Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Some Original Observations on Replica Jerseys

While I was waiting for a flight out of Pittsburgh yesterday morning I noticed that the replica Steelers jersey that the guy next to me was wearing was for #11, Stefan Logan, the diminutive and somewhat effective kick returner last season who will probably have to fight for a roster spot this year. This started me thinking about people's less-than-obvious replica jersey choices. Steelers fans as a population seem to cover a broad range of current players; among the sea of Polamalus and Wards and (now conspicuously underrepresented) Roethlisbergers you spot more than a few shirts for Ryan Clark or James Farrior or other above-average but second-tier performers. And here the Post-Gazette's Blog-n-Gold documents a sighting of a throwback jersey for Dan Sepulveda, the punter. Is this just a Steelers thing, or does it happen for other talented and successful pro teams? It's tempting to chalk it up to the collective erudition of the fan base ("see, we appreciate the contributions of a solid veteran cornerback like Ike Taylor, even if he's not the brightest light in the secondary!") but I wager it's a side effect of people trying to differentiate themselves within the mass of more popular choices.

This thought tied in with the replica jerseys (or simple, cheaper t-shirts) on display at PNC Park at the Pirates/Cubs game on Memorial Day. (Good times, Garrett Jones dinger, Pirates won, thorough drenching just minutes after the last out when the sky finally opened up into an earnest downpour.) Pirates fans exhibit an interesting array of jersey choices, too, though for the very different reason that the team has very few successful players, or beloved veteran players, or even recognizable players. (As Jack pointed out to me as a sign of the times, fans approaching the stadium from the Roberto Clemente Bridge are greeted by a large, prominent banner with a full-body portrait of backup catcher Jason Jaramillo, of all people.) Add in some Fukudomes and Ryne Sandbergs and whatnot from the typically large number of Cubs fans in attendance and it was a remarkable mix. Not "remarkable" in the sense of being shocking but in the sense of bearing being remarked upon. Thus some remarks on the jerseys I saw:

Andrew McCutchen (#22): The home team's only undisputed star in the making. Many of these on display; if Cutch is ever traded most of them will be stuffed into bottles of gasoline, lit on fire, and thrown at the stadium.

Garrett Jones (#46): Solid representation for Jones, whose breakout in the second half of last season as an older rookie is a great story, and a good deal more heartwarming than the starting lineup's more typical "elite prospect a couple years ago who sort of washed out of some other team's system" bio. Hopefully a good investment.

Jason Bay (#38), Freddy Sanchez (#12), Jack Wilson (#2): All fairly recent examples of the successful and/or beloved veteran players no longer with the Pirates. Bay seemed the most prevalent.

Paul Maholm (#28): A solid choice for a replica jersey, given that he's been with the team a few seasons and seems to be fulfilling a respectable, Bryan Bullington-esque destiny as a number-three-type starter. Probably purchased during or soon after his breakout season a couple years ago. I can't remember if I saw a Zach Duke shirt or not; if so, same story.

Andy LaRoche (#15): I guess this was a hopeful replica jersey pick, as in "I hope Andy LaRoche rounds into the elite player he was once projected to be / Contributes solidly at his position / Is still in the starting lineup a year after I buy this shirt". Alternatively, it could have been marked down 40% at the Pirates store two months after the Jason Bay trade.

"DR LOVE" (#69): As I saw here, one alternative to the Bucs' lack of star power is to spend like $80 on a sex joke. Jack and I both spotted this one together on our way into the stadium, and one of the advantages of hanging out with him in person is that we can riff on this sort of thing in real time. In this case, imagining how disappointed the thirtysomething-looking gentleman wearing this jersey would be if he found out that it actually belonged to an obscure middle reliever of eastern European extraction. "Now pitching for the Pirates, number sixty-nine, MikoĊ‚aj DZHER-luff!" That sort of thing.

To me the puzzling aspect of this sartorial choice, aside from a rather mother-hennish feeling of "what in the world do you expect people to think of you when you wear that in public", was that it was a gray, road-jersey replica. Why the away uniform? Is the man an out-of-towner? Is he specifically trying to advertise to the local ladies that he's available for a limited-time-only, no-strings-attached, most-likely-at-a-Hilton-Garden-Inn-by-the-airport dalliance? Or is he just accepting, if he's the slobbier sort of bachelor -- and I'd like to go ahead and make that assumption -- that all of his laundry is destined to wind up that same shade of gray anyway?

Andy Van Slyke (#18): Natch. A beloved Pirate on the last of their winning teams and their most recent center fielder of any enduring quality prior to McCutchen. Right about two decades ago.

Roberto Clemente (#21): Even farther back but, of course, he's the Great One. In fact, one of the #21 t-shirts just had "The Great One" in place of the name; although it looks pretty corny I appreciate the sentiment.

I want to take some time to talk about the also-corny, pre-game animated sequence they show on the PNC Park scoreboard. In keeping with a pirate theme it represents the Pirates as a pirate ship and the opposing team as a warship of some kind. In past years the animation has shown the pirate ship sinking the other ship. This time, however, it showed some variation in which -- and I may have this wrong, since I was spot-checking the scoreboard with one eye and making sure my sandwich wasn't dripping pulled pork into my beer with the other -- the opposing ship fired a cannonball over the stadium, at which point the big Roberto Clemente statue outside the gate picked it up and, as though rifling a baseball to third base from deep in right field, threw it on a rope back into the other ship, sinking or at least substantially damaging it. And while I may be reading too much into it here I'd like to make the point to the club that Roberto Clemente isn't going to win any Pirates games any more. To sink other teams the front office will have to induce less heroic but still living players to play for the Pirates, perhaps even by offering to pay them lots of money.

Sid Bream (#5): A lanky guy sitting near us was wearing this ratty old jersey, presumably bought when the Pirates were good in '88 or '89 and possibly just because the guy kind of looked like Bream. I can understand not replacing the shirt until the team looks good again. But seriously, Sid Bream? There's some bad history with that one.

Ronny Cedeno Cubs uniform (#5): One of the Chicago fans wore a replica jersey from the current Pirates shortstop's time with the Cubbies, I guess as an acknowledgment of... what? I don't know what would inspire someone to buy a Ronny Cedeno jersey in the first place, since he was never really that good. Maybe the Stefan Logan guy in the airport knows.

Matching Sean Casey and Adam LaRoche t-shirts (both #25): These were kind of adorable, in that as we were leaving the stadium I saw them worn by what looked like a young couple. Or maybe they're just friends who kissed awkwardly at a party and regretted it later. You know, because first base just didn't work out for them.


Blogger Jack said...

I thought DR LOVE was way older than that -- I would have put him around 45. Either way he wasn't making that look work.

6/03/2010 8:40 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

Nate, of course, is the expert on this type of thing, given his Dan Kreider Steelers replica jersey.

6/04/2010 9:40 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home