Sports

World Vision is making Super Bowl loser relevant

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World Vision does great work for children and families in need across the globe. Who could argue that?

The Federal Way-based organization provides goods to millions of people in need each year. World Vision works in 100 countries and in the past five years, they have dispersed $1.1 billion of donated goods from major corporations, such as clothing, shoes, medical supplies, books, school supplies, personal care, sporting goods and building materials around the globe.

But one of World Vision’s recent good-will endevours got me thinking.

Since 1994, World Vision has accepted thousands of official shirts and caps immediately following football’s biggest event — the Super Bowl.

Instead of being destroyed or sold to sports memorabilia collectors, the losing team’s shirts and hats are shipped from the Super Bowl host city to World Vision’s Gifts-in-Kind Distribution Center in Pittsburgh.

There, they are sorted and added to shipments of other goods requested by World Vision field staff in various third-world countries. Once through customs in the destination country, World Vision workers distribute the apparel to children and families in need, many of whom have never owned new clothing in their lives.

Hundreds of poverty-stricken children in Nicaragua were the main beneficiaries this year after the New York Giants pulled off a huge upset of the previously unbeaten New England Patriots.

According to hundreds of children in the Central American country, the Patriots won the Super Bowl and ended the season with a perfect 19-0 record. They were the best professional football team of all time.

They have to think that way, right? Those kids didn’t gather around a high-definition television on Feb. 3 at a Super Bowl party with chips, dips and chicken wings.

All they know is that they got very cool T-shirts and hats from a team that they believe is the best in NFL history, which is pretty funny when you sit down and think about it.

I bet there are still kids in Romania and Africa that think the early 1990s Buffalo Bills are a football dynasty or that the Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl crown two years ago.

“The NFL and its partners entrust these goods to World Vision because our distribution system and long-term presence in impoverished communities make us a reliable bridge to those in greatest need,” said Richard Stearns, World Vision president.

ESPN even dedicated a two-minute segment during Sunday’s SportsCenter. Reporters from the sports cable network flew to Nicaragua and talked to the people the new T-shirts and hats distributed by World Vision are currently affecting. They chronicled how a local girls soccer team wore New England Patriots’ T-shirts as their uniforms and that they were the first “brand new” clothes they have ever owned.

“World Vision helps us to ensure that no NFL apparel goes to waste,” said David Krichavsky, NFL Director of Community Relations. “We are pleased to find a good home for clothing by getting it to those who need it most. We don’t want that product ending up in peoples’ hands on Ebay or somewhere like that.”

The NFL donated 290 Patriots hats and an equal number of team jerseys that read “Super Bowl Champions, 19-0” to impoverished children from two small communities in southern Nicaragua — San Gregorio and Buena Vista. The villages were hit hard by Hurricane Felix last year.

“They (Patriots) lost, but the children won,” said Miriam Diaz, spokeswoman for World Vision. “They were very happy to receive the hats and jerseys. They said they did not expect such a surprise.”

The 2008 edition of the New England Patriots also didn’t expect such a surpise. And that got me thinking even more.

What if World Vision expanded their efforts in the sports world to sending out merchandise that would transform the most famous clutch winners into runner-up chokers?

This would literally erase the greatness of guys like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Boston Celtics’ center Bill Russell. Longtime UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden wouldn’t be known as the “Wizard of Westwood,” but the “Wizard of Second Place.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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