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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

I notice a huge stack of boxes along the wall and Tidwell explains these are all the unused shirts from the recent Iron Bowl and SEC championship hot markets. “That’s one of the agreements [we make with our suppliers]: for the team that doesn’t win, they will take the shirts back without a restocking fee,” says Tidwell.

With the game kicking off in about nine hours and the overnight crew heading home to get some rest before the big night, I decide to do the same and head back to my hotel while Tidwell and Scott sort out the mystery of the missing shirts. The anticipation and excitement in the air is almost palpable as the crew of Alabama fans (and seven or eight Auburn fans who will be rooting for Georgia tonight, as they always do when their team is out) finish up their work.

Take the Ball and Run
After finishing up the rest of my usual workday and ordering a delicious room service dinner, I switch on the TV to catch the start of the big game. After a scoreless first quarter, Georgia starts pulling away in the second quarter with a 13-point lead. Around 10 p.m., I mentally prepare myself to spend the night with a bunch of bummed out Alabama fans as I make my way back to the shop to watch the “organized chaos” of the hot market live.

The mood isn’t quite as grim as I expect it to be when I join the production crew in the break room to watch the rest of the game on a big screen TV. Alabama let the Bulldogs score another touchdown, but then added 10 points themselves during my ride over (The missing shirts were tracked down in my absence, so that likely helped lighten the mood.). This is just enough to make the Georgia fans nervous and the Bama fans hopeful. In the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide evens up the score, only to miss a game-winning, last-second field goal and push the game into overtime. I’ve never seen such anxiety, frustration, and pure excitement over a football game – and I’ve been to my share of Big Ten rivalry games.

Multiple carts move T-shirts in varying stages of completion from press to press and from dryer to folding and sorting station.


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