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Seven Questions for the Mason Basketball “T-Shirt Guy” Ken Carlson


Ken Carlson at work

Patriots fan Ken Carlson is the face behind the gun—the T-shirt gun, that is. He has been manning the crowd-pleasing accessory for the past five years at Mason men’s and women’s basketball games.

How’d you get this sweet gig, Ken?

The previous T-Shirt Guy missed a game, and I filled in. After a season of lobbying Andy [Ruge, associate athletic director of marketing], he finally caved and gave me the job. You can say the previous guy got “Wally Pipped.” (Pipp is the New York Yankees pitcher who infamously lost his starting job to Lou Gehrig.)

That T-shirt gun looks pretty hefty. What’s the recoil like on that?

It’s like shooting a bazooka. Not really—Sally Merten [wife of university president Alan Merten] has even shot it.

Ever practice shooting?

No need to. The shirts rarely go where they’re aimed.

You’ve never shot a T-shirt at me. So what are you looking for in your “victims”?

I’m looking for our fans in the highest rows. Always trying to get the biggest bang for our buck.

What are the biggest perks of the job?


Dr. Merten gets ready to "send" a t-shirt to a happy Mason basketball fan.

Having Dr. or Mrs. Merten shoot the gun is a blast. And being able to congratulate [men’s basketball head coach Jim Larranaga [3]] on the court after each win and present him with shirts to throw to the students is truly an honor. But the best is getting every third shirt to a kid who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get one because bigger kids and adults get in the way.

So, you have a Mason tattoo?

I now actually have two. Mason will now always be a part of me.

What’s your favorite memory in your five years as the official T-Shirt Guy?

Having Dr. Merten hit the scoreboard repeatedly with shots from the gun.