By Aaron Waldron
Earlier today, Brandon and I were discussing his idea for handing out trophies at the LiveRC race he’s hosting in Wisconsin this weekend. He said that, rather than give a lower main event winner award to the driver who finishes third (because the two drivers ahead bumped up), he suggested that it was better to give both the trophy and bump-up to the driver who earned it.
I didn’t disagree with him. But it did get me thinking about the trophies that are often handed out at RC races of all sizes.
Having changed residences a few times over the last decade, I’ve had to pare down my possessions to what I truly find important. Moving every bit of junk in your home across town to a different house or apartment is one thing, but when you’re trying to reduce your life into the back of a small late-90s SUV for a 600-mile jaunt down the state, you really question whether or not you truly want that old mountain bike that you rarely rode, box of junk from the garage, or the stack of old t-shirts you haven’t worn in five years.
One box that has never made a move with me was a box of RC trophies.
It’s not that I never finished on the podium or won anything, I just found trophies easier to take them home than I did moving them to a new home. While it’s pretty easy to get excited about earning a piece of fancy plastic or particle board, no matter how cheesy the engraved soda can or crooked vinyl decoration on the front, lugging a box of them around for years gets cumbersome.
When it comes to remembering that year I won Stock Truck at a Race Against Cancer charity event, a cheesy plaque donated by a local trophy shop adds nothing to the experience. And while ROAR stepped up to take care of trophies for their national championship races a few years ago, one of the plaques I got for finishing at in the top ten many moons ago was among the worst looking I had had. There was the cheap vinyl Cactus I got for finishing third in my only trip to Scottsdale that broke as we were packing up for the drive home. I kept trophies on my desk at various jobs throughout the years just to remind co-workers that I beat them, but those too got tossed eventually.
It wasn’t just the quality of the award, though, that determined whether or not I kept it. The metal trophy I got for earning TQ at some race was really cool - with gold trim, a pair of sweet checkered flags, and some serious heft - but it totally didn’t match the accomplishment. And for as long as I tried holding onto the 3 ft. tall Reedy Truck Race of Champions trophy I won, with its bright pink posts and marble-like base, it was just too difficult to pack. Anything with “B-Main?” Forget about it! You really think I cared about the $3.30 commemorative memento when I finished 43rd at my first national event?
I know that factory stars will sometimes save their cars and trophies from a national or world championship win, but I’ve always seen pros leave their 7th place awards scattered across pit tables on Sunday evening.
The fact that trophies and giveaway t-shirts are even a thing at all but the largest regional and national RC car races says more about the over-saturation of “big races” and how every event promoter feels like he’s competing to provide the necessary value to potential attendees. And since many tracks hold big races in attempt to carry a profit through the fiscal year, they have to gamble on what percentage of revenue from the event they’re going to spend trying to get racers to justify attending. Race promoters sometimes try offering crazy awards - like working with companies to offer 50% sponsorship deals to Sportsman winners, or giving off-the-wall items like dirt bikes and ATV’s to pro-class champions, but those events never seem to last more than a couple of years.
Perhaps racers would appreciate knowing the track made an extra buck - or even benefitting from a $5-10 cut in entry fees to many races - rather than a corny closet ornament or chance at an non-recyclable paperweight? Instead of handing out a t-shirt and dangling a chance at a trophy in front of the vast majority of entrants who won’t get one, why not spend that $500 on a huge pizza party at the local dive after qualifying is over?
On the occasions where I had to make the decision to toss past awards in the trash bin, rather than in a moving vehicle, I always came to the realization that it was the race I’d remember - and not the trophy.