I’ve never been big on wearing sports jerseys. But the unveiling of the new Pacers gear last week got me thinking, for a moment, about purchasing one. I was thinking more of something in M’s size but still, I was in that ballpark. Even when the Cowboys were at their height in the early 90s, I never thought of buying an Aikman, Smith, or Irvin jersey. Now a Haley or Woodson one would have been sweet, but still, the thought never crossed my mind.
Basketball jerseys are problematic because of the sleeveless look. Since basketball is played mostly in winter, it’s tough to go running around in your Bulls <a href=”http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/r/randama01.html”>Mark Randall</a> jersey. Plus, I have skinny arms, so that just makes it more ridiculous.
Baseball jerseys are, to me, the ultimate in wearable sports gear. They clearly identify the team/city. Some, like the Red Sox and Yankees, lack names on the back which brings in the element of only other sports fans will pick up on the significance of certain numbers (A Yankees <a href=”http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers%5Fand%5Fhonorees/hofer%5Fbios/mantle%5Fmickey.htm”>7</a> jersey, or a Sox <a href=”http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/williams_ted.htm”>9</a> jersey, for example). Again though, I never really thought about plunking down the money to purchase a jersey, even back when jerseys were affordable before the retro craze messed with the market.
Well, almost never. In the late summer of 1990 I was contemplating my fall wardrobe and how to allot money for my shopping trips before I went back to college for my sophomore year. I needed a couple pairs of jeans from the Gap. Black Nikes were an absolute must, as this was the beginning of the black shoes trend. Yet for weeks all I thought about was getting a road grey, Pittsburgh Pirates, Barry Bonds jersey. I mean, I couldn’t sleep at night I was thinking about it so much. I had priced one out at $75. That was serious money for a kid who worked two jobs all summer to finance going to an out-of-state college (admittedly one that is famous for cheap tuition). I attempted to justify it by telling myself I would just get one pair of jeans and the cheapest Nikes I could find instead of the Flights I had my eyes on. I tossed and turned over it for days. In my final weeks of work I would obsess about it as I pulled tax forms at the Federal Records Center and wrapped burritos at Taco Bell. I’ve never been one to be on the cutting edge of fashion. I allow trends to develop, find some maturity, and gain acceptance before I suck it up and make purchases to update my wardrobe. But man, a freaking Bonds jersey would set me apart from everyone else on campus. I’d wear it every day. I’d be known as “the guy in the Bonds jersey.” KU was loaded with Royals homers, plenty of people from St. Louis and Chicago sporting their hometown gear. But someone showing up in a Bonds jersey the summer he was blowing up to the tune of .301, .406, .565, 33 home runs, 114 RBIs, and 52 stolen bases? Forget about it.
Looking back, it’s easy to say that not buying the Bonds jersey and going for the two pairs of jeans, two hooded Gap sweatshirts , and Nike Flights was a mistake. It seemed ridiculous at the time to limit myself to one new shirt to get me to Christmas. But given how Bonds’ career progressed, along with the size of his head, if I was hanging out with some guys over beers and casually mentioned I had a Bonds Pirates jersey I bought in 1990 hanging in my closet, I could do whatever I wanted the rest of the night – puke on myself, knock beers over on everyone, start a fight – and still leave with everyone talking about how fucking cool I was.
I did get some consolation, though. The next fall, my mom took a business trip to Pittsburgh and her clients took her to a Pirates game. The <a href=”http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teamstats/roster.php?y=1990&t=PIT”>Pirates</a> had just clinched their second of three-straight division titles (Bonds, Bonilla, Van Slyke, Drabek, Bell, Belliard, Bream, King, Lind, Alou…sick) so she picked up a division championship shirt I wore around for the next couple years. According to a wise man, the fact the shirt was purchased at the stadium made it much cooler, too.