Last weekend, the Wizards brought out a double-barreled T-shirt Gatling gun. That seemed mildly interesting. So I asked a few questions. Learned more than I would have guessed, too.
1) The gun, as it turns out, is not actually the property of the Wizards. It’s being leased by Georgetown, and then sub-leased to the Wizards, who last weekend replaced the Georgetown branding with custom Wizards paneling before wheeling it out for the first time.
2) Georgetown, as Dave McKenna and Casual Hoya have noted, has had high-powered T-shirt weaponry for years. But the Hoyas only upgraded to the newer and rarer double-barreled model within the past year. The double-barreled model has 30 barrels, weighs about 600 pounds when fully loaded, stands just shy of 10 feet tall, uses 80 pounds of CO2, and can fire off 60 T-shirts in five seconds. This is not your slightly older brother’s T-shirt Gatling gun.
3) I hadn’t heard about this technological upgrade, but Todd Scheel — the founder of FX in Motion, which makes these devices — said the difference is obvious. “Oh yeah — yeah yeah yeah yeah,” he assured me. “When we first built our single-barrel, we would stand next to it and just kind of laugh — this thing is massive. When we put our double-barrel next to our single-barrel, the single-barrel looks like a toy. It literally has 30 barrels, where the original one has 12. It’s massive.”
4) The cost? To buy one, think north of $20,000. To lease, the double-barrel model will cost you $4,000 a season. Of course, if you’re using it up to 3o or 40 times, the per-game cost is minimal, far less than a halftime entertainment act.
5) Why go double-barrel? “Take any sport you want; the purists are a dying breed,” Scheel said. “Most people are going to sporting events for more than just the event itself; there’s more entertainment. And it used to be, when you went to a sporting event, you were all excited to catch a T-shirt, and if you didn’t catch a T-shirt, there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about [during a T-shirt toss]. In this situation, when they wheel out a double-barrel gun that can shoot up to 60 T-shirts in five seconds, no longer are you just excited to be the person to catch the T-shirt. Now it’s the spectacle; you’re entertained as well, just watching this thing do what it does. People are staring at it, people are talking about it. So now, when you brand that, I sure hope you’re making money off it. The fans are excited, the team should be making money — everybody wins.”
6) These double-barrel beauties are rarer than you might think. The 76ers, Suns and Knicks each have one. So does Marquette, which is the only other collegiate team besides Georgetown to have gone double-barrel. (The Hoyas originally learned of T-shirt gatling guns from visiting Marquette; FX in Motion is based outside Milwaukee.) There have been inquiries from Istanbul and Israel, but it’s typically a six-week turnaround to manufacture a double-barreled model. So treasure these moments, Verizon Center patrons.
7) Turns out that Zak Grim, manager of game operations for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, used to work at FX in Motion. He helped move the Wizards toward using the machinery, although it won’t be an every-game deal for the NBA team. In fact, it wasn’t used in subsequent home games against the Pistons, Sixers or Celtics. “It’s an incredible prop, an incredible piece of machinery,” Grim told me. “For the Wizards, the Caps, the Mystics — anything under the MSE blanket — we’re always looking for something that will be entertaining for fans and get people talking. There’s something about a 10-foot tall double-barreled Gatling gun that uses 80 pounds of CO2 that’s entertaining to watch.”
— Wizards Game Ent. (@WizGameEnt) January 18, 2014
8) Through Wizards-girl tosses and other traditional T-shirt distribution means, the team can typically dispense between 140 and 180 T-shirts in a T-shirt toss segment. Assuming you can complete at least two gatling-gun launches during one timeout, you can now add 120 to 140 T-shirts to that total.
9) T-shirts can be propelled 150 feet via double-barreled Gatling gun propulsion. That easily gets you to the back of the arena’s 100 level. Stress balls, according to Scheel, can go much further. “In our arena in town here that the Bucks and Marquette play at, we can bounce stress balls off the roof of the building above the last seat in the house,” he said. “So I doubt there’s an arena in the NBA that our Gatling gun couldn’t hit the last row with stress balls.”
10) And the reaction for its debut against the Bulls last Friday night? “I can tell you what I saw,” Grim said. “I was in the corner when we shot it and I heard a lot of wows, I saw a lot of kids’ eyes light up when you wheel that huge thing out. I think it went well. I saw a lot of people walk away with T-shirts at the end of the timeout, so I think it was a success.”
11) No, I haven’t thought of any jokes about Gatling guns and a team that was once named the Bullets. And I certainly can’t think of any local locker-room incidents that would prompt gatling-gun jokes. And no, it would not be appropriate for the team to aim 30 barrels of T-shirt power at a fan, with a sign reading “pick one.”
12) You’ll note that far earlier in this great piece of journalism, Grim mentioned the Capitals. Several NHL and AHL teams use single-barrel gatling guns, but none have tried a double-barreled yet, as far as Scheel could recall. So … is history afoot? “That hasn’t been decided,” Grim said. “It has been brought up. There’s a possibility you could see it in Verizon Center for a Caps game, but we don’t have a 100 percent yes or no.”
13) Feel free to point out that the New York Times just did a story on this, and did so without the benefit of a numbered list, and that the Times writer wrote how the Sixers gun “began, a bit unnervingly, to resemble one of the Guns of Navarone, painted baby blue.” You go to the Times for fancy prose; you go to the Bog for sports-radio transcripts.