Trophy triumphs

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All images courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany is the creator of the Vince Lombardi and many other championship awards

When the winners of Super Bowl XLVIII hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy at MetLife Stadium, they will be lifting an award that has special significance for this area.

The sterling silver trophy, featuring a regulation football in kicking position on a three concave-sided stand, is made by Tiffany & Co., specifically its Holloware Shop in Parsippany, N.J., making it, like the game itself, a truly N.Y./N.J. Collaboration.

Founded in 1837, Tiffany seems to have been destined for a sporting life, designing the New York Yankees’ iconic logo before it ever belonged to the team. It was a New York City Police Department award that ultimately became the property of the Bronx Bombers.

But Tiffany’s association with sports begins in 1860 on the bluegrass of Kentucky with the Woodlawn Vase. Later this trophy was presented to the Maryland Jockey Club for the winner of the Preakness Stakes, making it the oldest continuously contested trophy in the United States. In 1897, Tiffany was commissioned to design the August Belmont Memorial Cup for the Belmont Stakes, named for financier and event founder August Belmont. The richly patterned and textured cup, embellished with images of the founding sires of the American Thoroughbred, is emblematic of the kind of ornate designs Tiffany made in the 19th century. The Viking Rowing Trophy conjured a Viking ship down to its rippling pennants, authentic rigging and 14 great oars. Yachting trophies like the Goelet Cup featured waves, naiads, mermaids and dolphins.

For America’s pastime, Tiffany created the first world championship baseball trophy in 1888. Today, using elements of gold vermeil, Tiffany makes the World Series Championship Trophy, one of its most exhilarating designs, with 30 flags flying, one for each team, and latitude and longitude lines to symbolize the Earth. The World Series MVP Trophy is another Tiffany creation.

Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be a sport that doesn’t have the emporium’s imprimatur. The Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, renamed in 1984 for former National Basketball Association commissioner? Check. How about the Women’s National Basketball Association Championship Trophy? Ditto.

The Samuel Rudin Trophy awarded to the male and female winners of the New York City Marathon? You bet. The United States Open Tennis Championships Trophies in the style of classic loving cups with cast handles and spun finials, all made entirely of sterling silver? Uh-huh.

Then there are the Citizen Cup, awarded to the winner of the Defenders Series leading to the America’s Cup Race; the PGA Tour FedExCup Trophy and EDS Byron Nelson Championship Trophy; and the Triple Crown of Polo Championship Trophy.

But the one everyone will have their eyes on is the Lombardi, named in 1970 for the legendary coach who led the Green Bay Packers to victory in Super Bowl I and II. The trophy had been conceived on a cocktail napkin during a lunch between then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Tiffany Vice President Oscar Riedener. In 1971, it was presented for the first time as the Lombardi to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V as they defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13.

Over the years, the seven-pound, 22-inch trophy has moved from being awarded in the winning team’s locker room to an on-the-field presentation and has seen its NFL logo modernized. Otherwise, each winning team still gets its own, with the players receiving smaller versions. The one exception ironically was the Super Bowl V trophy, the first-ever Lombardi, which the city of Baltimore wrested from the Colts in a legal settlement after the team giddy-upped to Indy in 1984. But since then the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore’s new team, the Ravens, have won Super Bowls, so presumably everyone’s happy.

The only question is: Which team and which city will be happy with the Lombardi this year?

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