A pre-teen boy in cleats and a baseball jersey strolled into the trophy store today. His shirt number was twelve, and his pants were brown and dusty.
“Hello, I’d like fourteen trophies for me and my friends, please,” the boy said. “And I’d like you to engrave ‘Participation’ on all of the metal plates.”
“Participation trophies!” said the 60-something store owner. “Kids these days are too soft! You’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of emotional frailty outside your coddled bubble of childhood sheltered from the remotest hints of adversity! Did your team even win first place?”
“Far from it. We sucked! It was a miracle we got seventh out of eight teams. I got on base twice this year, and both times were because I got hit by a pitch. Oh, not that trophy, the bigger one on the top shelf with the guy swinging a bat. But not red. That seems too much like second place. I’m supposed to get blue like first place. Yeah, fourteen of those.”
“You Millennials are going down already as the worst generation in history. How are you even going to pay for these?”
“With my parents’ money, of course. Look, man, I’m a kid, I don’t have any money to buy myself a trophy. I didn’t drive myself here. My mom is outside in the car making me talk to you because she’s furiously writing an email threatening my math teacher because I got a B instead of an A. In fact, this really has nothing to do with us kids at all. These trophies are 100% for our parents. All we care about is the post-game slushies that turn our mouths purple and red. I’m perfectly capable and willing to admit I suck at baseball. It’s my mom and dad who can’t accept that I suck. For some absurd reason my dad thinks my athleticism directly reflects on his fathering skills and genetic masculinity, and my mom is adamant I be more successful in life than any of my cousins or her college friends’ kids. I overheard them last week strategizing already on how to pay off college administrators and coaches to get me into an Ivy League school. They want me to start occasionally doing photoshoots on a rowing boat to pretend I do that. It’s embarrassing. I’m afraid their generation is just not equipped to handle the real world, or its unfair inequalities in doled out talent. To be perfectly honest with you, I hate my bedroom shelves stocked full with participation trophies. It’s vulgar and decoratively tawdry. But my mom and dad take turns rearranging them and showing them off to visitors. Oh, and Millennials are all between the ages of 24 and 40. I’m deep Gen Z. So, how long is this going to take?”