WEDNESDAY, 11:58 a.m. Lunchtime. My client’s office is within a short walk of the Washington Convention Center, the Metro Center station, and the Verizon Center, which tonight will be the site of the first round playoff series Game 7 between the Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens. Which is a big deal, I think – and I would expect anyone within a reasonable proximity to the arena to be all caught up in a Rock the Red fervor as gametime draws near.
I mean, it is a big deal, right?
I don’t have any Caps logo apparel and decided I wanted something to wear while we watch the game tonight. This being the heart DC during the height of tourist season, I figured there would be street vendors on every corner hawking knock-offs. I set out in search of some.
I figured wrong.
My first stop was a place called Souvenir City. Inside were rows and rows of 3 for $10 T-shirts, most of which simply said “Washington DC” or the I “heart” DC logo (remember I Love NY? Like that). There were string bags and fanny packs and keychains and magnets… but absolutely nothing bearing the logo of any of our home teams.
Across the street was a large hotel. I thought, gift shop! So in I went. I asked the lady at the register if she had a Washington Capitals T-shirt. She said, “Yes, but it’s brown, is that OK?” The guy who had been chatting with her frowned and said, “I think she’d want it to be red…” She helpfully approached her shelves of T-shirts and pulled out a lovely brown T that said Washington DC and had a picture of the Capitol dome. “Oh, no,” I said, “I mean the CAPITALS! The hockey team?”
And crickets chirped in the background as she tried to understand exactly what I was looking for.
Closer to the Metro, I found two adjacent souvenir shops. People, if you are in the market for a DC snow globe, spoon rest, refrigerator magnet, bell, collectible spoon or miniature replica of the White House, I would recommend you go to one of these shops. If you’re looking for logo apparel for any of DC’s major league sports teams? Don’t bother. I would simply caution you to watch out for the buses of tourists unloading to snatch up some of this fine merchandise, so they can take a piece of DC back to Japan.
I tried one more hotel – a much larger one – the lady had one style of Washington Nationals (baseball!) shirt. I asked, “How about the Caps?” She gestured to the “Curly W” baseball caps sitting next to the Nats shirt. “No – the Washington Capitals? You know, the hockey team? They’re in the playoffs? Game 7 is tonight in DC??” Again with the crickets chirping.
Street vendors seemed to be well-stocked with knock-off designer handbags, scarves, and still have some Obama memorabilia, but nothing sports-related.
As a last hope, I ventured into Macy’s and went straight to the men’s department. Way back in the far corner, in “active wear”, was – Hallelujah! – a rack of Capitals shirts. As I was trying to decide, another woman, probably about my age, wandered over.
“Oh, do you have to buy a men’s shirt, too?” she asked.
“Yeah, but it’s for ME!” I said.
“Right, me too,” she said. “I already checked in the women’s department. They had NONE.”
She asked if I was going to the game. “No,” I said, “I just wanted something to wear while we watch it tonight at home.” She said she was going out to watch it with friends.
Kindred spirits, resigned to buying the only Caps logowear they could find in the heart of Washington – in the men’s section of Macy’s, just a few blocks from the arena.
I made my purchase, stuffed it into my giant purse to avoid the $0.05 bag fee, and off I went.
I have two theories. One is that the Licensing Police (or whoever it is that monitors these things) has scared the, um, entrepreneurs with threats of large fines if they produce knock-off logowear. I was recalling the walk into Camden Yards to watch the Baltimore Orioles – you can buy all kinds of Orioles gear as you approach the ballpark. I figured there’d be lots of that on the streets in DC.
My other theory is that as much as we wish it were so, Washington just isn’t a hockey town. None of the shop owners had any idea that there was a Big Game in town tonight. They’re missing a big opportunity to make a few bucks off of rabid fans, prone to impulse purchases.
I Heart NY DC!