The Injustice of Awards.


The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait has a smart, funny article up about the uselessness of awards:

Nearly every field of human endeavor has a regular prize. And nearly every prize seems to regularly go to a clearly undeserving winner. Woody Allen’s character complained in Annie Hall, “They’re always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.” If an award like that really did exist, though, they’d probably end up giving it to Mussolini…

A recent statistical analysis by Robert T. Hodgson, published in the Journal of Wine Economics (I kid you not), found that a wine that wins one competition is no more likely to win another competition than any other wine. Which is to say, wine awards are handed out completely at random. If you listen to movie buffs, they will tell you that the Academy Awards regularly commit unforgiveable sins of commission or omission. Look closely at any field that gives out awards, and you will probably find that injustice is more the rule than the exception.

I myself am proof of this injustice: in junior high I won the school Geography Bee two straight years despite having my own creative but sadly inaccurate ideas of where most places are in relation to one another.  I was able to swindle my way to the top because I was good at geographic trivia, which is another matter entirely.  It’s one thing to know what the capital of the last communist country in the western hemisphere is (Havana); quite another to know whether Boston or New York is further to the north (Boston).  Yet there my name stands, twice embossed on the wooden plaque that hangs, to this day, in the office of Healdsburg Junior High.  And sure, maybe I didn’t quite deserve the award, but in a world Crash and the Three-6 Mafia both have Oscars, I’m hardly the most egregious offender.