The Man Who Wanted A Shirt


A man rises to his feet as the t-shirt gun appears on the court. The man is small and his skin is tan and his hair is getting white. He looks to be around 50. He is in a Carolina blue Ralph Lauren half-zip pullover and a pair of khakis and his seat is about six rows up from the court. He’s done something right. He’s close to the action.

The t-shirt gun is in the shape of Benny the Bull’s head and when he sees the two men manning the gun place a t-shirt in its mouth to be fired off, he clamors for it. He waves his hands in the air and he tries, desperately, to grab their attention. They do not see him.

They fire the t-shirt off to the right of where he stands. It rockets off with incredible speed way past the sixth row. Up, up, up to the fiftieth row and beyond. It is the purpose of this gun to reach the people that can’t afford the seats up front that are within reach of the cheerleaders’ arms. But the man does not understand that. Still he begs, hands raised to the sky.

The men load another shirt into the gun. He waves his hands again. If they were to shoot the t-shirt at him it would bruise his chest. No man’s reflexes are that impressive that his hands could fall fast enough to meet the shirt once fired. He is asking to be embarrassed if they shoot it at him.

And for a second, a brief and wondrous second, it appears as though they will. They taunt the lower section with the gun and put on as if they would give the criers what they want. But they do not. Again they fire away from them, out of reach of the man in the Carolina blue.

He watches the red roll of cloth soar away from him and he hears the buzzer and knows the timeout is over. His dream is dead and as the players stand and walk back out onto the floor he does not sit down. He stays standing, his hands on his hips, looking around. No more t-shirts exist. Not right now. Not for him. He gives the arena one last pan and then, defeated, he sits down. He has lost.

Later on, the Bulls will drop t-shirts from the rafters of the United Center attached to white parachutes. Again he stands and waves his hands, but parachutes do not fly true, and rarely do they fall to the people who want them most. Again he sits, the red t-shirts being enjoyed by hundreds of people who are not him.

After the game he will take his t-shirtless self and people will see him at the Bulls Pro Shop. He’ll be buying a t-shirt. And it’ll be funny for a bit until you see that the t-shirt he got is too small for it to be for him.

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