The Dark Side Of The NBA T-Shirt Fad

This year's NBA playoffs have featured some great basketball and an interesting fashion phenomenon: everyone in the arena wearing the same T-shirt.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Tonight is game five of the NBA Finals in Dallas. And once again, you'll be able to see the fashion craze that's sweeping the league. Look for a sea of royal blue T-shirts, as fans unite to cheer on the hometown Mavericks.

The T-shirt fad is about fun and team loyalty, but NPR's Tom Goldman may have discovered a dark side.

(Soundbite of crowd)

TOM GOLDMAN: Two hours before game time, all is calm in the American Airlines Center. A few players shoot around, media people chit-chat courtside. Let your gaze drift out and up, all the way to the top of the arena, and you see them -blue T-shirts, size XL, draped over every seat back. Written on each shirt in white letters: The Time Is Now. Then suddenly, the calm is shattered.

Mr. SEAN HEATH (Public Service Announcer, Dallas Mavericks): You might want to go ahead and put on your shirts.

GOLDMAN: A T-shirt cam scours the arena finding early-arriving fans not putting on their royal blue and beams their guilty faces onto the hi-def big screen hanging over the court. Public address announcer Sean Heath turns the screws.

Mr. HEATH: Oh, really. It's your birthday? I got you a present. Guess what it is? It's a blue shirt on your chair. Go ahead and try it on, 'cause you wouldn't want to hurt my feelings by not ask accepting a gift that I chose specifically, especially for you.

GOLDMAN: Merciless, even in Spanish.

Mr. HEATH: (Spanish language spoken) blue shirt.

GOLDMAN: Up in the stands, overheated Dallas resident Beth Nupal(ph) braces for the big screen treatment.

Ms. BETH NUPAL: Today was the first hundred degree day in Texas. I'm waiting till right before game time and then I'll put a shirt on.

Mr. PAUL MONROE (Vice President, Marketing, Dallas Mavericks): We want it to be fun. We don't want to embarrass anybody.

GOLDMAN: Maybe not. But Mavs' marketing V.P. Paul Monroe says there are consequences for not putting on the nice cotton tees that cost the team and sponsors of about 70,000 bucks for home game. And no tee, no fleeting fame. The big screen will ignore you during the game.

So, Paul Monroe, is it really fun or Big Brother at work?

Mr. MONROE: Not at all.

GOLDMAN: Really?

Mr. MONROE: Our fans are called MFFLs - Mavs Fans For Life. I'll leave it at that.

GOLDMAN: Evidently that loyalty transcends all. Before game three of the finals, the T-shirt cam found an ornery guest who responded with a double middle finger salute. Then, he put on his royal blue.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Dallas.

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