The Shirt off my Back10
Warning: there’s an angry old man at the typewriter today.
Let’s talk about “jersey fouls.”
I’m not sure who invented this idea, be it some sports merchandising/marketing demagogue, or be it the simple human tendency to march into the arena of war/sport under one selected banner of names, but I am sure of one thing: it pisses me off.
I could go off on the Bills here for changing jerseys last season before this year’s league-wide switch to Nike, prompting fans to buy a new jersey two years in a row – or the Dolphins planning to switch designs next year, which is even more of a dick move, but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to stick to just one sport, and I’m choosing hockey, dammit, because I am already raging enough over the Bills’ decision to slap their fans in their frost-bitten faces by sticking with blackouts.
The best run-on sentence is an angry one. Moving on.
Brad Riter had a good piece on Trending Buffalo a little while back covering his search for some new Bills threads. I loved his angle of being an older guy looking for a way not to appear awkward with the name of some 20-something’s name plastered across your back, but for me, that search is more than awkward.
The whole jersey phenomenon has gotten strange enough and more than a little slightly cultish – but more on that later. First, I’ll bullet point my thoughts as I read Brad’s pointers (pointers in italics).
- Don’t wear a jersey of a guy who is younger than you. Well, since the Sabres decided not to sign the 1,000 year old Dominik Hasek, I guess I’m stuck with Alumni #’s. I would be set with that, if only I hadn’t placed a LaFontaine name plate on a modern-era Sabres jersey – that’s apparently a “jersey foul” too, since he never wore that precise version of the Blue and Gold sweater. Whatever, dicks.
- Be a little creative. Don’t get something that 6 of the 10 guys at your tailgate party will be wearing. Fantastic. That gives us 23 names (off the “active roster”) to be creative with. Hmm. I hear Sekera jersey sales are lagging.
- Don’t get cute/Ironic. Sorry Andrej, looks like we’re narrowing the field back down to the WNY-preferred North American fold. That’s right: I went there. We hate Euros. Why? “Hockey IQ,” my ass.
- Plan ahead. Screw this. All these guys are to eventually be traded away for, well, the next hot jersey promotion. Trust me. You’ll see the Sabres tweet the new guys’ threads on Twitter every time.
- Consider body type – his and yours. I’ve been told I’m too tall for a Gerbe jersey. Screw that. Honey badger fears nothing. Disagree all you want: I’ve seen the body types in line for beer and nachos. How many of us are built like this? Oh, you work out? Shut up.
Brad’s cautionary list stops there. He did not make any of these rules up, and he was certainly not preaching them. But boy, he sure showed how ludicrous the social pitfalls of buying a jersey are like these days.
There are many other rules to the “jersey foul.” Excuse me while I ragestorm over a few of them.
No Frankenjerseys. For those that don’t know, this is the heretical act of sewing the uniforms of two different teams together. Wear one into the arenas of the NHL, and enjoy the teen paparazzi clicking away at you with their cell phone cameras, each one hoping they might earn their glory – a mention on Yahoo! Sports Puck Daddy’s “Jersey Fouls” feature. Parasites.
The Drury. Did your favorite player leave town? Sorry. Time to put the jersey on Ebay for $2.99 and add it to the $199.99 new jersey fund.
Misspelled name. As a wordaholic, I get this one. It also makes a heckuva lot of sense to get the name right if you’re investing 200 bucks of hard earned cash on your chicken wing/beer bib. This sort of thing has no place in the NHL… oh wait. Those alphabetically challenged should just opt for an Ott jersey.
Your own name. You know what? I’d love to see a section full of Nowikis, Deyoungs, Rinaldis, and whoevers. We don’t all have to be Ryan Miller, or Tyler Myers, or whichever veteran flavor of the day is selling at the Sabres’ store. When did game nite become Halloween? When did watching hockey together begin to require us all to surrender our most basic individuality?
Anyway, there’s plenty more of these ridiculous “rules,” but I’m already pissed off enough, so if this stuff is so important to you, look up the rest on your own.
I’m done feeding into it.
Still, we are now compelled to spend our money on Millers, Vaneks, and Pominvilles – after the tickets, the parking, the beer/pop and the food. After the NHL Ticket, after the ballcaps, the garden gnomes, the bobbleheads, trading cards, mini-sticks, socks, team underwear, did I say garden gnomes? The car flags, the stickers, the posters, the license plate frames, the pennants… (hey, remember when the Sabres won the pennant that one time? Good lord). The list goes on.
Here’s my proposal for a new 2 rule system for jersey regulation:
- Put whatever you want on your hard earned jersey. Hack it in two, and splice it together with some Amerks threads. Go all out and put your own name on the back. You still won’t be a member of the team. Enjoy the game.
- Join the mob. Buy a Name. Be Miller. Be Vanek. Be Pominville. You still won’t be a member of the team. Enjoy the game.
Funny thing is, that’s where the whole “jersey foul” notion seems to begin and end: if you do it wrong, you’re not playing right, you’re not with it, you’re not on the team. Then again, if you follow the rules, YOU ARE STILL NOT ON THE FREAKING TEAM.
You want to know why people put their own names on the backs of their jerseys, or mash them together into Frankenjerseys? Because it’s fun.
No, these people that you see are not idiots, or social outcasts, or deranged in any way. They do not deserve to have pictures of their backs plastered all over the Internet for the rest of the jersey wearing hordes to guffaw at.
You know what’s not fun? An endless sea of Ryan Millers hunched over in their seats backstopping nothing but the serving end of a gigantic beer. Or worse, actually being the fan who fouled up a jersey, and has to put up with a night of cyber stalking and smarmy giggling from the clique that bought into this BS.
Assholes: we’re at a hockey game, not a Nazi revival camp. There’s no need to fucking police each other.
There was once a time when you went to the good old hockey game in jeans and a shirt. Or a suit. It was the folks who came in dressed in jerseys that raised a curious eyebrow back then – those were the ones just a little too much into the game. Now, the NHL and other leagues have the notion of the “jersey foul” a little too much into the heads (and the wallets) of their fans.
Me? I’m done. I’ve been through an Audette, a LaFontaine (again, so egregiously placed on a Blue and Gold version that wasn’t precise enough to his tenure, since those are kinda hard to come by), a Drury, and a possibly soon to be obsolete Stafford.
I’m done buying into the rules. But the rules are going to persist, right? Mob Rules wins every time. I’ve given enough, I’ve spent enough, and I’m done. I’ve given this league – literally – the shirt off my back, and the blood sweat and tears of my dollar. And haven’t we all? If the guy with the fouled up jersey ain’t on the team, neither is anyone else in the stands. We’re all paying for this whole hockey thing to exist.
Again, disagree all you want. You’ve got an army of fellow Millers standing alongside you.
Oh, and whether you do the jersey thing right or do it wrong, a subtle reminder on how the league cares about how we go about this: “lockout.”
Get me the hell outta’ here, Roger Cozier and your well dressed fans.
Classy threads. Those were the DAYS.
next post: All that Sabres Fans Need to Know about the Doan Offer