SOMEONE EXPLAIN THE JERSEY THING TO ME

I did my usual spot on the Seibel and Starkey show on 93.7 The Fan today and Joe Starkey asked me if I understood the jersery thing–meaning grown men wearing  team jerseys with their favorite players’ names on the back.

I told him I  didn’t get it at all and I don’t.

So help me out here. As I said on the radio, I can not for a second picture my dad walking into Forbes Field wearting  a Bobby Layne Jersey or Pitt Stadium wearing a Kent Nix jersey. It just doesn’t compute.

When did this start?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing or that I’m better than anybody else because I don’t have any desire to wear a Sidney Crosby jersey to a Penguins game.

I just don’t get it.

Kids under, say, 14, I understand.

Young girls, maybe even young women, OK.

Forty and fifty something men?   Don’t get it. Help me.

  • BACCO

    Who really cares? What an assine question this is? SO WHAT IF A 50 or 60 year old wears a jersey? WHATS IT TO YA? In life their are alot more important questions? WHO FREKIN CARES>>>Get over yourself Steigerwald…YOU AIN”T IMPORTANT.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Apparently important enough for you to take the time to log on to this blog and use lots of capital letters. Whose jersey are you wearing?

  • benlikestheladies

    John, I didn’t know grown men actually wore team jerseys. I always thought they were the actual players walking through the airport with their jerseys on so fans could recognize them. I thought since most of the people either looked taller or shorter, blacker or whiter, or fatter or skinnier I thought it was the typical TV camera adding a few pounds. If anybody wears a jersey with another persons name on the back, they have some issues.

  • Ken

    Love your blog John. You and I think very much alike.

    You need to get another radio gig.

  • Mike V.

    A few year ago, my wife and I were at a relatively nice Italian restaurant around Cranberry on a Friday night. There was a young couple (late 20s) having dinner next to us. The woman was dressed appropriately for the setting and looked nice. They guy had on a white Steelers jersey tucked into his pants and looked like a complete fool.

    My wife (a world class wise cracker), disgusted by the guy wearing a jersey to dinner with a pretty woman, looks at him and says, “It’s after five. Shouldn’t the jersey be black?”

    For those of you who wear jerseys out, keep in mind there are more people laughing at you than feel you are Superfan.

    • BREADMANinPENNHILLS

      If you wear a jersey to a nice restaurant, YOU ARE A JAGOFF!

      • Ochotexto

        There are no high class Italian restaurants in the tax-dodging, plastic , culture-starved, village called Cranberry.; everything’s a chain.
        I can assure you a clean bowling shirt and NASCAR hat are suitable attire for their finest of establishments; and that’s just for the women.!

  • BREADMANinPENNHILLS

    John i respect your opinion. I hear from many people that are older then me(32) about the jersey thing. I grew up in this jersey era. I can remember going to KOENIGS in monroeville and my mom buying my a Pens jersey for $27.99. This was a very big deal, bro. My dad was at the dinner table and was like 27.00? what? haha It started then! Most kids in school who were fans had on jerseys. When these kids grew up some stopped wearing them, but most didnt stop wearing them. Quite honestly, it was COOL to have one or wear them. I am an adult. I also have a collection of throwback jerseys from early 70’s pirates.(Clemente, Stargell) I love baseball, and the pirates. Yes, i do not wear them often…but if i was in high school, i probably would. Its just a generational thing. I dont see a problem with it.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I don’t see a problem with it. I just don’t understand it.

  • JustAnotherBloke

    Dorky? No. That’s not exactly the right word. It’ll come to me.

  • Buffalobob

    I still get a kick out of tapping my son or daughter and saying look there’s …Crosby or Ward…whoever is on the back of the jersy. then laughing and them saying Dad, not funny, but I get a Big laugh.

  • Bid

    Sheeple mentality, plain and simple. Modern fans have to fit in to be part of the crowd. Facebook and idiotic textingare other examples. If a group of fans started putting bones in their noses with their favorite team’s logo and colors, I gurantee a large percentage of fans would follow suit. Anybody remember the “wave”? Unfortunately, people would rather “fit in” than act on an independent thought. Just another reason I become less of a sports fan every season. This coming from a guy who obtained a Sports Management degree from Bobby Mo.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Bingo. And the marketers have done their jobs.

  • http://justwatchthegame.com Bobzilla

    John, Did the NFL even produce a replica jersey in the ’50s, ’60 and even ’70s? I’ve watched countless hours of NFL Films videos from back in the day, but have never seen anyone in the stands wearing their teams’ colors.
    My earliest recollection of a Steelers item with a logo on it was in the early 1970s. It was the ever-popular knitted tossel cap, which was made popular by the players.
    I once had a Bradshaw jersey in the early ’70s, but I had to have it specially made by a sporting goods store. It was eventually borrowed and never returned by a girlfriend. I still miss that jersey!!!

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      There were steeler repilicas in the 60s. I had one of those jersey’s with th gold “v” that I used to wear to play football. I was about 15 0r 16. They were available for kids. No adult would be caught dead in one.

  • JB

    Nothing like a bunch of chest pounding steeler fans trying to out fan each other. I would never wear another mans name on my back. I always like the “you’re not a true fan” you get from these same jersey wearing folk.

  • UPDave

    I think it is more of a generational thing. The “generation X” and younger people are into sports and their respective “teams” now more than ever. I am 38 years old and I can remember the days that when Steeler season was over, you didn’t talk about it among your family, friends, co-workers etc until next July (training camp) at the earliest. Now it seems everyone talks about the Steelers almost year round, and talk about other sports (Pens, Pirates and Pitt) almost 8-9 months out of the year. My dad was a big Pirates, Pitt and Steeler fan growing up, but hardly had any clothes with their respective colors or logos on them (he might have had a hat or 2 at the most), but he was still a fan.

    I used to wear and purchase a lot of NBA and NFL jerseys growing up, but not so much now. The last jersey I purchased for myself was a Bradshaw “throwback” jersey that I purchased in the mid 90’s when I was 24 or 25 years old. I wear it on occasion, but less and less as I get older. I mostly bought it because I have always liked Bradshaw and wanted it as a keepsake more so than clothing.

    The only two jerseys I wear now are my Polamalu jersey (an unsolicited Christmas gift) that I wear to Steeler parties and a Penguin practice jersey (no name/numbers on the back).

    • Ochotexto

      Gotta agree w/ JS on this one; anyone in his 40’s wearing a game jersey w/ another person’s name on it is a dork. The only thing worse is seeing a 40’s/50’s something guy with an earring on. “Its over buddy; please take it off.; you’re embarassing yourself. “

    • Joe E.

      I am 36 and I can remember most of the offseason talk for the Steelers back in the early 80’s was about Bradshaw’s shoulder or the next Super Steeler that decided to retire. Nothing like today. But then all we had was Myron and Stan and a few others on the radio and John and Sam on TV. Now you have ESPN, multiple sports talk stations in Pittsburgh, and the internet.

      I was in first grade during the last Super Steelers Superbowl in ’79-80. Every boy in that Catholic grade school 1st grade class in Johnstown had a Steelers winter coat. We had to have our parents put our names in our coats so we didn’t take the wrong coat. We did the same thing for the good old Steelers winter hat that just about every Western, PA kid had back then.

    • Rick

      I think to a degree it’s that we live in a society that’s obsessed with bringing attention to itself. Why else would a 45 year old man be seen with a Jack Lambert jersey. Why would anyone drop over $1000 for 22 inch rims for their SUV? They look silly and ride even worse. Hey, look at me!! I guess I’d give a guy some slack on game day but that’s it. I have several Steeler and Penguin jerseys. They all are encased in glass and hang on the wall of the rec room at home. Good stuff John. A friend informed me about your site a couple weeks ago. We don’t always agree but your material is always interesting. Keep it up.

  • joyfulsisyphus

    I’m 24/f and I have a Sidney Crosby sweater and a Troy Polamalu jersey (wow, big surprise there…a female with a Crosby and Polamalu jersey). They were given to me as gifts. I live in a different city, so the only time I ever wear the jerseys are when each respective team is in town and I go to the games. If anything, it is a conversation starter with my friends in town. “Ooh, you are a pens fan; look at the jersey, blah blah blah”.

    I have to say, jersey-wearing isn’t nearly as popular in other cities. I remember in Pittsburgh, almost everyone had a jersey. Not in other places.

    Even then, I feel weird in a jersey. It almost feels dated or something to me even though those two players currently play. It reminds me of middle school when all of the guys ask the girls to wear their football jersey. That is why it is even weirder for grown men to wear jerseys of players 20 years younger than them.

    My husband doesn’t wear jerseys, thank goodness. He does have a pens hat though.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Hats are fine.

  • http://www.trojannation.net Kek

    First, I get REAL turned off when I hear people saying there are “rules” to wearing or not wearing jerseys. This is a personal choice, do what you want and you should not care either way.

    Second, John, I heard you on the radio yesterday and I have to question your logic about there not being Bobby Layne jerseys. I think you’d be able to realize that licensed merchandise didn’t really take off until much later. Your reasoning is the same as asking “why didn’t people use cell phones in the 70s?”

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      That’s ridiculous. Grown men just would be caught dead in a team jersey with a players name on the back. They were available to anyone who wanted them in the 70s and very few people over the age of 14 wore them. They weren’t available in 1960 because nobody wanted them.

      • http://www.trojannation.net Kek

        Look, I worked in the sporting goods and apparel business and the quality and quantity of NFL merchandise did not take off until the early 90s. That’s fact.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          Obviously. The demand created the quality, not the other way around.

          • http://www.trojannation.net Kek

            I wouldn’t be so sure of that. The stuff offered in the 70s was normally marketed more as play sets. Toys, plastic helmets and shoulder pads that kids would play in the yard with, not really geared towards adults.

            It’s a generational thing, as teens and young adults became more aware of clothing and design, the makers had to step up their game and come out with better product. As the quality got better, it became “cooler” if you will to sport the jersey. So I think it was a little bit of both.

            You’re probably from a generation where “sneakers” meant two choices: Pro Keds or Chuck Taylors. There weren’t shoes for baseball and basketball, etc. You had one of those two choices and you played all sports in them as well as just “playing”.

            Nowadays, there are shoes for every single sport. Pick up an eastbay catalog. Look at the specialization of track and field. It seems there is a shoe built specifically for every single event!

            The generation of Air Jordans and Reebok Pumps was definitely more fashionable, maybe because they had better and more choices. The concept of a “casual” sneaker…one you would wear just for going out or to coordinate with an outfit is probably foreign to an older generation.

            So, as that generation grows older, it doesn’t really have a problem wearing a jersey of someone much younger than them. The jersey has become the uniform of the fan too and I really don’t see anything wrong with that.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            I hear you. I still liked it better when people just went to WATCH THE GAME.

          • http://www.trojannation.net Kek

            I get that WATCH THE GAME is your book and your brand and I appreciate that. I get the concept too. I remember my uncle bringing my cousins to Johnstown when I was growing up to see a Chiefs’ hockey game and going nuts when he found out they were out in the hallway playing Pac Man. Seeing that they traveled from Cranberry to visit with us, he was less than pleased.

            I get your point too, about the distractions and the food, etc at PNC Park. I just don’t understand how a fan wearing a jersey goes against the WATCH THE GAME mentality. It doesn’t distract people around you and it doesn’t distract you.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            I don’t think it goes against the mentality. I just think it’s something that stops at about age 15. But that’s just me. I still think that there’s some truth to the thoery that fans have become fans of being fans more than they are fans of the game.

      • Patrick

        Its called marketing, dingus. Back in the 60s and 70s, those jerseys were not readily available in every shop in town. The NFL started marketing like crazy in the 80s, putting their logo on anything that might sell, and then kids wearing jerseys started to take off.

        The reason you have an increasingly older audience wearing jerseys is because they got jersey as kids, wore them, loved them, claimed them to be good luck charms, whatever, and kept on wearing them as adults. That’s why you see most of the people in their 20s, 30s, maybe 40s wearing jerseys. I’ll be honest, I don’t see alot of 80-year-olds wearing jerseys.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          We used to call them nerds, dingus. I’m actually embarrassed for them.

  • Sarcastic Sword

    At Penguins games, you can see men in their 60’s with jerseys with the names on the back..I just laugh…..For chicks and teenage boys, like my own, I think its ok…..When I was in middle school, I wore a Mark Johnson #9 sweatshirt….Some girl that my last name was Johnson…That was my one and only attempt wearing a player’s jersey..

  • Ryan

    I used to think it was kinda dorky myself but since you see more normal people wearing them nowdays, I do too. They’re comfortable and just fun to wear.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Still looks really, really dorky to me. But that’s just me.

  • Brian

    In my opinion, there is no difference between a jersey on a 50 yr old man than the same man wearing a Steeler emblem on a hat or jacket to a game. It’s just a different way of showing support for the team.

    Conversely, what I have a problem with is the lengths that fans (of any age) go, wearing masks, helmets, foam beams, severe intoxication, yelling obsentities, etc.

    To each his own, I guess

  • Fuzz

    I think these people have worn jerseys their whole lives, so it’s just normal to them. The culture of sports fans have changed quite a bit in the past 20 or so years. I can’t believe people pay that much money for a jersey, personally.

  • BURGHBOY

    Amen.

    I was on my own island years ago when my co-workers (the male ones at least) ripped me because I said wearing the jersey of another man was, and I quote “disturbing” to me.

    I also try to stay in my own house when watching Steeler games, but was with family over the Christmas holiday when Bettis played his last home game against Detroit in their Super Bowl XL drive. I was out of town and went to a family member’s house to watch the game. Out of 12-15 grown men, I was the only one not wearing a jersey.

    I’m in my late 30’s, love watching Sidney Crosby play and respect him, but if someone gave me a free jersey, I would give it to my wife. may wear a jersey that is blank on the back, but wearing another player’s name and number? Fat chance.

    I also have a self imposed ‘man law’ about grown men playing in men softball leagues, but that may be just another island in my world, and a discussion for another day.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I worry that not enough grown men are playing in softball and flag football leagues. It’s scary to think of guys in their late 20s and 30s sitting around in Sidney Crosby jerseys playing something called PLAY Station. I write about this in my book.

  • Joe E.

    I am 36 and I have never worn a Jersey. Yes I have plenty of Steelers, Pens, Pitt, and even a few bucco shirts that I’ll pull out for that one time
    of the year that I will travel from Central PA back to Pittsburgh to take my kids to a Pirates game. As I get older any thought I maybe had of going out and buying a Jersey has vanished. I don’t understand why a middle aged MAN would want to wear a jersey.

    I share front row tickets with a season ticket holder for Pirates games. I shake my head at the grown men coming down to the front row asking players for autographs. I can see why some athletes hate signing autographs.

  • Joe Curran

    I’ve been faced with this very problem recently. I own numerous jerseys, many from when I was a kid and a few now. I have been struggling with this because I am now the same age as many of the younger players like Crosby, Malkin, and Staal. I almost feel creepy wearing the jersey of a man the same age as myself.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I think it’s called growing up. When I started covering the Steelers and Pirates in 1977, I was the same age as the players. If anybody in my group of friends had taken to wearing a Breadshaw jersey when he was in his late 20s, somebody would have set it on fire. Maybe while he was wearing it.

      • DavidMcGwire

        I would venture to believe alot more adults wear jerseys than kids…

  • Ryan

    I feel it’s not as bad if it’s a player that you watched when you were a kid. For example, I’m 38 years old and wear a Joe Greene jersey.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      If you were over 16 or 17 and were out on the street in a Bradshaw jersy back in the 70s, you stood a ral good chance of getting your ass kicked.

      • Charley

        You should still get your ass kicked NOW if you are spotted in a Bradshaw or Lambert or Greene jersey. That happened 30 years ago. It’s about time to move the hell on. Especially if you were born after the ERA…

        • Ryan

          Or if you are a straight man and your name is “charley”

  • mfbinc

    i don’t understand it either. my only player jersey is a bradshaw one from 1979 that i grew out of long ago. i guess people want to show others who their favorite player is. wonder how popular the new sammartino “1” throwback jersey will be?

  • Darren Lynch

    This isn’t 1920 or whenever you grew up with your dad…..times change. Cheer Up Old Timer.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I grew up in the 50s and 60s when anyone over the age of 12 who would wear a jersey with a guys name on it was considered a nerd. I understand times change. Change in and of itself is not always good.

  • Scooter

    When I was younger (in my teens) I was into wearing hockey jerseys, myself, but I grew out of that so I don’t comprehend it either.

    This reminds me of a comedian I seen on TV once in the 90’s (whose name escapes me) talking about grown men wearing professional athlete’s jerseys…”I seen Shaq in the unemployment line the other day. Wow, on TV he doesn’t look quite as white as he does in person and he comes across on TV as being a bit taller than 5’6″.”

  • saneman

    I don’t get it either. Wearing a jersey is weird in a regular setting. I restrict myself to a T shirt and a cap. But usually a cap. I had a Steelers jacket as a kid and loved it. Actually I wouldn’t mind a Steelers jacket now but I just find merchaniding way too commercial. Sports leagues like to profit off of civic pride, but they control all expressions of that civic pride by the freelancers with the really strict enforcement of offshoots of their copyrighted stuff . Now it’s their right to do so, but then I treat it as my right to treat their merchandise as just another purchase and buy it only if it makes financial sense.

  • Bob M

    I have a #7 Steeler jersey that will now find a permanent home in the back of the closet. But I may pick up a Polamalu jersey. I wear a Steeler or Penguin jersey sometimes (as do many others in our Saturday night bowling league) before big games. For the playoffs I whip out an original Terrible Towel. A team jersey is a must on those once a year bus trips to an away Steeler game. Invading the enemy camp and all that… I’ve found the jersey is an excellent conversation starter.
    I will agree with you though, the young women look especially fetching in their team jerseys. :)

  • Intel Geek

    I don’t know when it started. If you watch some of the games from the late 80s and early 90s on the Penguins 10 greatest games DVD, hardly anyone is wearing a jersey.

    I’m 27; I have two Crosby, a Malkin, Lemieux, and Wheeling Nailers jersey. My wife also had a Crosby jersey. I guess it’s just our way of showing our support. I like the jerseys, especially the new ones. You can tell a remarkable difference in my Crosby jersey from 07-08 from my Lemieux jersey from ’93. Reebok just makes a more quality product than CCM made.

    Back to why I do it. Like I said, it’s just my way of showing support. What better way for a guy like Sidney Crosby to know that the city supports him than to look into the crowd and see how many people were willing to shell out $150 for his jersey?

    I understand why the older generation doesn’t get it. It’s just not your thing; it’s my generations thing. Although, I think it would be cool to get my hands on an old style hockey sweater from the era when they were actually sweaters.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      OK.

  • r.s.

    Simple rule for wearing jerseys Steigerwald: You can’t wear a jersey of someone that is younger than you.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Works for me.

      • DavidMcGwire

        I like that. My father would never wear a jersey of a current athlete, but loved the Clemente jersey I got him for Christmas the same year. I’m the same way….Growing up in Pittsburgh I was 9 when the Penguins won their second Stanley Cup. I was unable to get a jersey at the time, probably because I would have ruined it within a week….so now when I watch the Pens I wear my 1992 Penguins Ron Francis jersey…Makes me feel like a kid again.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          Call me crazy but when I’m at home watchingt a game, I wear what I happened to be wearing when I turned the TV on. I probabloy wore some Roy Rogers six guns when I watched Roy Rogers, though. Of course, I was 7.

  • vincel

    I can’t help you John.It’s like when people talk about a grown man and they will call him “just a big kid” as if its some sort of complement.Or like a fortysomething guy who spends hours playing video games onlne.

  • dcg1952

    Grew up in the ‘Burgh, moved away from 78 to 94. I really think this jersey stuff is a local thing. Certainly there are some folks in other cities who do this, but nowhere near the extent that Pittsburgh does it. I went to a Pens game last year with my brother—he shows up in a Crosby jersey and we walk over to the Marriott to get a quick drink before the game. I was the ONLY guy there without a jersey on. Several people assumed I was a fan of the other team and made a few comments, but quickly assured them I was cheering for the Pens. The funniest thing to do is just walk down any concourse at an out-of-town airport and look for the gate that has the most people wearing Pittsburgh sports stuff. That’s the flight going back to Pittsburgh—you don’t even need to look at the monitors for your gate. Just look for the jerseys.