval in yesterday's paper. He looks like he's gnawing on a turkey leg. Either that or playing a very expensive flute. At any rate, he just doesn't come across as cool, and isn't that what our athletes are supposed to be?

Wimbledon might be the worst. Wimbledon is a veritable buss station the last few days of the tournament, the various champions pecking away at their various prizes. Pete Sampras has smooched the men's singles trophy so many times over the years that it's amazing Bridgette Wilson didn't break off their engagement. (Someday soon, NBC will probably invent a Tongue Cam to give us more close-up coverage of these slobberings.)

It makes you wonder, it really does. I mean, don't these athletes know where some of these trophies have been? I'm sure you've all seen the commercial on ESPN of that baby being given a bath in the Stanley Cup. And yet, this past June, when Ray Bourque finally won the Cup with Colorado, he was described as "kissing the Cup emphatically" (Associated Press, June 10).

Emphatically. Think about it.

Then there's this from the Dallas Morning News on June 20, 1999: "Each of the Stars carried [the Stanley Cup] aloft. Some kissed the trophy of their childhood dreams. Others lifted it up to the crowd."

Sounds like a board of health issue to me. (Maybe they each had a designated place to kiss the Cup like the members of a baseball team do when they're autographing a ball.)

Fortunately, some victorious athletes are able to resist the urge to pucker up to an inanimate object, at least. After beating Tennessee in the Super Bowl in '99, the San Jose Mercury News noted, "the hero [Rams quarterback Kurt Warner] reached into the stands and kissed his wife. He cradled the silver trophy."

Better that than kissing the trophy and cradling his wife.

What's really silly about this tradition is that, many times, the athletes are only kissing a replica of the trophy. The real one is kept out of harm's way in the aftermath of an event lest it slip from someone's sweaty grasp and shatter into a million pieces on the floor. That silver basketball thingy you saw various Lakers romancing following their victory over the 76ers last month ? Just a copy, folks.

Just once, I'd like to see the winner grab a trophy by the handle(s) and oh, I don't know waltz with it. How great would that footage have been David Duval, his first major title finally in the satchel, dancing around the 18th green at Lytham & St. Anne's?

But this kissing business has gone on for centuries, I reckon, and it will probably go on for centuries more. I wouldn't mind being there, though, when some Iditarod champ ill-advisedly puts lips to freezing-cold metal and gets stuck. Now that could really hurt.

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