A championship ring is considered the “holy grail” for any NFL player and a prized keepsake. A few select greats, like Tom Brady, have multiple rings, yet the coveted treasure has eluded numerous Hall of Fame icons such as Dan Marino and Randy Moss.
While much attention is focused on team rings, which are awarded to players and employees on the winning team, it is often overlooked that NFL officials are awarded rings for officiating in the Super Bowl.
Unexpectedly, I stumbled across one such ring while visiting Newport, Rhode Island. On a cool rainy morning, I wandered into the Armory Antique Marketplace. As I walked into the musty-smelling hall, my attention was drawn to a display case with a unique looking ring that stood out amongst the others. The gold ring, featuring a small diamond, was well-worn and smooth. The NFL shield was visible on the front and, with the aid of a jeweler’s loupe, National Football League Official was visible around the perimeter of the ring.
Every antique has its own story. Unfortunately with many, that story has not survived or has faded into the recesses of time. This 52-year-old ring has an interesting backstory.
The consigner was a jeweler who had a shop in a small town in New York. This ring belonged to an official who worked in the 1968 NFL-AFL Championship Game, retroactively named Super Bowl II. After the official had passed away, and due to its well-worn condition, the ring was sold to the jeweler for scrap. It was never melted down and has survived the test of time.
In a Jan. 29, 2014, Fox Sports article, Mike Pereira, former vice president of officiating for the NFL, noted that only top referees are selected to officiate in the season’s biggest game. Although they receive extra compensation, Pereira emphasized that for the referees it’s all about the ring as a memory of a special game.
The 1968 game associated with this ring was played in Miami featuring the NFL champions Green Bay Packers vs. the AFL champions Oakland Raiders. The Packers won 33-14 and Bart Starr was the MVP.
How times have changed: in 1968, commercial advertisers paid just $54,000 for a 30-second ad spot and the halftime entertainment was provided by the Grambling University Band. Fast-forward to 2020: commercial advertisers for the 2020 Super Bowl will now pay a record $5.6 million for a 30-second ad spot. World-famous entertainers Shakira and Jennifer Lopez will perform at halftime.
When I visited, the Armory Antique Marketplace was closing after 25 years, as the building was sold to the National Sailing Hall of Fame. All dealers were heavily discounting their inventory. The ring was purchased and will escape the scrap metal future to which it was once destined. The memory of the 1968 Super Bowl will live on.
Mark Edwards is an attorney who lives in Pinehurst.