Lombardi Trophy’s Sleek Lines Were Sketched on a Cocktail Napkin 56 Years Ago
When LA Rams head coach Sean McVay raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the sky after last night’s 23-20 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals in Inglewood, CA, he was celebrating with one of the most recognizable and coveted awards in all of professional sports.
The 6.7-pound sterling silver icon stands 20.75 inches tall and depicts a football in a kicking position on a tapered three-sided stand. Its sleek lines were first sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin 56 years ago by Tiffany & Co.’s former design chief, Oscar Riedener.
According to the official Pro Football Hall of Fame website, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle was tasked with coming up with a trophy for the first-ever AFL-NFL Championship Game, which would take place in January of 1967. Former NFL Executive Director Don Weiss, in his book The Making of the Super Bowl, said Rozelle wanted the trophy to be aligned with his vision of everything about the game being first class.
Rozelle contacted Tiffany & Co., which arranged a meeting with its head of design, Riedener. Ironically, the designer was a native of Switzerland and knew nothing about American football. After the meeting with Rozelle, Reidener visited the New York headquarters of the famous toy store FAO Schwartz and bought a football.
The next morning he put the ball on his kitchen table, opened a box of cornflakes and stared at the football while eating his breakfast. He used a pair of scissors to cut up the empty cornflake box, transforming it into a three-sided trophy base atop which the football could sit.
At lunch a few days later with Rozelle and a delegation from Tiffany’s, Riedener drew a sketch of his design on a cocktail napkin. Rozelle liked it and the rest is history.
The trophy took on its official name — Vince Lombardi Trophy — in 1970 to honor the Green Bay Packer’s legendary football coach, who led his team to victory in the first two Super Bowls.
With silver trading at about $23.70 per ounce, the trophy has a melt value of about $2,500, but for the players and coaches who invest their blood, sweat and tears to win a Super Bowl championship, the Vince Lombardi trophy is priceless.
Each year, the trophy is awarded right after the big game, but it eventually makes its way back to Tiffany’s hollowware shop in Parsippany, NJ, to be engraved with the names of the participating teams, the date, location of the Super Bowl game and the game’s final score. The winning team gets to keep the trophy. It was the Rams’ second Super Bowl victory. The team’s first was in 1999.
A highly publicized mishandling of the Vince Lombardi Trophy occurred after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII. In early April of 2019, the Pats attended the Boston Red Sox home opener at Fenway Park to celebrate with the fans. Prior to the game, wide receiver Julian Edelman was trying to get warmed up before throwing out the first pitch.
He was in a tent waiting to go onto the field when he tossed a baseball to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was holding the Lombardi Trophy. Instead of catching the ball with his hand, or letting the ball fly by, Gronkowski used the trophy to bunt the ball back at Edelman, resulting in a baseball-sized dent. Patriots owner Robert Kraft told Gronkowski that he didn’t plan to have the trophy fixed.
Credits: Close-up image by Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Full-size trophy photo courtesy of BusinessWire.com. Screen capture via YouTube.com/CBS Sunday Morning.