When our favorite teams win championships, we're right there with them. We sit through the season with them, either on our couch or in our seats at the game, and we experience almost all of the ups and downs they do. Then we reap the rewards of seeing them on stage receiving their trophy, rings, cup or whatever it may be. It's like our emotions are tied to those experiences - almost as if we had accomplished them ourselves. Except instead of us receiving a ring or trophy like they do, we have to go out and buy a t-shirt, hat or championship socks. (For more, check out Sports Stars Worth Every Penny.)
Occasionally, or perhaps a little more often than that, fans get the chance to buy the real deal - a ring or trophy that once belonged to one of the greats who unfortunately might not be doing so great anymore. Sometimes financial or personal circumstances cause players to sell their memorabilia; other times they do it for a charitable donation. Below are just a few times where famous athletes sold off symbols of their, and their teams', athletic greatness.
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Lenny Dykstra's Mets World Series Ring - $20,000
In 2009, former all-star outfielder Lenny Dykstra filed for bankruptcy. The Huffington Post reported that Dykstra owed more than $30 million, but he only had $50,000 worth of assets. After filing, Dykstra put his 1986 Mets World Series Ring, three All-Star rings and a trophy up for auction. The broker in charge of the auction was hoping to fetch at least $20,000 per item.
Randy Brown's Championship Rings - $19,000
Unfortunately, the current recession hasn't only affected former ballplayers. Former NBA stars have been hit as well. Last year Randy Brown, the former Bulls guard, put his three championship rings up for auction after he filed for bankruptcy. ESPN writer Eric Angevine reported that the rings started at a minimum bid of $19,000.
Fortunately, Brown was able to go back to the Bulls' franchise and work as the director of player development last season, and he became the special assistant to the general manager just last month.
O.J. Simpson's Heisman Trophy - $230,000
Things haven't worked out so well for another athlete we know all too well. To help pay off the wrongful death civil judgment filed by the families of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, O.J. Simpson's 1968 Heisman trophy was put up for auction. The trophy fetched a whopping $230,000. Simpson's memorabilia saga continued several years ago, when he was arrested and charged with several felonies while allegedly trying to get back memorabilia that he said belonged to him. (For more, check out 7 Costly Pro Athlete Screw-Ups.)
Je'Rod Cherry's Super Bowl Ring - $171,000
It's true that most players sell their memorabilia because of hard times, but not all. ESPN's Tim Graham wrote an article about former New England Patriots defensive back and special-teams star Je'Rod Cherry, who put his very first Super Bowl ring up for a raffle to raise money for charity. The 2008 raffle was set up so that anyone with $2 could purchase a ticket for a chance to win, with a cash prize to help pay for the taxes as well. The raffle brought in $171,000. The money was used to build orphanages in Thailand and Cambodia, to help save children from sex trafficking in those same countries and to feed kids in need in Ohio and Massachusetts.
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The Bottom Line
It seems that in the end, much emotion is still tied to these athletic symbols that get sold at auctions, no matter what side a fan or player falls on. It's sad for those who have to sell them, but exciting for those who buy them. Or, it can be much more than that when players like Cherry decide to turn a ring into a symbol of hope. (For more on some of your favorite stars, see For Athletes, Is There Life After Sports?)