Awkward Sports Giveaways

Laura Depta@lauradeptaFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2014

Awkward Sports Giveaways

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It’s great that sports teams give free stuff away to fans, but sometimes free stuff makes for awkward situations.

    Some of these recent giveaways are both awkward and funny, like the Memphis Grizzlies giving away flip flops when the Los Angeles Clippers are in town. Some are awkward and awesome, like turning Jayson Werth into a garden gnome. Still others are just uncomfortably awkward. After all, what team misspells their own shortstop’s name on thousands of T-shirts?

    Join me on this journey of cringing, won’t you?

Flip Flops for Floppers

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    In September, the Memphis Grizzlies announced their promotional schedule for the 2014-15 NBA season.

    Among the many creative giveaway items included are flip flops, which are to be handed out when the Los Angeles Clippers come to town in February.

    Could this be a nod to the reputations of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul? You be the judge. Subtly making fun of your opponent with a promotional giveaway could be a little awkward, awesome or both.


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    Turn down for...waffles? Apparently the Texas Tech football program gave away free waffles to students at the October 11 game against West Virginia. The promotion was advertised via a video of the Red Raiders mascot dancing to Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” and carrying a box of waffles.

    The Athletic Department also got #TurnDownForWaffles going on Twitter.

    A dancing mascot with waffles is awkward, but free food for college students is also very, very smart.

Michigan and Coca-Cola

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    To be fair, this is not quite a giveaway, but it might as well be. For a college football team that has been getting 100,000-plus crowds since 1975, it’s pretty awkward to practically give away tickets.

    But that’s just what happened when Michigan played Minnesota in September. A promotion ran in university convenience stores that offered two free tickets to anyone who bought two Coca-Cola products. That’s two tickets, valued at $75 apiece, for the few bucks it costs to buy a couple of Cokes.

    Unrelated: Mistakes are also awkward. Michigan’s Athletic Department said in a statement (via The Michigan Daily):

    Coke as a partner of ours … purchased a limited block of tickets for the Minnesota game for a Coke retail activation aimed at Michigan students. Due to a miscommunication in the approval process, this promotion should not have run as is. As a result, it is being pulled immediately. However all purchases to date will be honored by Coke.


Jayson Werth Garden Gnome

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    I’ve heard of bobbleheads, but garden gnomes? That’s right, the Washington Nationals gave away 25,000 Jayson Werth garden gnomes in August.

    The promotion was such a success that the Nationals added to it in October. They organized a scavenger hunt by hiding 100 gnomes around the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. Anyone who found one of six gnomes signed by the outfielder would score tickets to the NLDS.

    Admittedly, this promotion is sort of awesome, but that still doesn’t mean gnomes aren’t a little creepy.

Wrong Logo

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    William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

    So, back in August, the New York Mets thought it would be cool to give 15,000 fans toy trucks—sort of a cool idea, especially for kids.

    Unfortunately, one truck had a Philadelphia Phillies logo on it. All signs point to this being the only truck it happened to, but still. It’s pretty awkward to let a fan receive a giveaway marked with the logo of your team’s most-hated rival.

Babe Ruth Dodger Bobblehead

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Dodgers gave away Babe Ruth bobbleheads in September. This is weird because, well, the Babe never played for the Dodgers.

    He was a first-base coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers for a hot second in 1938, but that's still a stretch.

Andrew Bynum Fathead

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    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    In December 2013, Andrew Bynum was suspended by the Cleveland Cavaliers for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

    The very next day, the team was scheduled to give out Andrew Bynum Fatheads to fans age 14 and under. According to ABC newsnet5 Cleveland, the Cavs (smartly) cancelled the Bynum giveaway and instead passed out instructions on how to receive a free Fathead and two free tickets to an upcoming game.

LeBron James Fathead

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Speaking of Cleveland Cavaliers Fatheads, this one is kind of a throwback (but then again, comparing an NBA star to one of history’s most infamous traitors is pretty awkward at any time).

    When LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in 2010, the price of his Cavaliers Fathead was dropped from $99.99 to $17.41.

    It's important to note that 1741 also happens to be the year Benedict Arnold was born.

Game-Used Memorabilia

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    You know what’s awkward? Catching a pair of damp whitey tighties at a baseball game.

    In July, Sports Illustrated published this video of a prank pulled on baseball fans attending a Lowell Spinners game. The video poked fun at the idea that fans love anything that’s free.

    The video shows one of the Spinners players collecting questionable memorabilia from teammates—used socks, underwear, etc. Later, said items were tossed into the stands, and the fan reactions were priceless.

White Sox Ponchos

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Chicago White Sox were just trying to do their fans a solid one rainy day in July, but unfortunately it turned into a very awkward photo-op.

    Rain was in the forecast for the Sox game against the visiting Los Angeles Angels, so the team gave out free white ponchos.

    It turns out that crowds of people sitting together wearing white pointy hoods do not look the best.


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    If you’re going to give fans shirts with your star shortstop’s name printed on the back, you should make sure to spell it right.

    Granted, “Tulowitzki” isn’t the easiest name to spell, but come on. In July, the Colorado Rockies somehow gave away a whole bunch of shirts with Tulo’s name spelled as “Tulowizki."

“La Potencia”

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    In July 2014, the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox agreed to terms on a trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston.

    The problem was that the trade occurred just two days before the A’s were scheduled to give out 10,000 Cespedes “La Potencia” shirts to fans. At the time of the trade, Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet announced via Twitter that the A’s still planned to go ahead with the giveaway.

    And they did.

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