Sporty caskets offer fandom for an eternity

December 22, 2008|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

You say you're a die-hard Orioles fan.

You say you'd follow the team to your grave.

Now you have a chance to do that - literally.

How about heading off to that big ballpark in the sky in your very own Orioles funeral casket?

Oh, this baby is a beauty, too: a cream-colored, 18-gauge steel model with Orioles logos up the wazoo.

Think about it. Orange handles. Black tassels. Your head resting on a fluffy white pillow embossed with an image of the ornithologically correct Oriole bird. Your eyes staring up for all eternity at the same image on the underside of the casket lid.

Best of all, you don't have to deal with all the doom and gloom that comes with being a fan. Because if the Orioles still stink, what do you care?

You're already dead! They can't torture you anymore.

Anyway, does this sound like the way you'd like to leave this mortal coil, friend?

If it is, at least one Maryland funeral home, Curran-Bromwell in Cambridge, will soon be offering a spanking new Orioles casket for your final journey.

And now that Major League Baseball is allowing use of its team logos on a line of caskets, you can bet lots of other funeral homes will be selling these babies, too, even if they're a little pricey ($4,499) for your average dead person.

"I'm pretty excited about the product," said Curran-Bromwell owner Colleen Curran-Bromwell. "I think it's a wonderful personalization idea. Perfect for the baseball enthusiast."

In the past, she said, people have asked her to personalize caskets with everything from the Nike Swoosh logos (Nike nixed that idea) to stuffed Oriole Birds inside.

She said when she heard about the O's caskets "I was like: 'Here we go! Finally there's someone who can tap into getting usage of a specific [brand].' "

The baseball-themed caskets, made by Eternal Image, a Michigan company, are being shipped to funeral homes across the country.

Clint Mytych, Eternal Image's 27-year-old CEO, said the caskets were a big hit when they were unveiled at the National Funeral Directors Association trade show in Orlando, Fla., in October.

"We sold every floor model we had, 13 in all," he said.

As he said this, I tried to envision all these funeral directors stuffing Yankees and Red Sox and Orioles caskets into the trunks of their taxis as they headed off for the airport and the flight home.

Mytych said the idea of being buried in a home-team casket is a logical extension of fans who ask for an old baseball glove or infield dirt from a favorite stadium to be interred with them.

When Mytych was asked if there has been any negative response to the logo caskets, he said: "Not really. Not from any funeral directors or anyone in the general public. Actually just the opposite. The funeral directors are excited to get behind our products."

Their products?

Yes, Eternal Image also makes logo caskets, urns and memorial markers for dog lovers, cat nuts, religious folks (via its Vatican Library Collection), fans of Precious Moments characters and Star Trek aficionados.

As I typed those last words, I tried to envision spending eternity in a cold steel tube decorated with the Federation Starfleet logo and photos of William Shatner playing Capt. James T. Kirk instead of a beefy Priceline shill and decided it would be too weird, even if you were dead.

Now some of you might be thinking: "Look, this business with the Orioles caskets is all well and good. But what if you want to go out with a winner? Where are the Ravens caskets?"

That's a great question.

And when you ask Mytych, he clams up like a witness to a mob hit.

He said Eternal Image does not offer NFL-logo caskets. And the company doesn't talk about potential licensing partners, as that would tip off the competition.

But he said Eternal Image hopes to sign on by next year with two or three "major sports brands." And he doesn't deny that NFL caskets would be a natural for his company.

My conclusion? Ravens caskets will be here before you know it.

"Oh, dear Lord!" Curran-Bromwell said when the subject is broached. "Every funeral home in Maryland would have them!"

Oh, you betcha. People would be lined up like in a bakery.

Does anything say "rest in peace" more than a purple casket emblazoned with logos of a fierce bird of prey, a large B tattooed on its head?

I don't think so.

Now throw in some personalized touches, like clumps of sod from M&T Bank Stadium and a photo of a glowering Ray Lewis bearing down on some poor running back, ready to rip his head off.

If that doesn't say "Take me now, Lord," to a Ravens fan, nothing does.

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