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The Big Score: High-Stakes Hot-Market Printing

(February/March 2018) posted on Fri Apr 20, 2018

It takes a certain amount of skill, planning, and luck to get commemorative championship game T-shirts from screen to store to happy fan overnight.

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By Kelsey Johnson

Smitherman does what he can to make things run as smoothly as possible. He calls himself the “problem guy,” looking for any issues that could occur during a run before the printing starts. “You get in a hurry, you get tired, you’re 10 hours in, and mistakes start happening,” he says. “When we do our art here, we try to set it up so that we can run different color shirts at one time instead of having to drop plates and add plates.” Simplicity will certainly be appreciated by the press operators tonight at 3 a.m. when printing is in full swing.

Since the artwork for tonight’s hot market requires approval from outside entities, Smitherman hopes to have the final design ready to go in the next hour or two so Darrel Scott, print manager, can set up as many presses in advance as possible. Because both teams’ T-shirt designs require the game’s final score (Bama’s design is what Smitherman calls a “recap shirt,” with the scores of every game of the season on display – “which, as Alabama fans, we wouldn’t really like to have the Auburn score on there” since the Tide lost that game), at least some screens will have to be made after the final whistle blows.

Take a tour of the shop as the team preps for the hot market the morning of the big game.

Out on the shop floor, Scott and the production crew are setting up the four presses that will be running the overnight job. “We’ve already burned the Georgia design and the left chest,” Scott tells me over his shoulder as he gives me a tour of the screenroom. This is where the magic happens: I watch as the screens with both designs for tonight are exposed, washed out, dried, and taped, ready to go. 


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