Fri Aug 13 08:47am EDT
Attention engineers! If you're in search of a relatively stable gig in a tough economy and don't mind moving to Dayton, Tenn., you're in luck: A position may be available since Chattanooga resident Eric Vlietstra decided to tell his factory to shove it and make a run for it by expanding his part-time business, as master cowbell craftsman for fellow Mississippi State fans:
Twelve years after that banged-up order of cowbells prompted him to start assembling and selling them on the side, Vlietstra, a 39-year-old Northwest Rankin and MSU graduate, quit his job on July 30 as an industrial engineer at a Dayton, Tenn., factory.
What once became a way to contribute to his son's college fund became his new full-time job.
"It's a little bit scary doing that because you have insurance to worry about," he said. "It's something that I think about, but I just feel like I've been doing this long enough, it's just a matter of stepping it up a little more by doing a little more marketing."
Said marketing will be orchestrated through Vlietstra's website, where bells of various size, shape and constitution go from $12 to $25. Vlietstra figures he needs to sell 3,000 bells a year to make the new gig work, meaning he needs to nearly quadruple last year's record high of 820. He already sells to a minor league hockey team in Syracuse, N.Y., and a women's soccer team in Washington, D.C., and he's trying to make inroads at local high schools. You need a clang, he's got the thang. (Royalties, please.)
Cowbells will actually be legally allowed in SEC stadiums this fall for the first time in 35 years, which will have no effect whatsoever on anything, because the illegal versions have been loudly flouting the official ban with zero repercussions since it was passed in 1974. The collective clatter has made Davis-Wade Stadium a quantifiably more hostile venue over the last decade, and it would take the Stasi to keep the bells out altogether. The best the SEC can do is pass out instructions outlining exactly "when to ring your cowbell" during games. But in practice, the answer is "always."
Anyway, if you can make a living blogging about your favorite school, I suppose there's nothing to stop you from supplying fans with quasi-legal noisemakers to annoy the crap out of visitors. As long as Vlietstra spells "Mississippi" correctly on the paint job, he should be fine.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.