Suiting up for the big ballgame

T-shirts: The Ravens can more than mention `playoffs' now, but the spirit of Festivus has taken over.

December 12, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

With the Ravens now officially in the "Festivus," the well-dressed Baltimore fan may want to pick up a stylish new Festivus T-shirt to go along with the requisite giant foam-finger, purple hard hat and full camo gear.

The brainchild of offensive lineman Edwin Mulitalo, the black T-shirts with purple lettering say "Happy Festivus Baltimore Style" and, once printed up this week, will sell for $19.95.

Festivus, you may recall, was the word the Ravens came up with as a substitute for "playoffs" a couple of weeks ago, after coach Brian Billick banned the P-word from being uttered by the entire organization.

So paranoid was Billick about jinxing the Ravens' playoff drive that he even fined defensive tackle Tony Siragusa $500 for mentioning the word on his radio program.

But just what is "Festivus"? The answer lies in an episode of the TV sitcom "Seinfeld."

On the show, Festivus was a holiday created by George Costanza's father as a statement of sorts against the commercialism of Christmas. When George was a boy, family members would gather annually around a bare aluminum pole, instead of a tree, and air their grievances, resulting in much bickering. Family members were also required to demonstrate "feats of strength," which always seemed to leave young George in tears.

After helping pound the San Diego Chargers into the ground Sunday, the 6-foot-3, 340-pound Mulitalo, a second-year lineman out of Arizona, was not available for comment on the growing Festivus mania.

But according to Michael Friedman, an Owings Mills attorney who helped find a designer and manufacturer for the T-shirts, Mulitalo originally envisioned the Festivus T-shirts as a symbol of unity for the Ravens' offensive linemen, a group that had been overshadowed by the team's top-ranked defense this season.

But after the offensive linemen started wearing them after the Ravens' bye week earlier this month, "everyone else on the team wanted one," said Friedman, a rabid Ravens fan and season-ticket holder. "Then the coaches wanted them, and then some of the media who cover the team wanted them."

The T-shirts received a shot of national publicity during the Ravens' 24-3 win over the Chargers Sunday, when they were mentioned by broadcaster Jim Nantz on the CBS pre- and post-game shows.

Fred Fillah, an executive with SmartArt, the Queenstown company that manufactured the T-shirts, said: "This is obviously a fun thing, a `Seinfeld' thing. It's unique, and if this team goes all the way, it'll stand out."

Of course, if the Ravens go all the way, a new T-shirt will have to be designed, since the superstitious Billick has taken to referring to the Super Bowl as Festivus Maximus.

The Ravens' Festivus T-shirts, he said, are for sale online at www.happyfestivus.com and will soon be available in clothing stores and other retail sites.

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