Joel Reichenberger: Jersey purchases make for a dangerous game
June 17, 2013
We were preparing to leave early Saturday morning for our first Rockies game of the season.
Correct that — it was my girlfriend's birthday and she's Philadelphia through and through. By some twist of fate, the Phillies were in town so we were going to the Phillies game, not the Rockies game.
She was lamenting the fact that none of her Phillies jerseys were appropriate for mid-June 2013. All the players she had represented had either been traded, moved on via free agency or were mired in extended slumps.
She had to settle for a regular ol' Phillies T-shirt.
I came away from the episode with some rules, however.
(Yes, there are rules to buying a jersey from your favorite team.)
No. 1 — Don't buy one. You're not a player. You're a proud individual, and it's not Halloween. Why dress up like someone else? I've bought one player jersey my entire life. As a child, I begged and begged for a Mitch Richmond jersey when he first made the NBA after a great career at Kansas State. Eventually I got it, too, my parents finally caving in to my pleas. I donned it about twice, because it always seemed weird to wear. My parents understandably weren't pleased.
No. 2 — Oh, you didn't appreciate Rule No. 1? OK, fine. At least don't buy a jersey of a rookie or a big-time new free agent.
Sure, if you're an Angels fan, you're still thrilled you bought that Mike Trout jersey. Are you as thrilled with your Albert Pujols jersey, or would you rather have your money back?
Maybe that Terrell Davis jersey worked out for you after his monster entry into the NFL. I hope you saved the receipt for your Tatum Bell version. And what are the odds a free agent will ever really become your team's "guy?" Sure, it can happen. Drew Brees in New Orleans is a fine example. He's a Saint. John Lynch, meanwhile, had a great couple of years in Denver, but he'll always be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
No. 3 — In fact, just don't buy a jersey for a current player because you never know what will happen. As soon as they get traded, your expensive threads go from cool to dated with a simple swipe of a pen. You think many Texas Rangers fans are happy they shelled out for a Josh Hamilton jersey? How many LeBron James Cleveland jerseys went up in smoke a few years ago? How many Heat jerseys will join them in a few more years?
No. 4 — Jerseys for college players are even weirder. Plus, they're still essentially kids, so dang near anything can happen. Like all of us in college, they're one night at a bar away from embarrassment.
Take note, Johnny Football fans.
No. 5 — The best way to buy a jersey is to buy that of a guy who's at very least retired, or even better, dead. There's little chance of their legacy decaying at that point, so little chance you'll regret the purchase. For my Royals, that means George Brett, or even better, Bo Jackson. They're Royals, through and through, and Bo Jackson lives on in American sporting lore. Perfect.
Waiting allows the dust to settle. A few years after retirement you'll know how the player will be remembered, and if he'll actually be remembered as a member of your team.
Todd Helton is a few months from being a fine choice for the Rockies, hilarious DUI mug shot and all.
John Elway is the obvious choice for the Broncos, though there are more creative options. Shannon Sharpe left for a final stop, but he will always be remembered as a Bronco, so he'd be a fine choice. A Karl Mecklenburg jersey says "I'm a fan" more than almost any other jersey could.
No. 6 — Did I mention, "Don't?"