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Original Issue

Where 'Wrong' T's Go

THERE ARE places where Eli Manning didn't make the Throw, David Tyree missed the Catch and the Patriots went 19--0. Those places are Nicaragua and Romania. Before the Super Bowl, NFL contractors produced T-shirts and hats commemorating a New England title; of course, Giants gear went into circulation. This week World Vision, a Federal Way, Wash., nonprofit, will deliver the historically incorrect Pats stuff—along with school and medical supplies—to needy families in those nations. "When it comes to people who only have the shirts on their backs, you can't emphasize enough" how important the clothing is, says World Vision's Karen Kartes. "It's the ultimate form of recycling."

Once, the NFL destroyed unused Super Bowl gear. But in 1994 the league teamed with World Vision, with one key stipulation: that donated clothing go far, far away. (Says NFL director of community affairs David Krichavsky, "It's not something we want out on the street or on eBay.") The first shipment—Bills items from Super Bowl XXVIII—ended up in Africa, and since then other leagues have struck deals with World Vision. Baseball donated unused World Series items last year; the NBA distributes merchandise through its Basketball Without Borders program. Exact numbers aren't available yet, but the NFL thinks New England's loss produced an unprecedented volume of unsalable material. (Last year the Bears' Super defeat resulted in $2.5 million in clothing.) Says Kartes, what might have been trash will instead likely become "the first new clothes the recipients have ever owned."