Super Bowl 2021 is now in the record books, but when I look back on that weekend, Brady’s laser-like touchdown passes, the evening with friends –and the slight food hangover afterward—only form part of the picture. A few of us committed to keeping our mouths shut (no politics) while we watched and ate through the game in Tampa. The group was eclectic: several retirees, a self-professed foodie, a former cheerleader, a friend whose car was stolen the night before, an avid senior equestrian, a motivated art dealer, and the hostess who had to corral us all. The talk was minimal as we devoured what we had supposedly sworn off: pigs in a blanket, mini hamburgers and, especially meaningful to our molars, some deliciously gluey Chicago-style popcorn. However, what really stands out to me from Super Bowl LV is what happened on Super Bowl Saturday.
I had a last-minute idea to bring something special to our Superbowl gathering: custom-printed t-shirts commemorating the event for everyone to wear during the party. I warmed up my iphone at 4pm on Saturday and found a shop in West Palm open until 5pm. If I went over immediately, they would scrape together a dozen shirts designed for me for game day. Using GPS I found the neighborhood–a rundown industrial area–then even GPS got lost in the endless rows of warehouses and empty lots. I had to call the the owner to direct me for the last mile and finally found the shop in what looked like a garage. Worth Avenue it wasn’t. Yet, upon entering the humble establishment, it was clear they had all the latest technology for a thriving custom t-shirt operation. I spent three hours there, as the owner built and executed the design. I was fascinated watching the process, but the highlight for me was getting to know him and the other people I encountered that night. The owner opened up about his life: he was born in Wyoming but went to Israel to serve in their army, and it was there that he met his wife, a native Israeli. They moved back to the U.S. together, for a life freer of religious restrictions. Both were Trump supporters—to be expected in West Palm—but their fervor had been tempered by the insurrection at the Capitol. Our conversation was interrupted by another after- hours customer who was apparently a regular and he immediately joined our gab fest. He went by “Lucky”, but his real name was Marvin. He talked about his restored 1974 Chevy Impala convertible parked in front and since we both had time, he took me outside to have a look. Wow what a car. Lucky has a successful internet retail clothing business which had grown out of his bricks and mortar store when it closed due to Covid. With his store business shut down, he took the leap and put everything into his shop online. You can read all you want about the decimation of retail because of the pandemic but when you hear it from a small retailer firsthand you really feel the sting. Lucky is more than just lucky—he is a smart entrepreneur. My hat is off to him and the hardworking owners of the tee shirt shop.
The next day, the t-shirts were a huge hit at the party. They may be the beginning of a tradition – for the Superbowl and who knows what else?