Thursday, December 3, 2009

Anatomy of a Jersey Selection

It's December already? Wow. Christmas is quickly approaching, and you'd like Santa to get you a cool jersey.  But which one do you choose to put on your list?  The jersey-selection process is quite a science, trust me.  I've made every jersey faux pas known to sports fans, so I think I can help.  Here's how you should proceed.  Consider every option before you make a choice.

The Draft Pick:
You're stoked about your team's most recent first-rounder (or second rounder, in some cases), and the Cheese of the organization just gave Mr. Super-Athlete the big bucks, so you decide he's your guy.  He's a no-brainer.  He was incredible in college, maybe won the Heisman, and is going to be a stud in the pros, you have no doubt.

You promptly buy a Reggie Bush jersey. Ohno!

(Not to say Reggie isn't a good football player, but if you splurged and bought a Bush jersey (like I so desperately wanted to) you've seen a career of mediocrity, injury, and only a few flashes of brilliance - don't you wish you would have gone with the "Star" approach?)

I was with you on this approach for the longest time.  I loved when the Steelers would draft new players so I could ogle at the sight of new jerseys in all the stores.

Grant's previous choice:  Antwaan Randle-El, former wide-receiver/returner, Pittsburgh Steelers. 

So, I got overly-excited and asked for an Antwaan Randle-El jersey.  Ugh.  Horrible.  He ran back a few punts for touchdowns in his first year and I thought, "Alright, I made a great choice! Guy's electric!" But then I realized he couldn't play wide receiver if I was covering him, and El hit the road in free agency.  Jersey Gods - 1, Grant - 0.  Proceed with caution.

The Popular Role Guy:
I've been a fan of this one too, and the "Role Player" theory is one I fully endorse.  Go with a sure-handed tight end, a sixth man (Ben Gordon comes to mind), or a lock-down defenseman (Nicklas Lidstrom?).  But please, avoid kickers at all costs.  You'll just look like you're trying too hard. (Side note: The kicker part also applies to putting your own name on the back of the jersey...don't do it.  You'll just look dumb)

Grant's previous choice: Heath Miller, tight end, Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sure-handed, reliable, and has a long-term contract.  Bingo.

The Star Player:
To me, this is a rookie mistake.  You go to the local sporting goods store and you see "Peterson," "James," "Ovechkin," or "Manning" and you automatically pounce and say, "YES! I love jersey shopping. So fun and so convenient!"  Wrong.

Sure, the star has lasting power, and yes he's the best and most well-known of the players on the team, but how many people do you see in stadiums wearing the pin-striped #2? Way. Too. Many.  But ok, I can't fault you for wanting to go with the biggest and the best.

So go ahead, be cliché.  Creativity and imagination? Nah, not needed.  Psh, I remember MY first jersey (black-and-gold Jerome Bettis jersey)...haven't seen any of those before now have you?

Grant's previous choice(s): Roethlisberger, Polamalu, a blue Sidney Crosby jersey, 

The Collegiate Favorite:
This is close, but it's not quite what you want.  Main problem?  Slightly different from the "El" situation, college players have a permanent shelf life.  Then after that, you're subject to one of a few scenarios:

Scenario One:  Because most college jerseys don't have names attached, you get post-player-graduation questions like, "Whose jersey is that?" And you end up explaining who the player is, why you bought the jersey, and why the player was so, so good when he played.

Scenario Two:  Once again, because of the no-names thing, you get asked, "Is that (insert player who has taken your jersey's number)'s jersey? Good choice!"  You can either lie and say you recently bought the jersey because you like said player, or you can repeat the end of scenario one.

Grant's previous choice: Julius Page, number 1, former high-flying guard, Pittsburgh Panthers basketball.  

Page was my favorite player when I first started loving Pitt basketball.  I would have loved to see him in a dunk contest, but never got the chance.  In his sophomore and junior seasons, the kid could hit three's from literally everywhere.  He was fast, he was electric, and he was a joy to watch on the court.  Unfortunately Julius couldn't hit the Berlin Wall (before it got torn down, of course) in his senior year, but my love for JPage didn't end.

(Side note for scenario two: Keith Benjamin and Travon Woodall. The two players who wore Page's number after he graduated.  In my eyes, neither will ever be able to carry Julius' jock strap, but I am slightly biased)

The Team Jersey:
"But Grant, I don't want to fall victim to any of these problems, so I'm just gonna get a jersey that doesn't have a name or number on the back...solves all my problems."

Don't let a few bad relationships get you turned off from them altogether!  You have to take a chance!  Don't close your heart off forever! Wait, what am I talking about here?

Grant's previous choice(s): Assorted non-commitments

Something resembling a hockey jersey with PITTSBURGH spelled out diagonally across the front.  I guess my parents thought I could wear it to any sporting venue?

And, most recently, a Pittsburgh Pirates jersey.  Come on! You can't blame me for that! They trade EVERYONE, ALL THE TIME.  I'm a huge Pirates fan and I have to support my team, but it's just a bad investment!  Get off my back, please.

The Throwback:

The throwback is the no-risk, all-reward selection.  It's the Kevin Durant-as-the-first-pick choice, it's that eas--oh wait, Portland missed on that one. Ok, bad example, but you get the idea.  You can't lose with a throwback.

The majority of players available for purchase on a throwback are already either in the Hall of Fame or extremely close.  And as an added bonus, throwbacks are usually cool colors that show off how classy an individual you are.  Plus, you aren't obligated to pick a throwback of your own team, so if, say, you're a fan of the now-0-18 New Jersey Nets, you could go with a Shawn Kemp or a Shaq-circa-Orlando jersey.

Also, you have the option of something outside professional sports...may I suggest a Rizzo sweater?

Grant's future choice: Rod Woodson, former defensive back, Pittsburgh Steelers

Number 26 was my favorite Steeler when I was little, and one of my most vivid early memories is seeing RW intercept an Oakland Raiders pass and return it for a touchdown along the far sideline.  He was the best.

If you're in a bind, and in need of a jersey, I suggest you print this out and keep it with you while you shop.  I'm not saying my methods are foolproof, but if the saying "You have to lose before you can win" is true, then I think I've made enough bad jersey decisions to deem my current strategy at least "usable."

Have a great time, jersey shopping is simply good, old-fashioned, family fun. Thanks for reading.


  1. Throwback Black and Gold Mario Lemieux jersey. Best $120 I ever spent.


  2. Let me just run down the list and see where my jerseys fall. HaHa. Some of these are from a very long time ago, but, no surprise, most of them still fit.

    The Draft Pick
    -Javon Walker-84-Packers

    The Popular Role Player
    -Robert Brooks-87-Packers
    -Dorsey Levens-25-Packers

    The Star
    -Brett Favre-4-Packers
    -Reggie White-92-Packers
    -Ahman Green-30-Packers
    -Eddie George-27-Titans
    -Charles Woodson-24-Raiders
    -Shaq-Team USA
    -Charles Barkley-34-Purple Suns
    -Barry Larkin-11-Reds
    -Reggie Sanders-16-Reds

    The Collegiate Favorite
    -Andy Katzenmoyer-45-Ohio State
    -Orlando Pace-71-Ohio State Rose Bowl Edition
    -Onterrio Smith-2-Oregon

    The Team
    -Reds-same reason as you
    -Phoenix Coyotes

    The Throwback
    -LaDainian Tomlinson-21-powder blue Chargers
    -Terry Glenn-88-Royal Blue Patriots
    -35-Pittsburgh Craewfords Negro League
    -Chris Webber-Bullets

    I've had more than I thought. Gees