Even for people who don’t follow football, Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto holiday here in the U.S., filled with its own rituals, language and imagery. It’s also a time to celebrate for people in some underdeveloped countries, who will reap the benefit of the 100,000+ pieces of clothing that the NFL can’t sell.
As you’ve probably already deduced after years of watching Super Bowl champs slip into pre-printed shirts announcing their victory, those garments weren’t printed during the two-minute warning. No, there are boxes of shirts and hats proudly proclaiming the other team’s victorious effort.Since the NFL can’t really do anything with these shirts — though we contend there is a market out there for ironic memorabilia — BusinessWeek reports that the league donates all these clothes to an organization called World Vision, which then distributes the items to people around the world who have no idea what a Harbaugh is, let alone two Harbaughs.
Amazingly, the NFL spent the first 30 Super Bowls destroying all this inaccurate apparel. But for the last 17 years, World Vision has found happy homes for shirts declaring things like the Eagles’ victory over the Patriots in a Super Bowl XXXIX that occurred only in my mind.
In 2010, kids in a flood-ravaged Haiti probably didn’t care that Peyton Manning had been made to look silly by the New Orleans Saints; they got the Colts’ victory T-shirts out of the loss. And just a few years earlier, it was Manning’s defeat of the Chicago Bears that resulted in kids from Romania and Chad possibly being Devin Hester fans.
In addition to the T-shirts, there are also crates of sweatshirts that go to people in places like Mongolia, where a little extra warmth is appreciated.
And it’s not just the items created specifically for the teams to wear after the game. The NFL rules don’t allow for any licensed manufacturer to sell apparel that depicts the wrong Super Bowl champ. So when a team with a huge following doesn’t come through with a victory, World Vision says the donations can number in the hundreds of thousands of items.