The Jersey Rules

Purchasing a pro game jersey is a difficult adult choice to justify. You’re paying as much as $200 to say to the world, “I really, really like this person I don’t know!” I’m not saying that I don’t support the notion on some level. I own jerseys myself and will probably continue to spend a disconcerting amount of my disposable income on them. But it’s important to understand that when we spend this kind of money on these strangely decorated, poorly fitting items of clothing and then wear them out in public, the majority of the world basically sees us as the ‘I like turtles kid’.

I firmly believe in strict adherence to a certain set of rules when it comes to buying and wearing pro jerseys as an adult. I’ve prepared this official FAQ as a bible of sorts to help guide you through this part of your life as a sports fan.

My girlfriend has pointed out to me that there are occasions wherein track pants are not appropriate attire. Society as a whole seems to back her up on this. Does a similar set of social guidelines apply to the wearing of basketball jerseys as well?

Yes, yes it does. Appropriate and in fact encouraged situational jersey wearing scenarios include, and are limited to:

  1. Cutting the lawn. Generally speaking, any kind of outdoor sweaty + dirty physical labor excuses any clothing choices made for the duration of said labor.
  2. Watching a game. You can wear any jersey you want if the game is on television. However, if you’re at the arena you must be wearing the jersey of a player or team who is actually playing. Under no circumstances are you to be this guy.
  3. Playing any kind of recreational sports with your friends. Two hand touch football, a game of 21, ladder golf or Frisbee on the beach. Jerseys are cool, comfortable and breath well; the practical argument gives you the necessary out. Understand though that if you’re playing in a competitive game of ball or playing with people that you don’t know, you had better be very good, or very ok with being openly mocked about how you’re not. That is the price you pay.
  4. When you’re in your own home, without company, and it doesn’t happen every day. I don’t care who your girlfriend is; she loves you despite the fact that you wear professional sports jerseys, not because you think that your guns look good in them.
  5. That is all. Before you even ask, no, there are no other times, and there are no exceptions.

Is it cool to have your own name printed on the back of a custom jersey?

Not unless you still wear Velcro shoes, and do so by necessity. If you’re of an age where your parents don’t have to sing “make a bunny ear, then make another, put them through the hole, then pull!” to help you tie your big boy shoes, then you’re too old for a two sizes too big personalized jersey. I’m sorry. Also, wrestling is fake, credit cards aren’t free money, girls don’t give a crap about nice guys until at least their mid-to-late twenties and you’re never going pro. I know this is hard, but let’s be grown ups. Now, if someone with your last name gets traded to, signed or drafted by your team, then by all means, go nuts.

No matter whose jersey I wear, will both my friends and random people alike accost me with their surprisingly strong opinions about that player?

Yes. People don’t agree on anything about sports. ‘Now hold on just a minute there Andrew’, you’re saying to me, ‘I’ve had plenty of great conversations about sports where the phrase ‘I agree completely’ was said repeatedly.’ I know you have. I have too, and as a bartender, every single conversation I’ve ever heard two people with half a drink in them have about any given sports team has too. Having someone else validate your opinion is awesome. The world does not appreciate everyone’s individual sports-related genius enough. What I’ve also heard is each and every one of those conversations where people were passionately agreeing with each other and becoming super best friends suddenly turn in to something between a spirited debate and a potentially violent argument. That’s what’s so great about sports. It’s also what’s the absolute worst about sports.

I’m a super fan. I am going to buy and wear a jersey. Whatever, I’m owning it. Does the choice of jersey that I make have a fundamental reflection on who I am as a human being?

Very much so. It’s a more complicated choice than you may have realized. Which jersey you choose to wear can say a lot about you. For instance, wearing a Toronto Raptors Vince Carter #15 tells people that (unless you just finished winning the 2013 dunk contest) any conversation about basketball with you will instantly devolve into an argument and be exactly as annoying as you think it will. By contrast, someone wearing an inaugural season Oliver Miller jersey probably has a sense of humor. If you see someone wearing a Mickael Pietrus jersey, it means that they’re obviously related to Mickael Pietrus.

My friend Josh has a theory that guys who play pick-up ball in big man jerseys always suck. Personally, I think this theory has a lot to do with his frustration about not being able to defend my low-post game. The fact that I can’t dribble or ever beat him 2 games out of 3 goes a long way towards proving his argument though. There simply isn’t a big enough sample size to be sure. Unlike the rule that the guy in the ‘Melo jersey will never pass and puts up a ton of bad shots. That one is true. The salesman at Footlocker should make you fill out a hero ball questionnaire and misplaced self-confidence personality test before you’re allowed to take one in to the change room.

Which Toronto Raptors player’s jersey do you endorse?

I like to look at each season that’s past as a competition for the jersey that best represents the best of the team from that year. Which player is the most endearing or exciting? Which player do I most want to associate myself with? Which jersey will be met with more positivity than criticism or derision on the street? Which jersey am I least likely to be embarrassed wearing?

I have a very clever name for this, and I call it, the Jersey Award! So, who won 2012-2013?

The woops:

Kyle Lowry

After the first two weeks of the season, everyone in Raptors nation wanted a Lowry #3, and we wanted them bad. By the end of the season, most of us considered ourselves lucky that we couldn’t find one anywhere in the GTA during November, because that money now seems better spent on pretty much anything.

The ironic choice:

Aaron Gray

Despite the abundance of available used jerseys for sale in Kensington Market, the basketball jersey is not a trending hipster fashion choice. For those looking to sport the ironic look that is beginning to define the current generation, Aaron Gray has to be your choice. Aaron Gray is a professional athlete who actually managed to get in visibly worse shape as the season went on. That’s difficult to understand. Look, Aaron Gray defenders, let me stop you before you start. I’m not trying to hate on AG34. I cheer for the guy too. I was there in person for the ‘Aaron Gray game’ this year. I’ve heard through the Real Sports waitress grapevine that he’s the nicest guy on the team. He looks like a 300 lbs. teddy bear; the man is adorable. I get it. But would you ever pay money for an Aaron Gray jersey? I didn’t think so. And that’s what makes kids today think that it’s cool. I don’t get it either, let’s move on.

The also rans:

DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay

Look, I’m actually a lot more bullish on these two than most. I’m looking forward to the coming season and the improvement and role adjustments both players will make. Also, contracts don’t matter in a conversation about jerseys. But if you feel like either one of these guys were the best thing to happen on the Raptors last season, then we’re probably not going to be best friends.

Runner up:

Jonas Valanciunas

I’m going to pre-emptively address the comment section battle before it begins here. Trust me, you’re going to be sick of Valanciunas praise pieces by November, be ok that you’re not getting one now. This is almost definitely going to be Big Val’s spot next year. But the big man barely got to play this past season, and didn’t get featured in offensive sets until it was almost April. I’m buying every Jonas Valanciunas stock I can get my hands on. But the rules that I’ve arbitrarily decided for this award require that it be given for performance already earned. Brief glimpses, potential and summer league don’t count. Summer League never counts. In the immortal words of (the as it turns out bat-shit crazy) Ric Flair, in order to be the champ (Woo!), you have to beat the champ (Woo!). And Amir Johnson is this past year’s champ.

2013 Jersey Award:

Amir Johnson

On a team that failed to come anywhere close to expectations and finished a disappointing 10th place, Amir is the one player who was never disappointing. He always played hard and gave a crap. His game notably improved from the season previous and over the course of the season. He actually likes playing in Toronto. His defensive chemistry and big-to-big passing with Ed Davis was the most entertaining month of the season. He did this, and this, and this, and this. He’s the hardest guy on the team to hate and by virtue of that the easiest one to love.

So, in conclusion, my recommendation is that you drop $150 on an Amir Johnson jersey this summer… and then almost never wear it.

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