By now I’m betting that many of you have read somewhere that the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy is back! As alluded to in the comments of other posts, the push to bring back the Chair something we at TDG have been aware of for a little while. But when it came time to write about it’s return I was left with a big case of writers block. I could have easily chased some clicks with a quick post saying THE CHAIR IS BACK, but that felt cheap because I honestly love the Broken Chair Trophy. It wasn’t until I read this excellent story from Hail Varsity that I knew what mattered most to me was sharing why I give a damn about this trophy and why I think its story represents the best parts of college football.
The improbability of it all
My favorite part of the history of Broken Chair Trophy was how the whole thing seemed to come out of nowhere. The original Twitter exchange was hilarious, and the subsequent Reddit designs made my long layover on the way to Lincoln, NE easier because it was easy #content. But nothing could have prepared me for the joy I felt when this magical, surreal, and all too perfect tweet appeared in my timeline:
I lost it. I couldn’t stop laughing. The joke made real set the tone for one of my favorite weekends of Minnesota Football.
How did all of it happen? It should never have happened! But it did and I won’t forget the joy it brought me.
The Chair represented the best of CFB. It’s death represented the worst.
The Broken Chair trophy was everything I loved about college football and the antithesis of everything I hated. It was unique and quirky instead of branded or corporate. It had an interesting and organic origin story. It was something that shouldn’t be, but yet there it was. It was the underdog of trophies. As I said before the Nebraska game in 2015, it was a “worthy modern heir to the great college football trophies from the last century.”
When the Chair made it back onto the sidelines of TCF Bank Stadium in 2015 and was transferred over to the Huskers by the mascots before being tweeted about by the official Nebraska social media accounts, I thought a corner had been turned. I was under no illusions that the Chair would suddenly become an official trophy recognized by both schools, but it seemed like it was destined to live on in some unofficial form as a testament to the good things about college sports and college sports fandom. And when it was allowed to disappear into nothingness by the inaction and indifference of Minnesota and Nebraska, the part of me that loved the little quirks of college football was crushed. It felt like the big business of college football had won.
Passion saved the Chair, generosity can help it thrive
Little did I know that the loss of the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy would simply result in the creation of another marvelous chapter in it’s history. One where fans of the chair would not be deterred from helping it exist again. And one where other passionate fans would help the Chair return in a way designed to serve and give back to others.
The story of the Chair’s resurrection is fantastic (via Hail Varsity):
Remove the faceplate of the recently revived and rebuilt $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy and you’ll find everything you need to know about the unauthorized but adored (by fans at least) totem. It reads: two-of-infinity.
That infinity symbol is important, a statement of intent.
The idea is that the group of Husker and Gopher fans responsible for bringing it back to life would “continue to make trophies, that if they kept getting lost one would appear every year,” said Luke Petersen, the Nebraska fan who built the trophy.
It started as a Reddit thread back in August, with users kicking around various ideas for keeping the trophy alive. Eventually the group decided they could just build the trophy themselves.
Petersen, a Reddit user and woodworker in his spare time, took up the challenge. Working from a handful of photos of the trophy and using the dimensions of the fake $5 bills pasted to the bottom of the original chair for scale, he and another Husker fan got to work. In an ironic twist for a trophy that has, to this point, not been widely supported at the administrative level, the pair used the Nebraska Innovation Studio, a makerspace open to the community on UNL’s campus, to rebuild the broken chair with some improvements.
“We decided that if we really wanted something that would last longer and not be an embarrassment later on to help the administrations be OK with it, it needed to look nicer,” Petersen said.
The original trophy, clearly constructed in a hurry, was pretty rough according to Peterson. The Minnesota and Nebraska logos on the faceplate were drawn on in Sharpie. The base was made out of lumber that hadn’t been sanded or finished. The children’s chair was spray-painted gold and simply screwed on.
That has all been fixed with the new version. It looks a little bit nicer, but, given its origin story, remains firmly anti-establishment. That’s always been a key part of its appeal.
But the physical trophy alone is only part of the story (via Chair-ity Fundraiser press release)
Gopher fans saw the new trophy on r/CFB and approached the creators with an idea to pair the yearly trophy with a fundraising effort.
The fundraiser attempts to take advantage of the popularity of the trophy to the benefit of some worthy causes, and to give greater incentive for fans, players, and both University communities to carry on the tradition. This year Husker and Gopher fans are raising donations for the Team Jack Foundation and the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. All donations will be split evenly between the two organizations. To donate to the Chair-ity Fundraiser, or to view the history of the trophy, visit brokenchairtrophy.com.
The passion to make this happen, the dedication and unwillingness to give up on the dream, the teamwork between two fanbases. These are the same qualities I love about the games and the teams when I watch college football. The addition of a charitable aspect means the Chair has a chance to be more than a quirky sideshow that the two Universities feel the need to ignore and hide. Instead it could be a vessel for good works that the schools can embrace. The Chair isn’t a joke. It’s fun, unique, and deserves to be embraced by as many fans as possible.
A Chair-itable future
The $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy may be back, but it isn’t an official trophy yet. From what I’m hearing, you should not expect to see it on the sidelines of TCF Bank Stadium this fall and I wouldn’t expect to see either school embrace it publicly on social media before or after the game. And you know what? That’s ok. I would LOVE for the Chair to be something that the Gophers and Huskers run across the field to hoist. But if living on as a testament to the best elements of college football while raising money to help sick children is the pinnacle of it’s existence, well, that’s pretty fantastic too!
Ultimately though TDG’s goal is to make this a real, official trophy that both schools are proud to play for. If you have any suggestions for how we can make that happen, please share them in the comments! In the meantime, serve the mission and help out Team Jack and the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital!
New website for all things Chair: http://brokenchairtrophy.com/
Follow the Chair on Twitter: @ChairTrophy