After a Big Game in any sport, fans and players are going to be clamoring for commemorative merchandise, often just minutes after the game ends. To meet this demand and cash in on the wallet-loosening "We’re #1" euphoria, manufacturers and retailers produce and stock two sets of t-shirts, hats and other merchandise, declaring each team the champ.
Based on strong sales after the Chicago Bears’ 2007 NFC Championship win, Sports Authority printed more than 15,000 shirts proclaiming a Bears Super Bowl victory well before the game even started. And then the Colts beat the Bears, 29-17.
That’s a lot of misprinted shirts that can’t hit store shelves, and seem like fine candidates for the incinerator, instead. And for a long time, that’s where they went, with all four major American pro sports leagues — MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL — requiring the destruction of incorrect post-season apparel.
Fortunately, the leagues have changed the way they do things and now all four - plus manufacturers and retailers like Reebok, Sports Authority, Dick’s and Modell’s — instead give the gear to a group called World Vision, which saves the merch from certain doom and puts it to use.
The international humanitarian aid group collects the unwanted items over the days following the game at their distribution center in Pittsburgh, then ships it overseas to people living in disaster areas and impoverished nations. After losing Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, Arizona Cardinals gear was sent to children and families living in extreme poverty in El Salvador. In 2010, after the New Orleans Saints defeated Indianapolis, the Colts gear printed up for Super Bowl XLIV was sent to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.