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banner Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Memorabilia madness

As fans start collecting the chewing-gum Sir Alex Ferguson spits out, BBC Sport Online looks at other examples of memorabilia madness and asks - why?

BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce investigates.

Crazed Man United fans' worship of Sir Alex Ferguson has reached unprecedented - and quite horrific - levels, according to reports.

Businessmen on a tour of Old Trafford are said by an eyewitness to have spotted old pieces of chewing-gum lying around the home dug-out and frantically scraped them into their wallets, shouting, "It's Fergie's gum!"

Even ignoring the hygiene implications - and the chances that they might be worshipping gum spat from the mouth of Steve McLaren or substitute Luke Chadwick instead - it marks the escalation of sports memorabilia madness to new heights.

Newcastle's Malcolm Macdonald
SuperMac lines up another sod in the crowd
We're not talking here about the traditional signed shirt, the antique baseball trading card or the autographed photo.

Hardcore fans are no longer impressed by these mediocre trophies.

Such tokens can be picked up for a song at charity auctions any day of the week.

No, the true-blue supporter, the one who already wipes his backside on team toilet paper, sleeps under a team duvet and spurns nights out with friends to watch those video highlights of the 1978-9 season, wants more.

Like the Reading fan who has two vials on his mantelpiece which contain the soapy water used to clean the club's kit after their two appearances at Wembley (Full Members' Cup 1988, Division One play-offs 1995).

Or the Newcastle supporter who still treasures the clod of turf which flew up from Malcolm Macdonald's boot one day at St James' Park and smacked him in the face.

Bernie Slaven: Ayresome hero
Bernie Slaven: Ayresome hero
Even some sportsmen themselves get in on the act.

When Ayresome Park was demolished, former Middlesborough favourite Bernie Slaven bought the section of fencing he used to jump up onto when celebrating a goal.

Rumour has it Slaven installed the fencing at the bottom of his garden and, when wistfully remembering the good old days, will often charge down the garden path, leap on and recreate those unforgettable celebrations.

Still, fans in the UK have some way to go until they match their counterparts in America.

When former gridiron hero OJ Simpson sold off a large chunk of his memorabilia to ease his financial worries, eager fans shelled out thousands of dollars - including 4,500 on an abstract painting by the disco singer Donna Summer.

OJ Simpson
"They've got my Donna Summer abstract painting?"
Not satisfied with that, some of the buyers, led by Bob Enyart, a Christian TV talk show host, then smashed and burnt the gear as a protest against the American justice system.

"We are destroying OJ Simpson's property in front of the Los Angeles courthouse because the criminal justice system is destroying justice before our very eyes," he said, before smashing a Lifesaver trophy, given to Simpson for helping charities, with a sledgehammer.

Not satisfied, he later burned Simpson's Hall Of Fame induction certificate - the most prestigious award given to college American football players - having paid 7,000 to buy it.

Sadly sport comes a distant third to rock 'n' roll and royalty in the overall nuttiness stakes. Elvis Presley's black satin pyjamas once sold for 17,400 - difficult to imagine anyone forking out that much for Fergie's night-time kecks - while a slice of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's wedding cake sold for 17,800 at auction in New York in 1998.

The delighted pastry-purchaser, one Benjamin Yim, said he had no plans to eat the cake.

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