Bears 'Championship' Hats En Route to Africa


Feb. 5, 2007 — -- After the final moments of the Super Bowl, when the Indianapolis Colts' coach was showered in Gatorade and hoisted atop his burliest players' shoulders, the winning players engaged in another time-honored ritual and immediately tossed on championship hats and shirts, which seemingly appeared out of thin air.

These are official Reebok-sponsored, NFL-approved hats and shirts that declare to the world that the Colts are the Super Bowl winners.

But how does that work, since the winner is not known beforehand? Reebok makes two sets of Super Bowl Championship gear -- 288 shirts, hats and other assorted paraphernalia for each team. So there are also 288 hats and shirts that claim the Chicago Bears are the Super Bowl XLI Champions.

But before the first speck of confetti hit the AstroTurf at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Sunday night, the Bears' gear was locked away, never to be seen again on American soil, not even on eBay.

Thanks to World Vision, a relief organization that helps provide food, clothing and shelter to developing nations, residents of preapproved towns in Uganda, Niger, Sierra Leone, Romania and other struggling countries will receive these coveted championship leftovers.

"People are just excited to be able to get a new shirt or a new hat. It doesn't matter what's on it," said World Vision corporate relations officer Jeff Fields. "Most of the people we are working with are basically living day to day just in kind of survival mode … when they get a new item that they can wear, and they know someone out there cares."

The Bears championship hats and shirts are now headed from Miami to Pittsburgh, where they will be reboxed in wooden crates and shipped halfway around the globe to poverty-stricken communities and villages in Eastern Europe and Africa.

"Eligible families can come in on distribution day, and each family member will be eligible to receive one of the shirts," Fields said.

For fear of confusing and traumatizing the losing team and its fans, the NFL's deal with World Vision stipulates that the gear cannot be sold or even seen in the United States.

"You don't want the losing teams' garments to go into the marketplace. It's not fair to those fans. It's not fair to those teams. It's not fair to the coaching staff," said NFL consumer products VP Susan McBridge Rothman.

Although the Lombardi trophy won't make it to Chicago this year, somewhere, in a place where a majority of the population has never even heard of the NFL let alone the Super Bowl, the Bears are the champions.

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