It’s 10,000 Years BCE
The harsh plains of the Siberian tundra are alive with the thunder of migrating mammoth. And, where there are mammoth, there are mammoth hunters; men primarily, who would instantly raise their hairy paw and cry “Unga-bod uwer,” which, roughly translates to “Make fur ball-holder, rub chasing big elephant.” They were easily identified: they were wearing (rather warmly, one presumes) mammoth fur around their expansive chests.
Fast-forward to 2013 CE
The harsh plains of the North American tundra are alive with the thunder of plodding footballers. And, where there are footballers, there are supporters; men primarily, who would instantly raise their hairy paw and cry “Oy, fucking twat run,” which, roughly translates to “Make ball touch down there, rub chasing big elephant gut.” They are easily identified: they are wearing (rather tightly, one observes) sports jerseys around their expansive waists.
You see, it’s a little bit of history repeating itself.
This can all be summed up, of course, in Joe Budden’s famous line: “Let me just make this statement loud and clear, Jersey’s here.” But, there is more to sports jersey-wearing than just wearing sports jerseys. Just like everything men do there is a distant reason, a floundering purpose, and a wobbly defense for their actions.
Let’s start somewhere in the middle.
The Tribal Moment
There’s an old saying in England about sheep and cottage cheese, but it’s irrelevant here. Think now about your knitting circle with Gloria or your book club with Julie. The badminton team you played on with Sanjay (hope you’re well, Sanjay. Say hello to your sister for me!). The gang you used to hang out with at school, with their red hand prints and the rabbit tails. Tribes, one and all.
And, of course, you always wanted to belong to them in more ways than just showing up. You wanted to be close to them, to really hear them, to feel them (kisses for your other sister, Sanjay!). And, how did you achieve your goal? Do you remember? I’ll hazard a guess or two: you bought the Nimrod 3000 knitting needles didn’t you. You used the same book mark as Julie. Your badminton racket had a green handle just like Sanjay’s. You inked Thompson Twins on the back of your jean jacket, right? (Maybe?)
Anyway, wearing sports jerseys is just the same. It is belonging, it is tribal, and it is material recognition of your allegiance. It is mammoth fur on your nipples. A sports jersey makes you one of us.
The Brave Place
Don’t be fooled by mens’ new ‘renaissance tenderness’; underneath that tight-fitting sports shirt is a man with huge guts. A brave man; a man willing to stand by his teammates and wave that mighty finger in the direction of other huge-gutted men and be damn-well ready for action. For the fight to the death! Well, actually, for the hotdogs, but that’s not the point.
Unlike the anti-Semitic Australian wimp Mel Gibson, who needed to paint his jowls like Braveheart before anyone would listen to his noxious spew, men in sports jerseys are always heard. (And, herded, typically.) Because, of course, there is strength in numbers. Not small ones with decimal points, but big, strong, manly numbers like 7, or 15 or 72. Once in that shirt, the world is afraid. Oh, yes, totes scared, my friends. Because you have back-up, you have a crew; you have fat men behind you with Camrys. A sports jersey makes you brave.
The Emotional thing
Let me take you back to the scene of the crime. You’re in your baby crib, the sun has not gone to sleep but you realize you can’t ask for more water or you’ll piss yourself too early. You reach for your teddy bear/picking blanket/pretend rifle and you feel better. A moment of comfort. Now you’re at college and you’re all alone in your dorm. There is the distant sound of humping all around and you feel a tear of loneliness creep down your cheek and you realize Sanjay is crying on your ass. (Haha, just joshing, Sanjay!) You reach, in the dark, for your small plush Tigger and grasp him tightly to your heart, for that is where true love resides.
All week long, while you work at your naff job doing shitty stuff, you crave that moment of comfort. You long for a safe haven. You dream of a castle in the clouds. And, then, on Saturday when the working day is done and guys just want to have fun, you can wear your true colors. And, when you slip that jersey over your ruffled hair and past your jocund goiter, you know comfort awaits. You smooth down the front sponsor embellishment that itches like a mother, and you have arrived. All is well, all is bright. A sports jersey is your spiritual home.
The Family Value
Ah, yes, the family. Remember the family? Today’s family is a Frankensteinian hotchpotch of twitter crushes, Facebook enemies, work colleagues, nosy neighbors, the guy at the gas station who thinks your name is Bobby, and your sports buddies. Of all those, the sports buddies – the ones who grip your hand just as your team is about to score, or hug you verily when your keeper saves the day; who join you in spitting out the hotdog, and throw their nuts with yours at opposing substitutes – those are your true family now. And, out of respect for them, what do you wear? Your sports jersey, of course.
The Heraldic Crest
One more moment, of your time, good sir or madam. Let’s allow H.G to take us back now in his wondrous machine to the bygone era of medieval Europe. You are from the Worst house. And, with that surname comes a crest, a shield, which you can carry with pride. The crest is large, colorful, feathery. You have your own logo. There is something very regal about having a badge like this, which does not exist today. Very few probably know what their colors looked like, and so, rather than go transparent in a world that cares little for them, they adopt a crest. Borrow a shield. Create allegiance.
Now you can walk proud again. You have your honor and your red/blue/green/yellow/but-never-pink badge of courage.
Written in Ink
So, friends, we have explored the main reasons why we wear our jerseys at sporting events and Home Depot. We now understand a little more of the psychology behind this phenomena and we can feel confident in our choice of attire from now on. Jerseys say much about us and our mental, physical, emotional and ancestral allegiances.
Many even go one step further, and I will add this adage now because that’s where adages are added.
There are few guarantees in life. Many change religion; many change their nationality; many more change their ideologies (politicians from all sides make a habit of it at election time); many others changes their partners (the divorce rate in the US has just reached 96%); and some even change their gender. But, the only thing you can be confident of tattooing safely upon your burly forearm is your sports team: because, once you’re a (fill in your team here), you’re always a (fill in your team here.)