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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

With the reassurance that thousands of shirts must be printed tonight one way or another, the crew strategically arranged a Georgia Bulldogs left chest design on one end of the screen (“Just in case,” Scott laughs. “I think Bama will probably win.”) and an Alabama left chest on the other end. Regardless of the winner, the front left chest design will have white-highlight white-black ink, “so this way you only utilize a total of three screens for the whole set,” Scott explains. He’ll set up two presses (a 16-color M&R Sportsman EXG and 12-color Gauntlet II) on the left chest design before the game tonight, and quickly tape up the losing team’s portion of the screens when the score is final.

Final screens taped up and ready for printing.

The remaining two presses are being set up with each team’s winning design for the back of the shirts. Georgia’s design is a relatively simple 4-color (white, highlight white, black, and liquid gold) print onto red and charcoal shirts – by now, Smitherman has gotten the OK to tweak the design to work for the second shirt color. Alabama’s, on the other hand, is a 10-color, photorealistic score recap design for 14,000 black and charcoal T-shirts, which means two different underbases; a bit more complicated to set up, but not a problem once things get moving, Scott assures me. He’s done a couple test runs for both colors to ensure the designs themselves and the presses are both ready to go with no issues.

There’s a commotion in the unloading area, so Scott and I walk over to check it out. A truck has arrived with blank shirts for tonight’s hot market. “We usually get all of this in house two or three days prior,” Scott comments. But with a hot market, things never seem to go quite as planned; thousands of T-shirts are still missing, and at least one box has the wrong color shirts. “The hard part is getting all the pieces of the puzzle together at one time,” Tidwell adds. “Missing 8000 shirts is a pretty big deal right now.”

“Maybe they’re just sitting across the street [at AB Sportswear],” Scott laughs. “It happens.” I make a mental note to tell my Uber driver he’s not the first one to make that mistake, if I happen to see him again.


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