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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Maybe because they're free?

There's one burning question I cannot seem to have answered. It's almost as bad as these: What did Barney Rubble do for a living? And who was Sweet Pea's biological father on the Popeye cartoons?

Now, don't give me that Barney worked at the quarry with Fred Flintstone. Not true. They drove to work together in the morning and Fred would drop Barney off before Fred went on to punch the triceratops at the quarry.

And neither Popeye nor Brutus (or Bluto in some episodes) could lay claim to fathering that baby. Maybe it was Wimpy's kid. Who knows?

Anyway, my question is this: What in the world is the incredible fascination and almost fanatical obsession the general public has with trying to procure a T-shirt at sporting events?

I mean, it's absolutely comical and I can't for the life of me find out the answer.

You go to any sporting event these days and people go absolutely bonkers over the chance to get a free T-shirt. It doesn't matter what size it is. It doesn't matter what's on the T-shirt. They're poised to lose life and limb over a silly T-shirt.

Grown men diving over little kids to get the damn thing. Some sprawl themselves over rows of others to try to snatch one. It doesn't matter who is in front of them or behind them. They yell and scream and jump up and down and literally lose their minds for a shirt that obviously won't fit them.

The ones doing the most damage in these T-shirt tosses are the guys who need 4XL shirts _ and we all know that these shirts are more than likely mediums.

Some teams now have these ridiculous rocket launchers to send the cotton cloths high into the stands to see grown men in the third deck go spread eagle over others. Little kids get their hopes up, thinking they have a shot to get a shirt, but not a chance when there's some so-called grownup going bananas, pushing, shoving, trampling kids all in an attempt to get a T-shirt.

Oh, sure, these T-shirts probably have their favorite team's logo on it, but you can be guaranteed that some advertiser has plastered its company name, address and phone on it as well.

Honestly, I just don't get it. Maybe it's because that damn shirt never has a chance to fit me, but I think even if I was truly svelte, I would not be knocking over a little kid just to get a shirt. If I wanted a shirt that badly, I would buy one. It's that simple.

But the idea that fans at sporting events totally lose their minds when the T-shirt rocket launcher comes out befuddles me. Why? What's the fascination? What's the lure?

Is it because the damn thing is free? Is that the reason? Or is there a competition involved? Hey, look at me, I plucked a T-shirt out of the air. Put the video camera on me. I'll jump up and down more.

It's no way like catching a foul ball at a baseball game. There's a sense of major pride getting a ball. That's a reason to be proud.

But a T-shirt that will eventually end up in the rag bucket that you use to wash your car doesn't make an ounce of sense to me.

Yet, every game on practically every level _ college and pro _ features some sort of a free T-shirt giveaway, with or without the high-powered rocket launcher. And every game features some really overweight guy knocking over a woman and a little kid in order to get a shirt.

It's become a regular ritual at sporting events and frankly, it's just one of those unanswerable questions. Now, if someone has an idea why there is a fanatical obsession, please share. You can also share answers to Barney Rubble and Sweet Pea as well.

There's a great piece in today's Star-Ledger, written by friend and colleague Brendan Prunty, that features Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson making regular weekly visits to Seattle Children's Hospital.

It's wonderfully written by Prunty, who has done a great job over the last few years covering college basketball for the Ledger. It's an article that makes a sportswriter like me jealous that I didn't write it. That's how good  of a piece it is.

But in today's day and age, the article provides a great reason to like Wilson, to root for him and hope he does well. When Wilson got drafted by the Seahawks, he went to the hospital on his own, wanting to visit patients to lift their hopes and spirits. The hospital officials were a little skeptical that maybe Wilson might be an attention-grabber, a one-and-done kind of athlete.

However, it's not the case. Wilson has religiously gone to the hospital, spending at least an hour with the patients every single Tuesday. He takes the time to get to know the kids, not just sign an autograph, pose for a picture and leave. He becomes involved.

And Wilson did this all on his own, unprovoked, unannounced. He wanted to do something to honor his late father and now, even though Wilson is a budding superstar, he still goes to the hospital (along with his wife) every single Tuesday.

Mitch Albom had "Tuesdays with Morrie." Seattle Children's Hospital has Tuesdays with Russell.

So today, I'm rooting for the Seahawks because of Russell Wilson and I have my friend Brendan Prunty to thank for it. If you get a chance, go to and look for Prunty's phenomenal article. It's a sensational read.

If there is one thing that truly bothers me about the Super Bowl coming to the Meadowlands, it's the fact that most of the local football fans won't be in attendance for the game.

The majority of the ticket base for both the Giants and Jets _ with the ridiculously priced PSLs and all _ did not get the opportunity to purchase tickets for the Big Game.

I know one doctor from northern New Jersey, a guy who has eight season tickets with PSLs and all, who didn't get a chance to buy tickets. This is someone who has spent more than $200,000 in tickets over the past decade and he's not going to be there for the Super Bowl.

That's just one example. There are countless others.

Sure, it's a huge thing for the area and the neighboring towns are counting on a major spike in the local economy because fans from all over the country will be flocking to New Jersey for the Super Bowl.

But the majority of the fans in attendance will not be from the area.

It's unknown how many tickets for the game were made available to the general public. One report stated that of the 80,000 or so tickets for the game, only 10,000 were available to the public.

And of those 10,000, how many were made available to the season ticket holders of the Giants and Jets? Who knows?

So yes, hosting the Super Bowl is nice for the area. It's a good accomplishment. But I think hosting the game comes at the expense of the people who should matter the most, namely the local diehard football fan.

Hey, maybe the Giants and Jets can offer those fans who didn't get a ticket a free T-shirt.

You can read more of my work at, and The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week this week is Austin White of St. Peter's Prep, who has enjoyed a great start to the season.

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