Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 2, 2012

VINCENT DAVIS: America: World's largest t-shirt cannon

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — During a week that’s been filled with political countdowns, Halloween, and harrowing tales of natural disaster and the resilience of the human spirit, people can’t be blamed for missing a news item here and there. Curiosity, the Mars rover recently analyzed its first soil samples and found that the chemical composition of Mars dirt is similar to that of Hawaiian volcanoes. Neat!

Some stories are here for a day and gone the next, it’s the way of the 24-hour news cycle; we always need something fresh and new. But some stories are so important they can’t be ignored.

On October 31, All-Hallows-Eve, the Philadelphia basketball 76ers unveiled “Big Bella”: the largest T-shirt cannon in the world. Capable of firing one hundred shirts per minute, history will look back on this day and remember it as the point where everything changed forever. As the election draws to a close people are at each other’s throats over all kinds of things; was Obama’s hurricane Sandy response Too Presidential? Not Presidential enough? Should Mitt Romney be in Jersey singlehandedly protecting the future historical landmark that is “The Jersey Shore” Shore House?

What I can tell you is that this time next week none of those questions will matter, the Shore House is forever and Big Bella will still have the ability to fire 100 t-shirts at you and your cheering friends in less time than it takes to watch the two Aaron Rogers All State commercials that seem to always play back-to-back.

Sure, we don’t build the number of cars we used to and the days of factories churning out American made refrigerators are for the most part behind us. But there is always hope. America has always done a brisk business in entertainment and innovation. Here’s a brief list of cultural touchstones that the US has innovated and dominated in over the last forty years: Laser Tag, roller rinks, TV shows that just feature other people dancing to popular music (Soul Train, American Bandstand). The United States should have a trademark on innovating entertainment and the Big Bella T-shirt cannon should be its logo/mascot.

A triumph of engineering involving thirty pipes, numerous tubes and four CO2 tanks, Bella is the perfect mix of excellence in mathematics and construction, the “bigger is better” ethos that we embraced when inventing the SUV, and the “Why do it? Because why not” attitude that has driven so much of generations X and Y.

In recent months Japan has made attempts to reach an American level of ridiculousness in product promotions with the 1,000 pieces of bacon burger I mentioned in a past article and more recently a one-price-fits all promotion on all sizes of McDonalds fries that has resulted in teens pooling their money to buy massive orders of fries. It’s great to see our friends overseas learning from our example, but they don’t have it quite right.

While they are taking things to America-esque extremes they’re forgetting what has always been at the heart of American industry: Providing a service you didn’t even know you needed. Need to whip a mass of fans into frenzy? Need to distribute Red Cross T-shirts to hundreds of recent hurricane victims as soon as possible? Big Bella. Prior to the BB t-shirt launcher the industry standard was a measly twenty shirts per minute maximum. In one fell swoop we took it five levels higher.

No matter who wins the elections next remember: the President didn’t invent the T-shirt cannon, America did, and we’re never more than a few tubes and CO2 tank away from being on top as a nation once again.

Vincent Davis II is a Cornell graduate, DJ, and market development specialist in the IT industry. His column appears on the first and third Friday of every month. He can be contacted at vincedavis06@gmail.com