So, I was in Cincinnati for a reunion of the Big Red Machine -- did I mention I'm writing a book? -- and it was a lot of fun, and there were all sorts of hilarious items that I will try to share, but for the moment I have to discuss an important matter.
Namely: The sports jersey with your name on the back.
I think I have about 17 million of these jerseys now with my name on the back. The only one I bought for myself was, oddly enough, a personalized New York Islanders jersey that I bought when I was, like, 18 years old. I became a pretty big Islanders fan then because of my high school buddy Rob, and because I loved Mike Bossy. Also, I figured that since Cleveland no longer had a hockey team*, I was more or less free to pick and choose.
*Poor Cleveland Barons.
And because I had inherited this horrendous sports legacy of the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers -- through no fault of my own -- I felt like I deserved one winning franchise. Just one. I had earned that. So I picked the Islanders, who had won four consecutive Stanley Cups. Of course, as soon as I picked the Islanders, they stopped winning Stanley Cups, and the Edmonton Oilers took over, and I despised the Oilers and, then the Islanders became a fiasco, and yes, it is just abundantly clear that I am doomed to never, ever have any connection to a winning franchise.** It's like my Superpower or something.
**Which reminds me that I have not really written about how my season is going as a Fulham FC fan in the Premier League. I suppose that I have not really had much to write about yet. I have been way too busy working my five jobs to really get into it, though I will say that I have kept my eye on them and was happy to see Fulham finish off Tottenham-Hotspur on an Andrew Johnson goal in the second half. Is it cool to say someone scored in the second half in soccer or are you supposed to really break it down to the minute -- Johnson scored in the 69th minute? Why don't we do that in pro football? "And then in the 41st minute, Manning threw to Addai for the touchdown." Why don't we do that in baseball? "And then in the 179th minute, A-Rod homered to give the Yankees an 8-7 lead over Baltimore. That was the fourth inning."
I still need to fully integrate myself into Fulham life, but I do feel good about my choice. A good friend of mine Chuck Culpepper, who wrote this hilarious and wonderful book about being an American in English soccer, wrote to me from London to say that picking Fulham was a lot like picking the Atlanta Hawks as your favorite team -- no great character, no great history and no real chance of breaking through. Yes, it seems like I have picked my kind of team.
ANYWAY, for reasons that would be pointless and confusing to explain, I have two Kansas City Royals jerseys, one Milwaukee Brewers jersey, one Cleveland Browns jersey, one Oakland Athletics jersey, one Atlanta Hawks jersey (yes) and, now, a 1975 Cincinnati Reds jersey, all with my name on the back. All of them were gifts of some kind. The personalized 1975 jersey, the latest addition to the closet, was a gift for spending a gargantuan amount of money to be at the Big Red Machine Reunion dinner*.
*For the money, I also got a personalized bottle of Makers Mark and in a sudden and bizarre turn, a handshake from pop singer Nick Lachey. Don't even ask how that happened. He seemed like a nice guy though.
So here's my problem: I obviously will not wear these personalized jerseys in public. They are pretty nice -- the Brewers jersey in particular is very nice. But, come on, I can't walk around wearing jerseys that have my name on the back, can I? Seriously, I need a ruling on this. It seems to me there is no cool way to walk around wearing a sports jersey with your name on the back. OK, maybe if your name is Johnson or James or Cobb or Urlacher you could get away with it. But a man with my big honking name filling out my back, it makes me look like some kind of egomaniacal self-billboard. I keep thinking of that scene from City Slickers where Bruno Kirby wears that jacket with his own picture on it.
Billy Crystal:I really wish you hadn't worn that jacket.Kirby:What's wrong with it?Crystal:Look at it. It's got your name and your picture on it. It's a little grotesque.Kirby:I'm proud of what I do.Daniel Stern: So is the President -- he doesn't wear a picture on his suit.
So, what to do? I can't really wear these jerseys. On the other hand, I can't give them away -- who would want a sports jersey with my name on it? And I can't give them to charity for the same obvious reason. Also, they were gifts.
What to do. The decisions of middle age. I'm driving back home today -- and I'll wear my 1975 Reds jersey. I think it's OK to wear in the car. Also I'll wear a jacket over it.*
*You know the joke from the headline, right? "If Mississippi bought Missouri a New Jersey, what will Delaware? Idaho. Alaska." It's big with the kids. Or, anyway, the kids from 1911.