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RSVPhillippi | december 2017


Jersey Rules

There’s a really good chance some of you will be receiving Grizzlies gear for Christmas this year. It’s not that this year is a particularly special season for the Grizzlies, it’s just that Grizzlies gear is a really simple, lazy gift to give a Memphian. Maybe you’ll get a sweatshirt or a T-shirt. Maybe you’ll get a coffee mug or a couple of tickets to a game. Those would be swell. Maybe you’ll even get a jersey. That’s where we get into a tricky area.

If you get a Grizzlies jersey for Christmas, or whatever holiday you observe, the question becomes, “When do you wear a Grizzlies jersey?” By and large I think the answer to that is either to a game or to a bar to watch a game. To be honest you look a little ridiculous wearing it at the grocery store or to get a haircut. Two important things about sporting your new basketball jersey in public — don’t wear it without another shirt under it, and don’t tuck it in. In this particular case I’m talking about men. The only time a man should be wearing a shirt that exposes his underarms is when mowing the grass or on the way to or from the gym. There is no time when you should tuck in a basketball jersey unless you are actually playing basketball.  Contrary to what you may believe, a tucked in basketball jersey does nothing to de-emphasize your girth. It actually serves to re-emphasize your girth. Again, this applies to men. I have no advice for how women should wear athletic gear, except that most Memphians would just as soon it isn’t a Kansas jersey. That’s just mean.

I own two jerseys, one is a Saints jersey that I’ve had for probably 30 years. Until recently when my wife and I went to a Saints’ game, I probably hadn’t worn that jersey in 20 years. In all likelihood, that’s the last time we went to a Saints game. It’s not that I’m not proud of being a Saints fan, although there were certainly times over the last three decades when it was personal agony to be one, it’s that I just don’t wear jerseys as a fashion staple, and neither should you. The other jersey I own is a Jim Edmonds Cardinals jersey. To my knowledge I have never worn it to anything. Not because I’m not a Cardinals fan, I am, or that I wasn’t an Edmonds fan, I was. It’s just that the jersey is blinding white and I feel silly wearing it. That and I have to constantly tell people who Jim Edmonds is and why I have his jersey.

Personally I like it when someone has an obscure player’s jersey, as long as they’re wearing it at a game. Seeing a Browns’ fan sporting an Eric Turner jersey or a Penguins fan sporting a #64  Jacques Cossette sweater, I know they’re a serious fan. That or they haven’t shelled out money for a new hockey sweater in decades.

A big part of the whole jersey wearing thing is that it’s a good way to meet people. If you’re in a bar watching a game and you’re wearing the jersey of one of the teams, chances are another fan will engage you. Maybe they’ll just strike up a conversation about favorite players or how the coach needs to be fired or how the officials hate your team. Maybe the two of you will just both be screaming the same things at the television. Either way, it’s a way to be social and to have a sense of belonging. By the same token, if you’re wearing the jersey of one of the teams playing and another dude is wearing the jersey of the other team that is playing, the engagement will fall more along the lines of telling you how terrible your quarterback is or how your team is a bunch of floppers. But still, you’re talking to someone and not sitting at home in your tucked in Tom Brady jersey drinking alone.

Obviously (I hope it’s obvious anyway), there is no good reason to wear a jersey that represents a team that isn’t playing. This is particularly true at a live game when wearing a Dolphins jersey to a Jets/Bills game just make you look like an obtuse cheapskate. If you’re not going to pop for a jersey for a team that’s playing, just wear a plain sweatshirt, and for God’s sake, don’t tuck it in.

One thing I hadn’t thought about until I started in on this topic, is the very real possibility of dropping a good-sized piece of change on the jersey of a guy that might later come back to haunt you. It’s not that there’s any shame in having purchased a jersey of a guy who turned out to be a bust. I have no doubt that there are plenty of Ryan Leaf and Greg Oden jerseys buried in people’s drawers and closets. But there are also probably plenty of Brian Bosworth and Michael Vick jerseys hidden out there, and everyone had a pretty good idea both of those guys were tools when they were drafted.

There is a school of thought that there comes a certain age when you should retire your jerseys altogether. Some people believe that a guy my age maybe shouldn’t be wearing a jersey at all. I agree that a guy my age shouldn’t be wearing sandals, rocking a ponytail, squeezing into tight T-shirts, knowing contemporary rap lyrics or riding a scooter, but wearing a jersey, properly, is a timeless option.  It’s not like we think anyone is going to mistake us for an off-duty professional athlete.

So, to sum up, only wear a jersey to a game or bar. Only wear the jersey of one of the teams playing. Never wear a cheap shirt that looks kind of like a jersey. And for the last time, never tuck the thing in.