Super Bowl losers make winners of those in need

By Anita Crane

Boys in the Democratic Republic of Congo happily clutching their 2007 Super Bowl ‘losers’ apparel. (Photo © 2007 World Vision)

After the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers tackle each other in Super Bowl XLV – after millions of Americans watch the game, halftime performances and mega commercials while cheering and feasting – poor communities will, in some sense, celebrate the losing team.

That’s because all those pre-printed NFL Championship clothing items that have the name of the losing team – prepared in advance to fill the need no matter who wins – will be delivered to children and adults in Armenia, Nicaragua, Romania, and Zambia.

David Krichavsky, the National Football League’s director of community affairs, explained, “The NFL is pleased to once again work with World Vision to ensure that usable Super Bowl apparel does not get thrown out, especially when there are so many around the globe who have never had a brand-new item of clothing in their lives.”

And according to Jeff Fields, World Vision’s senior director for corporate relations, the clothing is welcomed with profound joy.

For more than 15 years the NFL has donated all its pre-printed championship merchandise for non-winning Super Bowl teams to World Vision, the Christian humanitarian group whose mission is “working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.”

Fields told WND that approximately 300 shirts and baseball style hats (made for the sizeable pro-football players) come directly from the NFL.

Another 100,000 items, including hats, T-shirts, sweat shirts, and hooded sweat shirts, are donated by retailers in the full range of children’s and adults’ sizes.

Little girl in San Gregorio, Nicaragua smiles after receiving 2008 Super Bowl ‘losers’ gear. (Photo © 2008 World Vision)

Over the past four years, Fields has gone with World Vision teams to personally deliver the Super Bowl apparel. Thus, he has striking memories of recipients who live in communities lacking the most basic necessities that many Americans take for granted: necessities such as homes with electricity and plumbing.

“In 2006, we were in an area development project in Zambia,” he recalled. “A lot of people in need started showing up out there, where they live in thatched huts. People started gathering, their faces lit up and they were really excited about what they would receive.

“So they’re all lining up in glee with excitement that they’re going to be receiving these new shirts and hats,” said Fields. “There was an open field with sticks that’s used as a soccer field and they took the shirts and hats and made a team with 11 players.”

In other words, he explained, they were so happy to have clothing resembling a team uniform that they immediately formed a team.

That same day, while Fields and his colleagues were traveling to Zambia’s capital city Lusaka, they were greeted with more enthusiasm.

“There was an older gentleman riding his bicycle on the dirt road – probably 10 miles back in – and he had a championship T-shirt on. So when he saw us coming, he started waving the T-shirt up and down with joy,” he said.

“More recently,” Fields continued, “we distributed in Nicaragua and there was a young girl about four or five. I really don’t think many of them understood American football or that these were championship shirts, but they were so excited to be able to have something brand new. So the little girl had a hat on. Her face was all full of smiles ear-to-ear, just gleaming about the clothes she had received.”

“This is a great opportunity to show people that they are cared for and that their wellbeing is a priority,” said Fields.

In previous years, World Vision also delivered inaccurate Super Bowl gear to communities in El Salvador, Haiti, and Indonesia.

The NFL couldn’t confirm the precise list of major sporting-goods retailers and manufacturers who are donating merchandise this year in time for publication of this story.

Nevertheless, in years past, Dick’s, Modell’s, Reebok, and Sports Authority have given large quantities of official apparel that they stocked in anticipation of either team winning the Super Bowl. On average, it amounts $2 million worth of product.

“World Vision is incredibly thankful the NFL is working with us to help others around the world,” said Fields. “We work in the most impoverished areas of nearly 100 countries, so we already have all the systems in place to identify families and distribute these brand new clothes to them.”

As World Vision sees it, in God’s economy no one loses the Super Bowl.