Why You Should Not Wear A Sports Jersey

The question of whether or not to wear a sports jersey is a common topic of discussion among folks like me who spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about clothes. As a style-minded gentleman, it makes sense that you would do a quick Google search for some guidance and to see what others thought on the subject. The answers you would find would range from “Yes, jerseys are ok. Don’t be so uptight” to “No, jerseys are ugly”. While I generally fall into the “No” camp, I think the usual argument for not wearing jerseys focuses on the wrong thing.

When people say you shouldn’t wear a jersey, it’s usually from an aesthetic perspective. Jerseys are usually ill-fitting, brightly colored, and made of polyester. The problem with this argument is that the people who wear jerseys don’t do so because they necessarily LOOK good. They wear them to show support for their team or because they are a fan of a certain player. If that team happens to have ugly colors, then so be it. It doesn’t matter. So trying to reason that jerseys are (usually) ugly and “not stylish” falls on deaf ears.

My reasoning for not wearing jerseys and advising you to do the same runs a little deeper. It stems from, you guessed it, my perception of how it affects my children. I know you’ll probably think, “Richard, you need to relax. It’s just a jersey”. I get it, but hear me out.

When I was a kid I followed sports heavily. Because I was a fan, I wore a handful of different jerseys. I had my navy Yankees jersey. My Bulls jersey. I even had a Buffalo Bills jersey (which was a rare find for a kid living downstate in a sea of Giants/Jets jerseys). In the same vein, many of the pictures on my bedroom wall were of popular athletes of the day. Thurman Thomas, Penny Hardaway, Dominik Hasek, Derek Jeter, and of course, Michael Jordan. I definitely considered myself a “fan” of those teams and those players.

Then I grew up.

Ok, that sounded harsher than I wanted it to, but that was the first thing that came to mind after I wrote that last paragraph. I grew up. That’s what happened. I don’t mean that the act of wearing a jersey is childish, but the REASON for wearing the jersey (and the pictures on the wall) definitely was. I was a “fan”. Being a “fan” when you’re a grown man is a problem.

I often wondered why I don’t follow sports as closely as I used to. I used to know starting lineups, batting averages, home run totals, career rushing yards, and on and on. Not anymore. I loosely follow sports but it’s more out of passing curiosity. I know the big names and the big storylines but that’s about it. The sport I most closely follow is MMA, but I still only watch a small fraction of the fights.

When other people talk about sports I often feel like Rip Van Winkle. Like I have been asleep for the past 20 years and can only interject when the conversation meanders towards the “old days”. I feel like my dad must have felt talking about Mickey Mantle or Joe Frazier.

There just isn’t the same magic in it anymore. And the reason for that is because I don’t idolize athletes the way I did when I was a kid. Back then, I legitimately “looked up to” Michael Jordan. He was larger than life. So his athletic exploits seemed that much more magical. The flu game. The push-off and jumper to sink the Jazz for three-peat #2. These people were worthy of fandom.

When I became an adult I recognized what all these athletes were. They were just guys. Talented, hardworking, fortunate, wealthy, physical anomalies. But… just guys. People. Flawed, just like the rest of us. As an adult I could be impressed with their athletic achievements. But I wouldn’t put it (or them) on a pedestal the way I did when I was a kid.

Since I am an adult, I am not a “fan” of anyone. You shouldn’t be either.

What pictures do I have on my walls now, as an adult? Holding my newborn sons in the hospital. My wife’s doctoral graduation. Drinking wine in a Parisian café. These are my own accomplishments, not somebody else’s. These are the memories I created, not the memories someone else created that I merely witnessed.

That all being said, as far as the wearing of a jersey… I can’t imagine feeling comfortable putting on a shirt with the name of another man on the back. I have my own name that I am proud of. My wife and my sons share my name, as well, and I love that. Imagine you and your wife bumped into Tom Brady in person and you were wearing a shirt with HIS name on it. Wouldn’t that feel incredibly emasculating? Like he owned you? Like you were his handmaid?

And I get how feeling part of a tribe can be nice. It’s comforting to feel like you have community. But I argue it’s more meaningful to feel connected to your family. To your heritage. To your faith. I’m not saying you can’t watch and enjoy sports and root for your team. But keep it all in perspective.

You’re probably thinking that my view on this comes from a place of insecurity. That very well may be true. But think about the message you’re sending to your kids by NOT wearing a jersey. You’re telling them that these athletes are regular people. They make mistakes like everyone else. Very few are worthy of true admiration, and even then, it’s usually for reasons only tangentially related to sports (Roberto Clemente, Jackie Robinson). It says to them that they shouldn’t live vicariously through others. To not get so wrapped up in things they have no control over. To be proud of who THEY are.

Idolizing other people is fine when you’re a kid. Kids see the world in a much more black/white way than we do. But the person your kids should look up to the most is YOU. Don’t give up your status in the family by going all geeky fangirl over another grown man. Your kids see that stuff. What it tells them is that they should be more impressed with hitting a curveball than their dad (and mom) working every day and sacrificing to provide a comfortable life for them.

I know people who have even named their children after beloved athletes from their childhood. Athletes who are still alive. I bet more than a few parents regret naming their kid “O.J.” but it seemed like a good idea to them at the time.

Bottom line: They’re just regular people. They usually are not worthy of fandom, since almost no one is.

Don’t be a “fan” of anyone.

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