[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry from Matt King — that’s him at right — who’s tackling a thorny issue head-on. — PL]
By Matt King
My wife and I met Paul at the Uni Watch gathering on July 30th. I wore my 1987 Indians authentic jersey to the event, and she wore my 2000 Browns authentic. These are the only two authentic shirts I own, as I am not a collector.
When Paul began photographing everyone at the party, he photographed us from the front and then asked us to turn around. I hesitated for a moment, as thoughts of this article rushed through my head (see the fifth item under “Honorable Mention”). But we went ahead with it anyway and let Paul take the rear-view photo. Then, the very next day, this article ran (see item No. 1), and I knew I had to prevent that photo from gracing this site.
Yes, it’s true: My authentics have my name on the back (let’s call it ONOB, for own name on back). I know that’s a no-no for many people, and I didn’t want to get crucified in the comments section, so I asked Paul to refrain from linking to that rear-view photo when he wrote about the Cleveland party. You’re not going to see the photo running with this article, either — I don’t want to be the poster child for ONOB. But I do want to give my reasons for it.
The 1987 Indians jersey that I wore is not a throwback — it’s an original, which was not an easy item to acquire such an item back in the late 1980s (sometimes the Indians would make game-used equipment and uniforms available at their team shop on Euclid Avenue, but new authentic items were not readily available). Back around that time, however, a few friends and I were lucky enough to sell programs at Cleveland Stadium, and we learned that the Indians’ outfitter was a place called Cleveland Sporting Goods in Parma. We went there one day, only to find one jersey available, three sizes too small and at an outrageous cost of $75. Of course, I bought it anyway.
Since they did the lettering for the team, they asked what name and number I would like. Here’s the Indians’ 1987 roster — whose name and number would you take? So I chose my name and my high school football number, 61. I figured nobody would ever wear a number that high in a real game, so it became a running joke between my buddies and me that I was the first player cut during spring training but that the team let me keep my jersey.
The point is this: Prior to the widespread availability of mass-produced authentic sportswear, no rules had been established for this kind of thing. So I propose the following grandfather clause: Any authentic item purchased before January 1, 2000 is exempt from debate by either side of the ONOB argument. My Browns jersey — the one my wife wore to the Uni Watch party — fails this test by a few months, but it is 51 because of many cold days in the real Dawg Pound watching Eddie Johnson.
There’s another point to consider here: Even if we never get to wear a real uniform with our name on the back, we can still be loyal fans, and fans can be as important as players. The loyal fan never had the athletic ability to earn the ONOB jersey, but he can earn the right to wear the uniform through years of supporting that very same uniform. In the grand scheme of things, a loyal fan of, say, the Kansas City Royals is more important to the team’s well- being than some guy who got a September cup of coffee in 1990. If that fan wants his name on the shirt, I say he deserves it.
My own sons, although heavily involved in athletics, are not big fans of pro sports. But if they were, maybe at some point they’d want the $300 Indians jersey. Now, there’s no way we’re buying that shirt for them, but if they wanted to earn and save toward that goal, we wouldn’t stop them. What if they thought ONOB was only for the “doofus” crowd — what would their other options be? Here’s what’s been most widely available over the past few seasons: CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Casey Blake, and Travis Hafner. Four of those guys are gone and the other three aren’t exactly tearing up the league. Is a Sabathia jersey retro-cool yet? I think not. That’s a lot of lawn cutting and Little League umpiring for something that’s only going to remind you of a player who’s no longer on your team. $300 is a lot to spend on a temporary tattoo.
But your own name doesn’t sign a free agent contract with another team. Your own name doesn’t get traded. Your own name doesn’t get farmed out. Your own name doesn’t instruct your agent to not return phone calls from the Cleveland Indians (I’m looking at you, Brett Butler). The ONOB shirt never was on the team, so the ONOB shirt can never leave the team.
I have no desire to become the champion of the ONOB cause, but I do hope I’ve helped explain why ONOB shouldn’t be viewed as the mark of the beast. And for the record, I have never, ever once referred to a Cleveland sports team as “we,” but that’s a whole different essay.
Paul here. Personally, I’ve never had any problem with ONOB. Then again, I don’t own any jerseys with any names on them (yes, I know, many of you still can’t fathom that; for more details, look here), so maybe I’m not a good judge of such protocols.
I’m also trying to help a good friend with his job hunt. In case you missed that on Wednesday, look here.
Who are those masked men?: I’m trying to keep track of new NHL goalie masks. I currently have Varlamov, Price, Lundqvist, Emery, Leclaire, Khabibulin, Anderson, and Rinne (those last two are new; the others have been Ticker-linked over the past few weeks), but I’m sure there are others. If you know of more — with photos, natch — send ’em this-a-way. Thanks.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Suns are the latest NBA team to add ads to their practice jerseys. Further details here (with thanks to Brooks Simpson). … Oh wait, the Mavericks are doing it too (courtesy of Mitch Goodman). … Check out this A. J. Foyt/Gilmore Racing pit crew shirt that Jeff Barak recently picked up on eBay. “It’s a lighter weight, with snaps instead of buttons with that ‘western’ shirt cut,” he writes. “It might be a bit hard to see the details with the two patches on the front, but it looks like this shirt would be more at home at a square dance than pit road. The two sponsor patches on the front are so minimal as be almost ineffective, but the real treat of this shirt is on the back, with the ‘Valvoline’ and ‘Gilmore’ names chain-stitched, giving this more of a bowling shirt feel.” … “I recently attended Continental Indoor Football League game here in Chicago,” writes Chris Rhode. “The Chicago Slaughter were playing a team from Wheeling, West Virginia, and the Wheeling team apparently did not have enough uniforms for their team, which explains why you see three different uni styles in this photo Also note the electrical-taped ‘1’ on the player on the right. But they forgot to tape the other side.” . … Here’s another great shot of the Bills’ old two-man mascot (with thanks to Bill Kellick). … Good to see the Red Wings are doing their usual straight block-letter NOBs for preseason games. They do this every year; the vertically arched NOBs will return when the regular season starts. … Dunta Robinson got hit with a footwear fine, but not by the league — by his own team. … The Preds third jersey has finally been modeled by someone other than Taylor Swift. … The Mavs will unveil an alternate jersey on Monday. … And the Sixers will have an unveiling on Wednesday. … New basketball uniforms for Iowa State (with thanks to Corey Munson). … Steve Mandich has posted his pocket schedule collections for the Huskies and the Sonics.