TAMPA — In giant letters, a sign screams the arrival of a store — and a season— to drivers on West Shore Boulevard: SUPER BOWL MERCHANDISE. Now open. Inside an old Steak and Ale restaurant, keychains and pens sit on the once-upon-a-time bar. Jackets and T-shirts line the walls — all bearing the logo of Super Bowl XLIII. Tampa Bay, they say. 02.01.09.
Tony Bliss walks in. He's not from Tampa. And his home team, the Detroit Lions, definitely won't be playing in the Super Bowl. Regardless, Bliss, in town visiting family for the holidays, is a die-hard fan of the biggest game of the year. He buys three T-shirts. They ring up at just over $100.
That's nothing. This Christmas, his wife paid $1,000 for an authentic football helmet signed by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
"It's fun watching people who are fanatical fans," says Patti Berryman, the woman behind the register. "And the stuff they get."
Every year, Berryman travels to Super Bowl cities to live for four months while selling merchandise for the license-holding company, Sports Fan Marketing. And every year, she sees the same patterns. Some fans wait for the playoffs to end so they can stock up on their favorite team's gear.
But some fans, she said, don't care who's playing. They just love the Super Bowl. Right now, no one knows who those two teams will be. But you can stock up on gear that says Tampa will host the Game to End All Games.
Here is some of what's out there:
• Who needs a fair weather fan? The Super Bowl merchandise has you covered in any climate. Buy a beach towel ($15) for the sunshine or a ski cap ($18) for the snow.
• If you want to blow away all those dudes in boring T-shirts, pick up a varsity leather jacket, embroidered with patches from every Super Bowl ($350), with a cap to match ($75). Or a baby onesie with a matching bib and Reebok booties ($20).
• Need to accessorize? Buy something shiny, like a collection of five pins ($30) or a giant silver belt buckle, depicting Tampa's landmarks ($60). That's right. The minaret will help keep your pants from falling down.
• Okay, okay. This isn't a fashion show. Here's some stuff you collectors will like. How about a replica helmet ($125)? A mini one ($30)? A teeny one ($4)? Get a replica game ball ($125), with a case to put it in ($60).
• To immortalize the Big Game in your home decor, check out the framed collection of every Super Bowl ticket since 1967 ($300). Peruse the woven tapestry throw, depicting the Tampa skyline ($40). After all, the tag says, it is the "exclusive throw of the NFL."