You should understand something before reading the following characterization of the Ryder Cup merchandise tent at Medinah Country Club:
Some of my best golf shirts were bought at places like Walgreens and Garden Fresh.
In other words, I'm more a slave to economics than to fashion, which made me totally out of place next to consumers in Medinah's mecca of merchandising. The action might be more intense inside there than on the course this week.
I'm talking about the either wealthy or wealthy-for-a-day who walk around the grounds with expensive tickets in hand, sit in corporate tents with fancy drinks in hand and stop by to purchase memorabilia of this once-in-a-lifetime sports event.
This Ryder Cup tent is the kind of clothing/accessories/souvenirs outlet where if you have to ask how much something is, you can't afford it. Not in a luxury automobile sense, but in a Bermuda shorts sense.
Remember, though, that I'm somebody who just paid $4.99 for a three-pack of T-shirts at Menard's.
If the economies of America and Europe are struggling, you couldn't tell by the checkout stations in this particular merchandise tent.
The prices here rendered shopping a spectator sport for me. Oh what a sight there was to spectate, too. It looked like feeding time at the zoo, with people grabbing stuff like it was their life line.
First for the scene: The tent is billed as the largest ever at a big-time golfing event.
"It's 40,000 square feet," said the umbrella representative.
"Wow," I said, "that's almost as big as my house."
What, you thought I was going to let him know that I live in brown paper bag on the side of Medinah Road?
(Plug for my new buddy: He has an umbrella with a print of Medinah's clubhouse and surrounding greenery that on a rainy day might be worth the price tag of around $50.)
Now for the process: Walk in one end of the room, grab a cloth bag being handed out and begin pouncing like a vampire in a roomful of necks.
We're talking power shopping here. You'd think the place was a rummage sale in the bargain basement of a church.
But this isn't cut-rate merchandise being glommed onto by cutthroat shoppers who, by the way, came in all sizes and shapes and ages and accents.
The cheapest -- more delicately known as least expensive -- golf shirts I saw went for around $58. The most expensive could be rounded off at about $100.
That might not sound like a lot to you, but assemble a one-day ensemble off these racks and the outfit would add up to the worth of just about everything in my closet.
To report fairly here, there were $11 rubber balls "great for autographs," Medinah towels for $16, T-shirts in the $20-something range, Ryder Cup posters for $22 and hats for $25.
Otherwise this looked to me like overpriced golf stuff. Still, those cloth bags filled up awfully fast as shoppers were spreeing and splurging for themselves, relatives, bosses, friends, neighbors … for all those not fortunate enough to score or afford Ryder Cup tickets.
"My advice would be if you're going to buy something do it in the morning," the umbrella man said. "In the afternoon the checkout lines are almost all the way out the far door."
Buy something? Heck, I could barely afford to shoplift an empty shopping bag.