I’d like to begin by sharing a little story, in light of Dayn’s earlier ruminations on the subject of jerseys. Once I found myself on the streets of Incheon, South Korea, ambling through the busy alleys and marveling at the pernicious weed that is capitalism. It was at this time that I came across a store stocked entirely with baseball jerseys. No knockoffs, these uniforms had stitched lettering and all the amenities one looks for in a piece of cotton. Among the three I chose was branded with the name “Kendall”.
When I returned home that night, I was shocked and dismayed to learn that the Pirates jersey was of the sleeveless variety. This was a risk I had not even thought to assess, and I swore to return to the shop and exchange it. But the store had vanished; it was as if the whole affair was some sort of monkey’s-paw cliché, and I would end up making eighteen wishes, each more damning than the last. After wandering the nameless streets we finally did find the store, decked out completely in basketball regalia. Would they exchange my armless jersey? I asked. No, they said. They did not sell baseball jerseys, they said. They sold basketball jerseys. I could not prove them wrong, and so to this day Jason Kendall’s name hangs in my closet.
I tell this tale not only in a desperate attempt to entertain, but also to raise a vital question: what, in 2011 terms, is my Pirates jersey worth? One must admit that it wields the benefit of insulating one’s shoulders and torso, if not the upper arms. The ethical question of sportswear is, I think, a tired one: we have had enough of people telling us whether it is acceptable for grown men and women to wear jerseys. The fan jersey now rests on the same cultural footing as Bud Light Lime, reality television, and the wave. Like it or not, it’s not going away.
Meanwhile, we live in a conflux where fashion will soon descend upon itself, consuming its own tail like an ouroboros. Everything will be both fashionable and unfashionable at the same time, and taste and irony will meet on the event horizon. We are not there yet. There are still some jerseys that fall between, and evoke neither the glory of success nor the wry wit of failure: the Chris Davis jersey, for example, or a Mets Brad Emaus uniform. But just as in life and The Room, if one sinks low enough (and patronizes thrift stores) one can find true brilliance. What better way to celebrate absurdity than a Mike Piazza Marlins jersey? Or an authentic Jeff Francoeur?
But what of Jason Kendall? Was he good enough in his prime to merit recognition? Was he awful enough in his thirties to be funny? Should the jersey be permanently dirt-stained, to confer the appropriate level of grit and heart? It’s a question each of you as Americans must decide. And if you do think it’s worth wearing, I could probably find one to sell you.