When it comes to being a fan, pardon me for not being one of the replica-jersey-wearing superfans who hang on every move said player’s name on my back is making. It’s never really been my thing and as I get older, I’m happy it never was.
Who are we? What is your identity? It’s an important question as we continue to purchase merchandise from our favorite teams and think about those gifts for the holidays. For some reason putting another person’s name on my back didn’t seem appropriate, especially in an era where many willingly give up our identity in order to live the life we see someone else proclaiming on social media.
I owned two jerseys growing up. One was a 1992 Team USA Dream Team Jersey with Michael Jordan’s Olympic No. 9. I think everyone who grew up in the '90s owned a Jordan jersey at one time or another. When I compare Jordan to Lebron James, I see far fewer Lebron jerseys on the street than I did MJ’s back in the day, and that was before Amazon when we had to actually go to the mall and hope Champs Sports or Jerry’s Dugout had it in stock. A scientific poll it is not, but I love practical data.
The other was Steve Young. Matter of fact, the Young jersey I still own today. Why? No reason, other than he was arguably one of the toughest quarterbacks in the modern era. He was a walking concussion before we knew what CTE stood for and the long-term effects of Rocky Balboa-esque blows to the head. I haven’t worn that jersey since the last Niners Superbowl appearance, and given their current situation, it probably won’t see the light of day anytime soon.
I like my own name. I’m secure in who I am. I don’t need someone else’s name to make me feel like everything is right in the world. Kids need heroes, so I’ll give them a pass when it comes to having their favorite player’s replica jersey on their holiday want list from Santa Claus. Maybe I’m just jaded due to the fact that one of my childhood favorites turned out to be one of the most polarizing figures in baseball. Thank you, Jose Canseco, for my dim worldview of sports heroes.
I also want to respect the sanctity of the uniform. I’ve never played in the NFL, or the NBA or Major League Baseball for that matter. So, I won’t buy a uniform and put my own name on the back either. I mean, if your real last name is Kershaw, be my guest, but I’m positive that nobody named Costelloe has ever suited up for the Oakland Athletics. Therefore my one A’s jersey will remain with the classic “Oakland” on the front and blank road gray on the back.
Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the name on the back of the uniform as it is. A marketing ploy for pro teams who want you to identify your favorite players and buy their gear, understandable. But remember the saying “it’s about the name on the front of the jersey and not the one on the back?” I cringe when I see youth uniforms with kid’s names on the back. I understand that this is due to the high price of participation these days and if you’re going to keep the jersey you might as well make it your own. I’m not drawing a line in the sand there but sometimes I believe it sends the wrong message.
I never played a uniform with my name on the back until I reached adult-softball playing age. Even then the team manager misspelled it, so I went all season as “Costello,” common spelling, and like I said, it’s never really mattered to me. It’s not like a pro scout was trolling the diamonds at Mesa Marin in Bakersfield looking for the next slow pitch softball sensation, although plenty of glory-days hacks played like they were.
Maybe it’s just time to accept who we are. Just as the professional athlete earned his status, so did you and I. We don’t need an identifying mark like a name on a piece of cloth, ours or another person’s, to justify our existence.
We all have our own very unique story to tell, and that story is told by our actions in our everyday clothes, replicated by the thousands in stores all over the country. I’ll tell you what. I’ll change my thought process when a professional sports team decides to put our names on the back of their jerseys for one night. I mean imagine the press, imagine the potential a gimmick like that would receive.
Then everyone would be clamoring to get that "Costelloe" Oakland jersey; well, probably not, because it was probably worn by the bullpen catcher. Fitting? Absolutely, but not much of a driver for online sales.
Even in fantasy-land I’m still comfortable with who I am.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.