In some parts of Africa, the Chicago Bears won the 2007 Super Bowl, and the Colorado Rockies, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Cleveland Indians all won the 2007 World Series. It’s true! I read it in the newspaper.
And it’s funny, because for years, internationally minded folks have criticized major-league baseball for calling a purely North American contest the World Series. What are they going to say now that kids in Ghana or Zambia can wear t-shirts and caps advertising teams that won the series in alternate universes? Dreams that were thwarted here still shimmer with potential in the African sun.
Where did all this apparel come from? It’s made in preparation for one of the simplest but most powerful rituals in the entire ceremonial year of an American athletic association: the donning of new costumes proclaiming the superior medicine power of the championship team.
“The moment of a clinch, the teams celebrate. They pile on top of one another, they get all crazy, and part of that celebration is, in fact, them proclaiming their championship clinch with a T-shirt and a cap,” explains Steve Armus, MLB’s vice president of consumer products. “It’s something that’s traditional in baseball and some other sports, and for all the teams it’s an important moment.”
The centuries-old tradition that governs Euro-American sporting contests prevents more than one team from performing this ritual in a given year, due to a superstitious belief in something called the Law of the Excluded Middle. So to preserve the purity and efficacy of the sport, the ritual garments prepared for the other teams must either be destroyed or shipped to Africa, which has in recent years become a major destination for global waste and hand-me-downs. A Christian aid group called World Vision collects, ships and hands out the apparel. Isn’t it inspiring that missionaries still take such a strong interest in seeing that the bodies of brown-skinned people are kept properly covered? And the manufacturers get a tax credit instead of simply taking a loss. It’s just like the Special Olympics: everyone’s a winner! Even the Cleveland Indians.