I was watching the Bears game a few months ago against the Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings were reeling from quarterback debacles, coaching changes and their stadium roof collapsing.  By the second half, the game was not in question.

“The Bears won the NFC North Division!” said Daniel.  I thought a moment and realized that – yes –with a win against the Vikings; there was no way any other team could catch up with the Bears.  I was a little surprised Daniel had figured that out.  I asked him how he knew.

“Look,” he said, pointing to one of the players on the sidelines.  “He’s got it on his hat.”  By the grace of our HDTV I could make out the stitching of the baseball hats being worn by smiling Bears players: 2010 NFC North Division Champions.

Obviously the Bears had made up the hats in advance with the idea they might be needed that night in Minneapolis.  But it got me thinking; for every action there is a reaction.  For every team that wins, another team has to lose.  At some point in the season every team (with the possible exception of Detroit) did the math and figured they had a shot at something worthy of printing on a T-shirt.  But a lot of these items would become sadly unnecessary come January.  What happened to them?

It turns out the NFL has been working with charities like World Vision for almost twenty years, donating the clothes that aren’t needed once a team loses.  Short sleeve shirts go to poor people in far away tropical climes.  Cold weather gear heads to the needy in remote mountainous regions.  In fact, the remoter the better; the NFL works hard to make sure none of these “alternate reality” items ever makes it back to the United States or anywhere else that has access to eBay.

The Bears lost their bid to go back to the Super Bowl a couple of Sundays ago.  It hurts, but the knowledge that our loss helps someone in need does take a little of the sting out of it.  I take comfort in the notion the Bears aren’t just the 2010 NFC Champs in my dreams, but also in the steppes of Mongolia.


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