Ordinarily, a malfunctioning television is no big deal, but this is the week before Super Sunday and the man who walked into the Erol's store at Baileys Crossroads yesterday was taking no chances.
"He said he'd die if it went out during the Super Bowl," reported store manager John Williams. "He bought an $800 television."
It is like that all around the Washington area these days. As the Redskins head for the practice fields in San Diego, their fans back east are warming up, too.
They are loading up on Redskins memorabilia, from paper plates to $254.95 telephones that are packaged in team helmets. They are renting so many large-screen televisions that Erol's has none left to lease anywhere in the District or its suburbs. Those with the cash to match their enthusiasm are buying $1,500 hotel, air and ticket packages from local travel agents.
Williams, with a business person's appreciation for these things, put it simply: "People are going nuts."
Erol's also is prospering from sales of "projection set" televisions, the kind with screens of up to 50 inches. Usually, customers take a week or two for consumer research. Now, Williams said, "People come in, look, and say, 'I want it.' Very impulse buying."
The hot seller among the souvenirs, according to several area sporting goods stores, is a sweat shirt or T-shirt (prices: about $22 and $10) featuring quarterback Doug Williams, set against the Washington skyline, with the slogan "Touch of Class."
"We just emptied the rack," Brad Rippetoe, a sales clerk at the Stadium, a sporting goods store in Wheaton, said late yesterday afternoon. "Whoever made that shirt is making a bundle."
The manufacturer is Shirt Xplosion of Hyattsville, previously known for its renderings of "The Hogs," "Riggo's Rangers" and "The Fun Bunch."
"They sold," general manager Sandy Brooks said of the firm's previous products, "but it's been nothing like this."
So far, 900 dozen sweat shirts and 450 dozen T-shirts have been shipped out, she said. The design is so popular that some printers are making unauthorized copies, and the shirt company has contacted its lawyer, Brooks said.
The idea for the shirt came from Williams' agent, who approached Shirt Xplosion. The "Touch of Class" slogan was decided on because "that's the impression Doug Williams gives to us," Brooks said.
The second fastest-selling souvenir is a Redskins key chain, in burgundy and gold, of course, that plays the team's fight song and sells for $6.95.
"They came out just before the playoffs started," Rippetoe said. "As soon as they come in, they go out."
There are plenty of other options for the loyal fan: bags, buttons, charms, jackets, $54 pendulum clocks, $100 sweat suits. The H-Gear store in Springfield ran out of Redskins sunscreens yesterday, but it had a few license plates left with the team logo. Video stores reported mixed success with Redskins film rentals, though.
Boxer shorts with the Redskins emblem also are doing well, said Chuck Kelly, assistant manager of the National Locker Room store in the District.
For those who want to show their spirit and stay warm at the same time, the shorts can be worn over blue jeans, as several fashion-minded fans demonstrated during the Jan. 17 post-playoff celebration in Georgetown.
Would-be hosts of Super Bowl parties should be aware that no more Redskins cups are in stock at the Paper Store in Old Town Alexandria, although a few napkins, plates and burgundy-and-gold plastic knives and forks remain on the shelves. "It's been an incredible day," said salesman Rick Belknap. "They're buying practically everything they can get hold of."
Soon it will be Super Sunday -- the hour when all the planning and preparation pay off. At Shirt Xplosion, however, Brooks already is working on a post-Super Bowl T-shirt. She will not reveal the design except to say that it features Doug Williams.
Brooks is looking forward to the Super Bowl so she can finally get some sleep.
"I expect to go into retirement then," she said.