As many people know, there is an election brewing in Pennsylvania. As fewer people know, that election involves the annual awards known as “The Webbies,” sometimes known — semi-seriously at least, and undoubtedly without the blessing of AMPAS — as the Oscars of the Internet.
My colleague Bernard Hibbitts is the Editor in Chief and publisher of JURIST, the world’s first, oldest, and still leading one-stop shop for legal news. Again this year, JURIST has been nominated for a Webby Award as Best Law website for 2008, and that means that it is also eligible for a Webby People’s Voice Award, for which we all vote. Every vote counts (I assume), so vote — here. Please (click on the “Website” grouping, scroll down to “Society” and vote in the Law category).
Since I’ve written a bit about awards and prestige and their meaning in the legal academy, I have a pretty good idea of the stakes in this sort of thing. No disrespect to the JURIST team, but we all know how much this matters, which is to say, not much. Winning a Webby, just like winning a Pulitzer or a Nobel, or an Academy Award, is largely meaningless — the rules are unclear, voting procedures flawed. The award might be largely symbolic, pointless, or betrayed by time or fashion. “You Light Up My Life” once won a People’s Choice award for best new song.
Is cultural criticism beside the point here? A. Bartlett Giamatti, back when he was still a beloved scholar of Renaissance poetry and president of Yale, gave a speech that defended the sweetness of winning itself. Speaking about the virtues of athletics as part of an educational program, Bart read the ancient Greeks for the proposition that competition in athletics was a form of knowledge; sport’s combination of community and liberation (play within rules) was distilled in the result: victory. This was in the context of a speech circa 1980 defending intercollegiate athletic programs at Ivy League colleges; I can’t find a full citation or original text. (Can you?) As Jackie Gleason was fond of saying, “How sweet it is!”
Can’t find the text either, although the exact quote is, Winning has a joy and discrete purity to it that cannot be replaced by anything else.
I was there.
It might be in “Take time for Paradise” — I have it around here somewhere. If I have a chance, I’ll take a look…