I Bought a Jersey
Luckily, not the one with Newark and Jersey City.
In the weeks before Spring Training, there really isn?t a lot to talk about. Every baseball site has done their prospect lists, done their projections, and written their "What to Watch For in 2003" articles. The baseball cupboard is so bare of stories that the big national debate is about what should be done with the intentional walk. As the Swedish would say, it?s böring. I don?t want to read about Pete Rose anymore. I don?t want to listen to spring training clichés that haven?t changed in a hundred years. I don?t want to read about how half the league is in the best shape of their lives. Obviously, there?s nothing interesting to write about.
I want some baseball.
Maybe that why I bought a Phillies jersey yesterday. I?m not a Phillies fan, and I don?t particularly like the city of Philadelphia. But you should see this jersey! It?s not just any Phillies jersey, mind you, but a replica of the 1980 championship team. It?s the road uni, light blue with broad red-and-white trim and the stylized "P" on the front. It is ? beautiful. It cost me ? well, more than I?m willing to admit to, and now, I?m feeling mighty guilty about it.
You see, 2002 was a really good year for me. I got engaged, bought a house, got a new job, and my Anaheim Angels finally?FINALLY?won a World Series. Sadly, nothing in this world comes free. An engagement means money for rings and weddings and honeymoons, a house means money for mortgage payments and new furniture, and a World Series means money for post-season tickets. While money spent on these items was money well spent, it does mean that other, previously vital, parts of my life had to be cut out of the budget.
Way back in April of 2000, I bought a black Angel warm-up jersey on a whim for $80 bucks, complete with Jim Edmonds? name on the back and that goofy Disney logo on the front. I probably wore that jersey at least twice a week, and to every game I went to. A few months afterwards, I found a Cincinnati Reds jersey on-line for just $45 bucks. "What a deal!" I thought, and whipped out the credit card. ("18% interest on money I don?t have? That?s like free money!") Besides, I had no girlfriend at the time, no house, savings accounts were for chumps, and a post-season in Anaheim was about as likely as a nuclear war with North Korea.
Three years, a couple thousand dollars later, and a few steps closer to the Apocalypse, the whim had become a full-blown obsession. I have close to 40 jerseys now (LeBron James has got nothing on me!), including one of almost every team. I?ve got some repeats; four Angel jerseys hang in my closet, as well as two St. Louis Cardinal jerseys and two different jerseys for the Cubs, Astros and Indians. I hate the Dodgers, but have two Los Angeles jerseys ? one was a gift, and one is a Koufax replica. Those don?t get worn often; I wear a Mike Piazza Met jersey to Dodger games. I picked up a New Orleans Eagles Negro League replica pullover for six bucks on E-Bay. My Oakland Athletics jersey has Rickey Henderson?s name and number on it, and every time I put it on I tell myself that I?m the greatest of all time. I save my black t-shirts to wear with the sleeveless Pirates and Reds jerseys (very classic), but almost never wear the sleeveless Diamondback jersey (no purple t-shirts). On patriotic holidays, I proudly display my USA Olympic Team jersey. I?ll don my Alex Rodriguez Rangers jersey to my city league softball games, hoping to channel some skills, but I haven?t been able to wear the Barry Bonds Giants jersey since he pounded the Angels during World Series. Lately, I?ve taken to wearing to work the uniforms of the truly awful; more likely than not, you?ll find me wearing Marlin, Royals or Devil Ray threads on casual Fridays. Today, I?ve got a San Diego Padre jersey on.
Since I?ve started buying jerseys, I have become an easy check-off on Christmas and birthdays. My fiancée, bless her heart, actually encouraged my habit. "Those are the only clothes you wear, so it makes sense that they?re the only clothes you buy." We?ve joked about wearing uniforms to our wedding with "Bride" and "Groom" stitched on the backs.
I don?t have a Tigers jersey yet, because I want one with Alan Trammell?s #3. (Now that he?s the manager, those should be easier to find.) I have warm-up jerseys for the Mariners, Red Sox and White Sox, but no game jerseys yet. I have a black Oriole jersey, but would prefer a gray one. I don?t have a Twins jersey yet, because contraction drove the prices up (yet strangely, had the opposite effect on Expo jerseys). Before yesterday, I didn?t have a Phillies jersey either, but of course that?s changed.
Now that I have actual big-boy fiscal responsibilities, spending a few hundred bucks a month on baseball paraphernalia just isn?t an option anymore. After all the bills are paid and insurance dealt with, whatever?s left gets zipped into a savings account.
When I was little, sports depended on the season. Summer was for baseball, autumn was for football, and basketball filled the gap between the two. That?s no longer the case. I still watch some basketball (two L.A. Lakers jerseys) and the occasional hockey game (one Team USA hockey jersey), but I basically ignore football (one Dallas Cowboy jersey). As I?ve gotten older, other sports recede into the background, while baseball has become a year-round passion. In the past, I could count on basketball to tide me over until Opening Day. Now, every spring training game is just a reminder that the season still hasn?t started, and it leaves a void only a quality, genuine, MLB-approved throwback jersey could fill.
I haven?t told my fiancée about the jersey, but I will. And I?ll tell her that these jerseys are more than just articles of clothing, and that baseball is not just a game to me. After all, I learned English listening to baseball games on the radio. It was the first sport I learned to play and, at school, it formed the environs within which so many of my friendships were formed. During the starving college years, bleacher seats in Anaheim were the one great joy I could afford to pay for. Now, game nights are a reward for good day?s work, and an occasion to celebrate being with friends while watching the greatest sport in the world. And I?ll tell her that, yes, it sounds stupid and corny, but to me, baseball is a living organism, and that organism has become my oldest friend ? and shouldn?t I subsidize my oldest friend by buying from him something of superior quality? Fine, I?m a moron, but I actually feel uncomfortable if I?m not wearing a jersey. I don?t like the way I look without one on. I don?t feel like me without a jersey.
We make a pretty good living together, she and I. We squirrel away our share of the future, but we still enjoy some of the finer things. After all, what good is money if it doesn?t buy a little happiness? I know we?re trying to save money, I know I definitely overpaid for it, and I really am sorry that I did not at least mention it before I bought it ?
But I?m not sorry I bought the jersey, baby! It?s beautiful!