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Turns out a man can have too many T-shirts

Updated: January 23, 2012 10:57AM

A man can never own too many T-shirts, I always say.

I’ve said dumber things, but that failed philosophy is at the root of what I call my “T-shirt collection.”

It’s not really a collection, of course, more of an accumulation — the logical result of our “been there, done that, got the free T-shirt” world.

Unfortunately, time and drawer space have exposed the limitations of this philosophy, proving there’s nothing really logical about hoarding T-shirts.

That’s why I sat down recently to cull the herd, the details of which I am sharing because I doubt I am the only one so afflicted.

By my count, there were at least 37 T-shirts in my possession, not counting plain white undershirts. They spanned four decades, stretching literally from the age when my once thin frame swam in an extra-large to its current state, where XXL barely does the trick.

Among the first to go were the “proud parent” T-shirts bought to show support for my boys’ high school activities — the OPRF Huskies volleyball team, swim team and marching band. I’m still proud, but time marches on, and they’re in college, which will require new T-shirts.

The proud parent T-shirts were followed closely into the discard pile by the shirt proclaiming Cordele, Ga., the “Watermelon Capital of the World,” sent by a reader in response to a column about my love for watermelon. It was very sweet of her, but like its owner, the shirt had gone to seed.

Next to go were a 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games shirt (I did not attend), a City Hall Press Corps shirt from back in the days we played an annual softball game with the City Council (the aldermen regularly kicked our butts owing to their homegrown familiarity with 16-inch) and a shirt from the Chicago Celebrities-Chicago Firemen softball game that PR maven Tobi Williams used to organize (the only time anybody ever counted me as a celebrity).

Then there were shirts from various “fun runs” — the 29th Annual Frank Lloyd Wright Race in 2005, West Suburban Hospital 5th Annual Wellness Challenge 1998, and the Sun-Times Team in the Chase Corporate Challenge race (undated.) Some runs were more fun than others.

I even parted with a never-worn, yellow “Chicago Sun-Times Play Wingo” T-shirt, which relates to a much-maligned reader contest held when Rupert Murdoch owned the paper. It’s truly a collector’s item but brings back too many bad memories.

Though quite unique, I also gave up a pair of limited edition T-shirts bearing original works from late-great Chicago Tribune editorial cartoonist Jeff MacNelly. The shirts were produced for the annual awards dinner at the Tribune, where my wife worked. She’d bring one home to me, but I was too much of a Sun-Times guy to wear them. Too bad we never gave out Jack Higgins T-shirts.

Naturally, I kept some T-shirts. These fell into two categories: the ones I plan to wear and the ones that go into storage so my children can find them after my death and wonder what I was possibly thinking.

Included in this latter group are my tattered 1976 Montreal Olympics shirt (I actually was there, stayed overnight in a mental hospital, but I already told that story), my Lou Brock Cardinal Hit Man 3,000 shirt (I was in the upper deck in 1979 for the milestone smash off Dennis Lamp’s leg) and a Chicago Bulls 1990 NBA Playoffs shirt (those damn Pistons).

Also deemed worth keeping were T-shirts bearing Bix Cornbelt Running Club, Davenport, Iowa, 1981 (at seven miles the longest race I ever ran), Washington High School 73 (the year of my graduation) and Pac-Man (hard to explain but let’s just say I spent so much time in bars playing the game that I developed a repetitive stress injury).

I pared the pile of T-shirts I actually intend to wear to just nine — a few more race shirts, a couple of Sun-Times shirts, an NIU Huskies shirt and some that are just plain.

It’s strange now to close the drawer without having to first cram in the T-shirts.

As you can see, it turns out a man really can own too many T-shirts.

But never too many hats.

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