When I was a kid, I wore a lot of sports apparel. A photographic retrospective of the caps and tee shirts, dugout jackets and hoodies I wore from the ages of five to seventeen would probably border on modern art. But things changed for me. There came a point I no longer wanted to give my appearance over to my sports allegiances. There would still be a few caps and shirts, and there would still be fandom. But I no longer wanted the teams I cheered for to define my identity, or at least the way people perceived that identity.
There are, however, people who do want that. For a million reasons, there are people who go out there every day dressed as if in surrender to the higher cause of the Boston Red Sox or Oakland Raiders. There are people who dress up in Willie Stargell jerseys because they want express their old-time love of the game and there are people who do it because they think Willie Stargell jerseys look cool. That’s all well and good.
My interest is in the complete surrender — the folks who show up to the game rocking team merchandise down to the official licensed league socks; the folks who wear a jeans, a pinstriped Jeter jersey, and a Yankee cap out on Friday night; the folks who wear the gaudiest, proudest, multi-colored tee shirts of their favorite player. The folks who would wear one of these:
You are out there. You who would wear this shirt, or a Pujols or a Mauer version outside of the ballpark or the bar. And I want to know why that’s so (other than its ridiculous, overwhelming brilliance that leaves me undecided as to whether I’m in love or entirely disgusted).I want to know if I’m wrong in saying that surrendering to a shirt like this one — or to other varieties of full team regalia — is giving up a bit of yourself.
And if I’m not wrong,if it really is a form of surrender, then why do you do it? Why does anybody? Is it the basic appeal of being a part of something larger than yourself? Is it regional pride? Cultural identification? Sheer oblivious? Fervent, patriotic, extremely blind team love?
There are socioeconomic factors at play here, obviously. Age, class, and race have something to do with the way people dress and the way people express their fandom. Also worth considering is the fact that international sports fans have different approaches. You don’t see a lot of Italians running around on Saturday evening in Andrea Pirlo jerseys…
(Please discuss, if you’d like…)