Are you commemorating a hard-fought championship that took blood, sweat, and tears to earn, or starring in a rap music video?
A lifetime ago I worked at a Saturn dealership in Memphis, TN. One of the very first — if not the first — Saturn dealership to ever open in the country, in fact.
My career as a “sales advisor” (or “lot lizard,” a term used for both car salesmen and truck stop prostitutes, interestingly) was brutishly short. As was the Saturn brand itself, actually. The niche GM label went belly-up in 2010 due to the 2008 Wall Street crash that pulverized the car company’s balance sheet.
I did, however, have the chance to meet some cool people during my short tenure. One of whom was a former Dallas Cowboys football player. He and his wife showed up one day interested in buying an Outlook. I had no idea who he was, but judging by the way our Sales Manager immediately showed the couple into his office, I sensed they weren’t your usual tire kicking weekend walk-ins.
At some point my manager asked me over to his office to deliver some paperwork. And it was then I noticed the twinkling rock on the man’s right ring finger.
“Yes, Dean, that’s a Super Bowl ring,” my manager said, as if I didn’t know.
I was introduced to the former pro athlete, who had played on the Cowboys during the ’70s, when they went to five Super Bowls, winning two of them, under Hall of Fame Coach Tom Landry and QB Roger Staubach. The ’70s was when Dallas really built its “America’s Team” identity and its winning culture. Two decades later Dallas would dominate again, winning three Super Bowls in the ’90s with QB Troy Aikman and RB Emmitt Smith. Since those two eras of dominance, Dallas’s post-season record has been rather spotty. But there was a time when the Cowboys were synonomous with victory, and the swaggering pride of dynasty.
Seeing that I’d noticed the ring, the former Cowboy immediately, without saying anything, twisted it off his finger and handed it to me so I could examine it up close. This must have been something he did often. Super Bowl rings are quite exquisite and eye-catching. I mean, just look at this thing:
Even back in the ’70s, Super Bowl rings were jumbo-sized. The 1978 Cowboys ring, which they earned defeating the Denver Broncos 27–10, felt heavy, but not so much that it would be cumbersome to wear. It had a rough, scratchy exterior due to the numerous diamonds studded into its surface. But its real “weight” came from the victory it represented, and the teamwork and athletic exceptionalism required to achieve that victory. Way bigger than any wedding band or class ring would be, the Dallas ring I held felt big enough to encapsulate the importance of the Super Bowl win. It felt “appropriate-sized.”
Nowadays, Super Bowl rings are gaudy, ridiculously over-sized, and look like something you’d wear if you were making a Weird Al Yankovic parody of a rap music video.
Just take a look at the Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl ring from last year’s championship game, as worn by DeSean Jackson:
WTF? There is no way a ring that size is even remotely comfortable or practical to wear on an everyday basis, or even once in a while. A ring that size isn’t even really a “ring.” It’s more of a Christmas tree ornament that you stick on your finger. A ceremonial pendant that you’d realistically only wear once a year, likely during championship team reunions or public media events.
I know most of these players are big guys with sausage fingers, but a ring of such elephantine proportion would look too large even on Andre the Giant’s hand.
Imagine trying to stick your hand in your pockets, or conducting routine activities like opening a door, driving, or pulling out your wallet with a glittery rock the size of a strawberry sticking out past your knuckles. It’d be clanking, snagging, sticking, and getting caught on everything. And all those physical impacts would risk damaging it. Diamonds may be the toughest material on earth, but they can be knocked loose. The New England Patriots ring from Super Bowl 51 famously has 283 diamonds (as a trolling nod to the 28–3 score midway through the third quarter before Tom Brady mounted the team’s epic comeback). That’s a lot of rocks to keep track of.
Not to mention a ring that big would unduly attract thieves and other low-lifes. You wear bling that size and you might as well be announcing into a bullhorn that you have a shit ton of money, and are therefore the perfect robbery target. Does the NFL expect its players to maintain a security detail everywhere they go for the rest of their lives?
A championship ring should be a complement to your attire, not a liability. It should be something you could wear everyday, if desired. Not something that realistically you need to stick in a safe or safety deposit box for the 364 days a year that you can’t wear it.
There’s another issue, too. These gaudy, comically gargantuan finger stones, to me, devalue the true meaning of the championship itself. I mean, the NFL is already a pretty glitzy theatrical affair as it is. Many stadiums shoot off fireworks after a touchdown. You’ve got jumbo screens everywhere, decorated dancing cheerleaders, war chants, bright lights, confetti, trophy presentations, billion dollar broadcasting deals, centimillion dollar player contracts, and hundreds of millions of fans tuning in every week. Adding in a Super Bowl ring the size of a Volkswagen Beetle kind of seems like overkill.
A Super Bowl ring is all about both a player’s individual effort, and a team’s collective effort, to achieve perfection. It’s about the brotherhood you forged that year in pursuit of the top trophy. The relationships made during the season that will likely last a lifetime. Going all “Pimp My Ride” on the championship ring kind of cheapens the whole deal. It places more emphasis on a gaudy trinket, rather than on those intangible sacred bonds.
Making matters worse, in the effort to keep one-upping every previous year’s ring, the latest thing now is making the tops removable. A trend the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started after their 2020 season win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Take a look at the features for the championship game number 55 ring:
Now, is that “cool?” Well, yeah, sure. The Rams did their own version last year. Their ring is modeled off of SoFi Stadium, lets you peer through the side into a miniature version of the field, and even has a section of the game ball inserted into the surface.
These newer split rings are definitely a creative upgrade. But they’re also risky and kind of stupid. How long until a player loses the top half? Or until the snap-on fittings become worn and don’t seat properly? A ring with a top like that is obviously meant to be shown off again and again. Eventually they’ll be worn enough to render the ring unwearable. Then what do you do? Stick it in a drawer? Kind of defeats the purpose of getting to wear a championship ring in the first place.
At the rate we’re going, by Super Bowl 100, rings will be the size of footballs. Players will need special gauntlets to wear them. They’ll cost a million dollars each, and require their own seperate mining quarries to procure the needed precious metals and stones. When you press a button the ring will open up, and a holographic display will show the player’s career highlights and a recording of the championship game. And they’ll also have mortar tubes installed so players can launch commemorative fireworks whenever they get nostalgic about the big game.
Going back to the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII ring I got to hold back in 2007, it was modestly “small” and “quaint” by today’s standards. But it was clearly something the retired player wore probably everyday. Everyday for almost thirty years. That’s a long time for a piece of jewelry to last being worn constantly, and a real testament to the hardiness and durability of a Super Bowl ring. Despite its “diminutive” dimensions, it was still pretty awesome to see and hold.
Afterall, it’s what the ring symbolizes — the teamwork, sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears, and everything else that goes into winning a championship — that matters most. Not the size of the bling.