Overall, I consider myself a pretty tolerant individual. On any given day, my grievances are typically limited to people who remove my clothes from the laundry machine, USA Today and, as of 1.5 weeks ago, John Isner. However, as of late I have been reminded of yet another equally-offending element –– one I became instantly aware of upon my induction into the Philadelphia sports scene. It is the Sports Fan’s sense of fashion ... or lack thereof. For the record, I’m not talking about fashion in the sense that he or she makes the tragic mistake of sporting an Abercrombie polo over a Ralph Lauren one, or dares to wear white after Labor Day. Rather, I have a bone to pick with the imbecile fans who misrepresent themselves, their team and their city –– all because of what they choose to put on their back.
Essentially, the worst offense a fan can commit (besides throwing a beer at an outfielder) is mixing your sports in a stadium setting. For those who are still confused, let me break it down for you: If you wear an Eagles jersey to a Sixers game, you’re a tool. If you wear a Jason Varitek jersey to a Phillies game, you’re an even bigger tool (you’re also a Red Sox fan, which just makes you the scum of the earth).
Several years ago I was at a Phillies game and witnessed a guy wearing an Eagles jersey with “Iverson” and the No. 3 on the back. Part of me died that day. What was left of me died during the fifth set of the 2009 Wimbledon final. I guess you could say that Andy Roddick losing to John Isner in the third round of this year’s U.S. Open was the nail in the coffin.
Just as important as the where is the who –– that is, the name you choose to have emblazoned across your shoulder blades. Regrettably, this is an oft-overlooked component of the jersey selection process; what people undoubtedly fail to realize is that when you display an athlete’s name on your back you are forging a connection with him, and in doing so are pursuing an indefinitely long commitment.
There’s a Cadillac commercial that debuted in 2009, in which Kate Walsh delivers the following monologue: “The relationship you have with your car isn’t so different from your other relationships. Some burn hot, fast, but don’t last very long. Some burn for awhile, but don’t throw much heat. And some smolder beautifully for a long, long time.”
Now, replace “car” with “[insert athlete-name-on-back-of-jersey here]” and you will better comprehend the point I am trying to drive home (pun intended).
To clarify, I see nothing wrong with throwback jerseys that pay tribute to players who are either retired or long deceased –– names like Schmidt, Carlton and Ashburn are perfectly legitimate, at least in the Philadelphia Phillies circle –– as are the names of other legends who distinguished themselves as gods among men in their respective sport.
Having your own name on the back of a professional team jersey, however, is not socially acceptable. For obvious reasons. Nor is the name of a proven superstar who descended on your city in a flurry of excitement and bold predictions, only to make a temporary impression and ultimately go away quietly –– in stark contrast to how he arrived. In between the injuries that plagued his tenure with the Phillies, Jim Thome established himself as a ballplayer worthy of Philadelphia fans’ support. Nevertheless, it’s been four years since the man last donned a Phillies uniform –– so why is it that Thome jerseys are still as prevalent at Citizens Bank Park as infectious diseases were at Shea Stadium?
An even greater cause for concern is the amount of Scott Rolen jerseys I have beheld at Phillies games in recent years. At least Thome was (allegedly) a pretty decent guy; Rolen, on the other hand, was to the Philadelphia Phillies what Barry Bonds was to the San Francisco Giants –– a “cancer in the clubhouse.”
As disgusted as I am by inappropriate jersey wearage, even I must concede that such a display does have the benefit of exposing poseur sports fans. Without this telltale sign, it becomes much more difficult to question their legitimacy.
I’m sure that these faux pas are not limited to Philadelphia; in fact, I am convinced there is an epidemic sweeping the nation, and no it’s not swine flu ––– just the blissful ignorance of certain so-called “fans.”
Another entity I can’t wrap my head around is the dude who insists on wearing a suit to a game. Seriously, we get that you’re important, otherwise why would you be sitting in the Legends Suite section of Yankee Stadium –– seats that are usually reserved for significant others (see: Minka Kelly and Kate Hudson), Hollywood royalty, actual royalty and Rudy Giuliani. There’s no need to further advertise your influence in society by going to the ballpark decked out in your Armani best. I don’t care if you are coming straight from the office; it’s not that difficult to bring a (Yankees) jersey and jeans with you and change clothes in the private bathroom of your “luxury” suite while sipping your “luxury” G&T from the “luxury” open bar. When all is said and done, the suit-at-the-ballpark-look is the worst trend to hit professional baseball since the rally monkey.
All in all, it’s a royal shame that people fail so miserably at dressing for the occasion, since I have found that wearing the right thing at the right time (and place) can go a long way towards facilitating conversation and enhancing overall social interaction.
For example, earlier this semester I went to a rooms party at a friend’s frat to partake in some O-Week debauchery (incidentally, this was the same frat where, two weeks later, I would watch Andy Roddick crash out of the U.S. Open to an unseeded American in five sets. I reacted. And by “reacted” I mean I threw my iPhone in a bout of rage at the hardwood floor and yelled. Frat brothers judged me. And even the deliciously tangy cranberry cocktail made by The Sun’s very own recently-turned-21 “Dan From Marketing” –– or “DFM” as we affectionately call him –– wasn’t enough to quell my wanting to kill John Isner).
Okay, so my alcoholism, frattiness and anger management problems are all topics for future columns ... now, getting back to my (original) story:
As I was coming back from a long night of desking the Sun sports section, I arrived at three conclusions: 1) I hated everything in my closet 2) I didn’t feel like changing outfits and 3) As a consequence of Conclusion Nos. 1 and 2, I was going to go to this party wearing the same Eagles jersey I had worn to the Sun office.
After all, who exactly was I trying to impress? The shindig was going to be mostly comprised of close friends, frat brothers (several of whom I already knew) and freshmen desperate to get their hands on any beverage that remotely resembled alcohol. With that sentiment in mind, I set out sporting the same jersey that currently appears in my Vogue-worthy mug shot pictured on the back page of today’s Daily Sun. Little did I know this would turn out to be one of the few good decisions I’ve made during my time at Cornell.
Dozens of people approached me that night –– Philadelphians and non-Philadelphians alike –– all of whom had some comment regarding my wardrobe choice. It was so refreshing to not have to carry out the very repetitive “I’m-in-Arts-and-Sciences-and-a-Government-major-but-have-only-a-very-superficial-understanding-of-politics-and-really-I-just-want-to-be-a-sports-journalist” conversation. Instead, for once it was socially acceptable for me to discuss my reaction to the Michael Vick signing (still news at the time) while at a frat party. Rather than having to make a conscious effort to hide my distaste for cheesy pickup lines, for once I was able to talk about how underrated David Akers is without getting weird looks in return from guys who couldn’t fathom why a girl would voluntarily want to converse about sports.
Like I said, refreshing.
And, indeed, when I was shopping around for an Eagles jersey I chose David Akers on the basis that he was not a mama’s boy like McNabb, not a head case like T.O. and not destined to be gone in a few years like Dawkins. I actually considered Sheldon Brown, but was worried that people would think me one of those delusional sports fans who wears their own name on the back of a professional team jersey.