A few weeks earlier in Memphis where I attended the Grizzles vs. Miami Heat NBA game, I saw LeBron James in his No. 6 jersey sitting near where I was in the upper deck. I had never seen James in person before and didn't realize he was only about four and a half feet tall and about 10 years old. Didn't know he was white, either. I guess television distorts those things.
Come to think of it, I saw a lot of James in the FedEx Forum that night. He was standing in line to use the restroom in the concourse and pushing through the crowd on the stairway leading to inside the arena and buying a large foam finger. I even saw him eating a huge tray of nachos, which I thought was odd just before game time.
Sports jerseys are everywhere and I'm sure it's a way to show support for your team. Forbes reports that sales of jerseys are booming. Johnny Manziel's Cleveland Browns uniform is the best-selling football uniform this year — and he's not thrown a pass yet. The Manziel shirt surpassed those worn by Payton Manning, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Of course, Derek Jeter's No. 2 Yankees shirt is the hottest commodity in baseball, according to Forbes.
But, since I'm a becoming a curmudgeon type person in my old age I feel the desire to complain about something. Uniforms are in my sights today. I support my doctor, but I don't wear scrubs when I go in for check ups and I don't throw on a green shirt and cashier apron on visits to my favorite grocery store. And, although I've been accused as such, I don't dress like a clown when I go to a circus.
I wonder what the real players think when they see some old, short, out of shape dumpy guy balancing a drink tray and four hot dogs on his massive belly, all the while wearing that player's shirt.
A year or so after Mark McGwire's steroid-assisted home run “record” barrage of 1998, I took my former father-in-law to see a Cardinals' game in St. Louis. We saw more people wearing McGwire jerseys in the stands than people who live in some of the towns we drove through en route to the game. Some of the McGwire-clad fans couldn't hit a towering home run, let alone climb the towering steps to their seat in the third deck.
Maybe people put on the jerseys and have the Walter Mitty dream of that player getting injured in a game and he or she can step in and fill the player's position. I mean, baseball managers wear uniforms; some have taken a few at bats during games — think Pete Rose, Rogers Hornsby and Frank Robinson. Although, I don't think seeing Tommy Lasorda, bedecked in a Dodgers uniform, fielding a hot grounder to third would encourage a continued love of the game.
Other coaches don't wear jerseys. Can you imagine Gregg Popovich roaming the sidelines of a San Antonio Spurs game while wearing the black and gray shorts with the star-jangled spur on the sides? I'm not ready to see St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock fire a five-hole slapshot during a 2-on-one breakaway, either.
I'm not immune to not wearing jerseys. Or at least I wasn't. I wore my Twins' tee-shirt to Game 5 of the World Series in St. Louis in 1987. Because St. Louis is one of the kinder cities in the Midwest, I wasn't murdered during the game. I once wore a Boston Celtics green nylon jacket while strolling the streets of Philadelphia. A friend told me to leave the jacket in the car unless I wanted to be assaulted. (Reminds me of that old joke: Guy leaves his Celtics jacket in the back seat of his car. He returns to the car later to find someone had broken into the car by smashing out the windows. Police ask him if anything was taken. The guy says, “No, but there's another Celtics jacket in the back seat.”)
When I was a kid in Minnesota in the late 1960s, I wore a Vikings' jersey. It was former linebacker Roy Winston's No. 60 shirt. Most kids wore the jerseys of No. 10 Fran Tarkenton, No. 44 Chuck Foreman or No. 84 Gene Washington. I, keeping in tradition with the northern Minnesota humbleness, had the more obscure guy.
My dad also bought me a Notre Dame Fighting Irish shirt when I was very young. I looked more like the team's leprechaun mascot than some behemoth player.
But because of my athletic inabilities, I realized me wearing some sports shirt was akin to me donning a surgeon's outfit or an auto mechanic's garb. The two just don't fit.
Maybe jerseys are a good clothing alternative and maybe I'm just being a grump. I'd probably wear a St. Louis Blues jersey to support them, but since I'm so fat, people would probably mistake me for the Blues' logo-bedecked Zamboni machine instead of T.J. Oshie.