February 05, 2007
You may already be the Super Bowl champion

Congratulations to the Colts on their Super Bowl victory. You might have seen some of them wearing official gear at the end of the game last night, proclaiming "Indianapolis Colts - Super Bowl XLI Champions". The NFL has such items made up for both teams ahead of time. But what happens to the losing team's stuff?

Beth Colleton was working for a relief agency in Ethiopia when she spotted a boy wearing a Green Bay Packers 1998 Super Bowl champions T- shirt. She might have been the only person in the village to do a double- take; the Denver Broncos were the 1998 Super Bowl champions.

After Colleton, director for community ventures for the National Football League, returned home, she saw a documentary film about Romanian orphans. One of them was wearing a Buffalo Bills Super Bowl champions T- shirt, even though the Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s. "I almost fell out of my chair," she said.

This year, as usual, the NFL ordered 288 T-shirts and caps depicting the Indianapolis Colts as the winner of Super Bowl XLI. And they ordered 288 more depicting the Chicago Bears as the winner.

Rather than discarding those made for the losing team, the league now donates them to World Vision, the relief organization that Colleton worked for in Ethiopia for a month, for distribution in places like Niger, Uganda and Sierra Leone. This way, the NFL can help one of its charities and avoid traumatizing one of its teams.

"Where these items go, the people don't have electricity or running water," said Jeff Fields, a corporate relations officer for World Vision. "They wouldn't know who won the Super Bowl. They wouldn't even know about football."

On the one hand, this is a fine idea. It would certainly be a waste to simply destroy the articles for the losing team, which is apparently what Major League Baseball does. Giving them to charity is a much better alternative.

On the other hand, it seems like a sub-optimal use of these items. With all due respect, 288 T-shirts ain't that much. I understand the NFL's reluctance to rub a Super Bowl loss in the teams' faces, but how much do you think these items could fetch in an auction, with the proceeds going to those same charities? I daresay that could buy a lot more than what's currently being provided. Just a thought.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 05, 2007 to Other sports