We aren’t sports fans in our family. Exercise is good, but we’re not much interested in playing sports and even less interested in watching sports.
But we live in Pittsburgh, a city with three professional sports teams that are a major focus of the local culture. We can’t help noticing when one of the teams is doing well: We see people wearing black and gold even more often than normal, all the city buses have some slogan like “Beat ’em Bucs!” flashing across their foreheads in between route announcements, and we know when a game has been won because we hear people hollering, “Woo!!” as they drive down the main street behind our house. Sometimes even we feel caught up in rooting for the home team–after all, it’s in our best interest for our fellow citizens to be happy instead of dejected.
When our son Nicholas was four years old, the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl. Attending preschool that fall and winter, he could not help noticing that all the other kids had Steelers shirts and the teachers were constantly talking about Steelers. This was not the first time he’d asked for a Steelers shirt, or a Penguins shirt, or a Pirates shirt–these garments are popular even among the youngest children and typically are pretty sharp-looking compared to standard little kids’ clothes–but this was the point at which Daniel and I began to think it might really make sense to get him one. We believe that resisting peer pressure is a valuable skill and have modeled questioning what “everybody” does, but we also remember the feeling of wanting to fit in with our classmates. While we aren’t really into sports, we don’t think they’re a terrible evil to be avoided on principle.
The trouble is that official licensed sports team logo gear is expensive. We didn’t want to pay $20 for a tiny shirt our kid would outgrow in a year! But the cheap knock-off gear is not only less attractive and poorly made, it’s technically illegal. Luckily, we learned two handy ways around this dilemma:
- When the team is winning successive rounds of championships, the merchandise commemorating the previous win will go on sale. Nicholas didn’t mind at all that his first Steelers shirt said something about divisional champs. We picked it up for $6 in the supermarket the week after the Steelers’ next victory.
- Kids outgrow their team shirts, and these tend to be sturdy garments that are re-sold in good condition. There’s nothing illegal about this, as the team received the licensing fee at the first purchase. We’ve picked up half a dozen Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates shirts for $2 or $3 at Goodwill or yard sales.