Summertime is here and as the late, great Harry Caray would often say, "You can't beat fun at the old ballpark." It's a beautiful day and you have the wonderful opportunity to take in a game. You clean yourself up and you're just about ready to leave. But before you place atop your head that slick new 5950 that you dropped about four sawbucks on at Lids, you decide that since you're going to the game, why not look like one of the boys. After all, the best way to support your team is to sport their on-field look. That's right, you're wearing a jersey! The question is now, which one to wear?
Before we get into the crucial decision-making process of which jersey is okay to wear, let's take a step back and look at rise of the jersey-wearer. I've been going to professional and collegiate sporting events most of my life now. Back when I was a kid (way back in the early and mid-1980's) you didn't see the number of people wearing jerseys like you see today. Back when my folks were kids and even up until their teens and maybe even twenties, people dressed up in their Sunday best to go out to a game. Thankfully, for most people, that tradition has gone by the wayside. Can you imagine sitting at the K in the middle of August in a suit and tie? Only if you're one of the rich dudes in the suites. I think I'll stay with my khaki shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops. Anyways, it really wasn't until the early 1990's that the fan jersey was commonplace in the stadium. Honestly, jerseys aren't the most comfortable or cheap thing to wear, so they started marketing the player t-shirts. You know these things, the cotton t-shirt replica that looks like a jersey complete with name and number on the back, but at a fraction of the cost and ten times the comfort. You can get them made to look like your favorite player or you can even have your own name and number put on them. Now you go to a game and you can't spit a sunflower seed without hitting somebody wearing either the real deal or the knock-off.
It's always entertaining when you get to the park to see the jerseys that people will wear. Some old, some new. Some of players that will be HOFers (that's the fancy abbreviation for Hall of Famer) and then some of players that don't even deserve to have their names on their driver's license. (I actually saw a Ken Harvey jersey at a game the other day, had to be a family member or something).
My brother, Richard, and I have had this conversation about jersey-wearing a couple of times. I put in a phone call to my brother-in-law, Dennis, to discuss the topic as well. After all these conversations, I've put together my rules for proper jersey etiquette with some help from the aforementioned duo. So next time you want to head out to a ballgame, please follow these rules:
1) Only wear the jersey of players currently in the organization. If you're a Royals fan, that means no more Zack Greinke jerseys. A player could be in the Minors and it would still be acceptable to wear his jersey. A few years ago, the Royals gave out nice replica button-up Billy Butler jerseys and then a month later he was in Omaha. They're in the system, it's permissible.
2) It's okay to wear a former player's jersey only after they have retired or are completely out of the game. If they're still in the game, then you're supporting the enemy. If a former player returns before retiring, you're okay to wear again. That's why it's important in this day and age of free agency to not ditch your old jerseys because what was once old, may someday become new again (glad I kept my Kerry Wood shirts).
3) For retired players, wear only the jerseys of players that made a positive contribution to said team. Wearing a Mike Sweeney jersey to the game = perfectly acceptable; wearing an Albie Lopez jersey = unacceptable and you should be booed mercilessly from the stadium. When Greinke retires, you guys can take his jersey down off the rack or out of the box in the basement and wear it. Dude won a Cy Young and that's positive enough for me.
4) Cooperstown Collection jerseys by Mitchell & Ness are always acceptable. For starters, you have to have been a stud from back in the day to be immortalized with one. Secondly, if you're going to drop three hundos on a jersey, you should be allowed to wear it.
5) For personalized jerseys, go with your last name. Nicknames on the back are a tricky question. If you do put a nickname on the back, make sure it's clean and family-friendly. Nobody wants to see you with a jersey that says "Rugmuncher" on the back. Also, putting 69 as your number, not original or funny anymore. Go with something else. Okay, it might still be a little funny.
6) Unless you're wearing matching game pants and belt, don't tuck it in. That's just lame. People will point and laugh at you.
I know all of this issue has dealt with baseball, but the same rules apply in all other sports except soccer, because honestly, who cares? There is one other exception and it deals with women and hockey jerseys. They can wear whoever, whatever, whenever, because a good-looking gal + hockey jersey = very sexy.
Ok, time for me to go fill up some boxes to take to Goodwill.