CHICAGO (AP) _ Doug Flutie’s No. 2 Chicago Bears’ jersey has become the hottest-selling item in some stores since William ″The Refrigerator″ Perry’s No. 72 last season.
Flutie’s performance Sunday, in which he had a hand in three touchdowns, has triggered a buying frenzy.
″After Sunday’s game, it seemed like everyone who walked into the store wanted a Flutie jersey or something related to Flutie,″ said Dawn K. Cottini, retail buyer of Bears’ paraphernalia for Morrie Mages Sports store in Chicago.
Perry, the beefy defensive lineman who weighs at least 325 pounds, was a sports-marketing phenomenon last year. But he is playing less offense this year and his popularity has cooled.
″I think if (Flutie) continues to play well and they give him more time, I think you’ll see it snowball. I think you may see another situation like ‘The Refrigerator’ last year,″ said Robert Tangen, regional manager for Merle Harmon’s Fan Fair, an Illinois chain of sports paraphernalia stores.
″A lot of women want Flutie jerseys because he’s cute,″ Cottini said. ″He’s a very likeable player. He’s cute and he’s a good football player. There’s also the controversy over his size.″
Flutie suggests his relatively small stature, - 5-foot-9 - may help his appeal with some fans.
’The average fan can identify with me and say to himself, ’If he can make it, maybe I can make it, too,‴ the 1984 Heisman Trophy winner said Monday.
The former Boston College star, pint-sized next to the Fridge, caused a stir in Chicago when he was signed Oct. 21 by the Bears after his U. S. Football League suspended operations.
Critics said Flutie was too small to play in the pros, although he passed for 10,579 yards from 1981-84 to become one of the top five career passers in college history.
And the Super Bowl champions already had three quarterbacks. Starter Jim McMahon said he didn’t think they needed a fourth.
On Sunday, with McMahon out for the season with a shoulder injury, Flutie threw for his first NFL touchdown pass. Replacing starter Mike Tomczak for nearly two quarters, Flutie ran for a second touchdown and handed off for a third in the Bears’ 48-14 thrashing of Tampa Bay.
On Monday and Tuesday, fans swamped many Chicago area stores looking for No. 2 jerseys, managers said.
Morrie Mages sold nearly 100 jerseys in two days at about $80 each, Cottini said.
Flutie paraphernalia has been popular since he joined the Bears, she said, noting the store has sold about 500 No. 2 jerseys since late October.
″As soon as he was signed, we had a flood of requests for Flutie jerseys from all over the country,″ she said. ″The response to Flutie has been phenomenal.
Morrie Mages, which sells about $500,000 worth of Bears’ paraphernalia each season, has a rush order in with its supplier for more No. 2 jerseys, she said.
But the Sports Arena chain of stores isn’t so lucky.
″We’ve got a lot of people asking for them, but unfortunately we don’t have any,″ said Doug Norkus, a manager of one Sports Arena store.
″We got all our jerseys at the beginning of the year and since Flutie wasn’t on the Bears then, we don’t have any number twos,″ Norkus said.
″In the last two days, we’ve had lots of requests for them - probably 20 or 30 a day,″ he said. ″As a matter of fact, I’m going to try to order some right now.″