September 21, 2017

Custom Jerseys

This month, I've written about the new Nike jerseys that are about to hit stores any day now. I've also written about how the basketball jerseys I have hanging in my closet tell the story of my Wizards fandom. For my third and final jersey-related post this month, it's time for a bit of a rant. And it may offend some people who have actually gone out and done this. That's not my intent. I'm just genuinely confused by this stuff. And hey, look, I almost did it too.
When I graduated from college (and by that I mean like when I graduated for good at the age of 25 after seven and a half years of higher education), I treated myself to something I'd wanted for a while: an authentic New York Jets jersey. Go ahead and mock. I'll pause while you do...
Done? Good. This was 1994, before you could go onto the NFL store website and just order one and have it show up a couple of weeks later. This was a big deal and it wasn't necessarily easy to do.
There was a store at the Landmark Mall in Syracuse that I knew could order any jersey you wanted, so when I finally got one of my first paychecks after securing my first real job, I headed there and ordered my own custom Jets jersey. I got it in green and of course I got my favorite player: Number 57, Mo Lewis. After the guy taking my order told me he had no idea who Mo Lewis was, he asked me what name I wanted on the back. And here's where I faltered and made a mistake. I got it without a name.
Know why? Quite simply this thing was expensive (over $100 at that time) and what would I do with it if Lewis was traded or got hurt or just decided to hang it up? I decided it would be more fiscally responsible if I got it nameless, then I could just wear it for years and it would still be authentic and I wouldn't be wearing some has-been's jersey. The problem of course is that without an actual player's name on the back it isn't authentic at all. 
The irony here is Mo Lewis, of course, played another 10 seasons for the Jets and made two All-Pro teams. He ended up being one of the greatest linebackers in Jets history. And the Jets completely rebranded before the 1998 season so my jersey was obsolete long before Mo was.
The one saving grace the day I made that decision? I didn't put Hopwood on the back of the jersey. Know why I didn't do that? Because there has never been a Hopwood that's played for the New York Jets, let alone worn number 57. In fact, there's never been a Hopwood that's played in the NFL at all before. Why get a jersey that's clearly a fake? 
I can't imagine these guys intended to spell Anthony Davis. I'm guessing dude in blue is Davis.
So now that I'm an obsessed Wizards fan, I've obviously changed my jersey philosophy. I own jerseys with Haywood (it's close, right?), Arenas, Blatche, Butler, Singleton, Webster and Wall on the back. Each jersey speaks to a specific timeframe of a few years. Yes, all but one of them are obsolete. And my choice of players and sizes (my Arenas jersey is a size 50; no clue why I bought it that big) makes it impossible to wear any one of them as a meaningful throwback. However, none are blank and none have Hopwood on the back.
So here's my question: why do people buy basketball jerseys with their name on the back when there is clearly no player with that name that has ever donned that particular jersey? It honestly just makes you look like you have this fantasy that you are a pro ball player but the fact that you clearly aren't and never will be is a little sad. Am I wrong? Am I just being mean? I can be mean at times without knowing it. I'm just really confused. I know I already said that.

I can understand it on kids and the last thing I want is to be called a bully for picking on some kid in a Wizards jersey with the name of someone (meaning him, his immediate family and everyone ever named the same last name as him) who's never played in the NBA. They get a pass. They really do. But why do adults do this? 
I can understand people deliberately buying a jersey of a player who's not very good just because they happen to have the same name as you and play on your favorite team. You better believe if the Wizards signed some dude named Hopwood and kept him on the roster for like one game, I'm having one of those jerseys made for me. And I'm wearing it. A lot. I mocked some dude at on Twitter last year for wearing a Nick Young jersey when the Lakers were in town only to find out his last name was Young when I talked with him after the game. I'm totally cool with him doing that.
Non-custom jersey that actually IS a custom jersey. I retracted my mocking on Twitter after talking to him.
But a number 7 Knicks jersey with Davis on the back? Or a 12 Elghonami Knicks jersey (not sure if there's something about Knicks fans here...)? I just don't get it. Can someone please explain it to me? If you are going to drop some cash on a custom jersey, find a player whose game you admire and spend your money on that one. Take a chance that he may not be there forever but show up and support that player (and the team) and show that you really mean it. It's not about you. It's about supporting the team. That's all I have to say and that's the end of the mean-ness on this post I promise.

Having said all that, I did see some guy in Japan this past summer with the ultimate custom jersey. After wolfing down some street food in a place nicknamed Piss Alley (we didn't know that at the time), I saw a guy in a custom number 12 soccer jersey (there are 11 men per side in that sport in case you didn't know that) with the name "Supporter" on the back. Awesome. Simply brilliant. I can get behind that kind of a custom jersey. The rest? I don't know.

Best custom jersey ever.

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