throwing down the gauntlet

>> 8.08.2009

Maybe it’s a generational thing.  There are a lot of football fans I know—especially those over 40--who won’t buy or wear jerseys.  The typical line goes something like, “What kind of limp-wristed pansy wears a jersey with another man’s name on the back?”  Others simply don’t like the look, or won’t spend the money.  No matter your age, most put off buying a jersey because they're deathly afraid of being That Guy:sadly mothballing the jersey of the bust/flameout/druggie/woman abuser who looked so good a season or two before.  Or worse, being THAT That Guy, walking around repping the loser anyway, maybe even getting enshrined on Straight Cash Homey.

Fans my age, 27, were growing up when wearing the jersey of your favorite player became legitimately fashionable. The “throwback” craze hit just as my generation was discovering the wonders of summer jobs and disposable income.  It’s only natural that when I, a rabid Lions fan, reached college in 1999, I began my unintentional quest to be The King Of That Guy.

It started with a home Charlie Batch replica--right before Millen came in and changed the jerseys.  Shortly thereafter, I added a Duce Staley (Eagles) home replica.  After both players flamed out and went to the Steelers, I was desperately in need of a new jersey—both to rep a current player, and to get one of the new jersey style.  My fellow Spartan, and acquaintance, Chuck Rogers happened to go #2 overall in the draft to the Lions--the question of who to rep had been answered.  My then-girlfriend (now wife) surprised me on my birthday with an away “C. Rogers” #80 replica.  It's still one of the best gifts I've ever recieved, even if it didn't turn out so hot.  After we married, I picked up a home replica of her favorite Lion, Roy Williams, and a kids-size Kevin Jones home replica for our first daughter.  When my son was born, we picked up a youth Mike Furrey home replica for my daughter, and my son inherited the Jones.

At this point, I desperately needed a new jersey, but wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge on a current Lion.  I’d been planning on going big-time with an Ernie Sims authentic, but it was a pretty big investment on a player who took a pretty big step back after his rookie season.  After winning a fantasy championship partially on the back of Chad Johnson, I went to a Reebok outlet sale and snagged a Bengals “Johnson” #85 home replica on the cheap.  So, to review: as of Friday morning, I myself had four jerseys, my wife had one, and my kids had two.  Of all of these jerseys, only one player has not left their depicted team in disgrace—and that guy HAS SINCE CHANGED HIS LAST NAME.

At the open practice tomorrow, the new-look Lions take their home field for the first time--all decked out with their new uniforms and new logo; I knew I couldn’t trot out the Chuck Rogers, or the peeling-numbered Batch “throwback”.  As the Flamekeeper, the torchbearer, the self-appointed philosopher king of all true diehard Lions fans, I knew there was only one player I could in good conscience come bearing the livery of: Matthew Stafford. As much as I like Megatron, Kevin Smith, Julian Peterson, Cliff Avril, all those guys, Stafford is the franchise.  He’s the quarterback, the field general, the spokesman, and the lynchpin of the entire organization.

Sure, there are a lot of naysayers, a lot of doubters, and a lot of obstacles to his success.  But forget that. I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I’m investing my fandom—and my hard-earned jack--in this wunderkind.  I said before the draft that if he’s the pick, we fans have  got to support him the way we never supported Joey—and I’m not only going to support him, I’m picking up the banner and running.  I hope that people see me, hand-in-hand with my wife and three kids, rocking the authentic Stafford, and think, “Wow, that guy must really believe.”  And, maybe, possibly, then think “maybe I should, too.”

When I had this epiphany, I first obtained the blessing of my incredible (and incredibly understanding, and incredibly forgiving) wife.  Then, I went to a Michigan-based collectibles chain called Legends Sports & Games, calling first to reserve one in my size.  The employee working behind the counter, by appearances in his mid-40s, seemed almost bemused by my eagerness to score this shirt.  He asked if I was a Lions fan, or just thought maybe they’d turn it around this year.  My reply kicked off a nice little conversation about being a Lions fan, my blog, and the proper sizing of an authentic (the shoulders are cut to accept pads; going too big will have an effect not dissimilar to “princess sleeves”).

I asked him if he was a fan too, and he replied that he was--but after all the years of frustration, he was finding it hard to even try anymore.  He looked at me and said, “Just give me something.  Please, tell me these guys are going to do something worth watching this year.”  I didn’t hesitate to reply in the affirmative, specifically that the defense will be incredibly aggressive.  He smiled, said he hoped I was right, and proceeded to cut me a great deal on the jersey.  That put a smile on my face, and—I hope—stoked the little blue flame in his heart.

I likely won’t be posting again this weekend, but I do plan to be Tweeting updates from Ford Field all day long.  So, if you aren’t coming, stay tuned to @lionsinwinter for live firsthand reports.  If you are planning to be there, email me at thelionsinwinter@gmail.com, and maybe I’ll see you there.

8 comments:

Jimmerz,  August 8, 2009 at 10:53 AM  

I haven't bought a Lions jersey since a #54 in 1989. Sadly, there hasn't been a Lions player I've been passionate enough about since then other than Barry, and back then EVERYONE sported the #20. Admittedly, I'm not really a jersey guy though either.

That said, any chance you would sell me that Chaz Rogers jersey? My fantasy league has a policy that the last place team from the previous year has to wear a Ryan Leaf jersey for the entire auction, but sometimes it's not feasible due to only having the one size. If your Rogers jersey is a different size it would give us another option.

DrewsLions August 9, 2009 at 9:53 AM  

Ty - I've got a Roy Williams and Kevin Jones in my closet right now, so I know your hesitency to pick up a new one. I'm getting a Stafford too, but have to decide on whether it will be an authentic. They are just so expensive. I almost feel guilty wearing them. I'd like to know what your "great deal" on the jersey was? I've seen them all for around $185. That's a lot of coin. Have to chew on this one for a bit. Looks fantastic, though.

Drew

witless chum,  August 10, 2009 at 12:20 AM  

Get Aveion Cason, he appears likely to stick around forever.

I'm actually thinking I need to take the jersey plunge. I should have bought a damn Sledge jersey when I saw those on sale.

I'm thinking Julian Peterson. Even if he doesn't do much in Detroit, he had an excellent career and ripped it up at MSU.

Ty August 10, 2009 at 9:04 AM  

Jimmerz--

Good call on the Spielman! Yeah, I've always kinda wanted the Barry "throwback", but have hesitated for the same reason you did--it's not exactly head-turning to make the statement "I like Barry Sanders!" Besides, the way he left the team . . . I respect his apparent reasons (the team was neither committed to winning nor willing to let him leave), but it really hurt me as a fan. To spend the money to rep him now would be kinda like still carrying around a picture of your ex, long after they dumped you.

If the jersey hadn't been a gift from my wife, I'd consider supplying it to the (hilarious) cause, but it was, so I'll hang on to it. I'll probably still wear it to functions where I want to wear a Lions jersey, but don't want to trot out the authentic.

Peace
Ty

Ty August 10, 2009 at 9:49 AM  

Drew--

Yeah, what sold me on the authentic was seeing the authentic and replica within a few minutes of each other--the replica blue is close to, but not quite, the right color. It's definitely a couple of shades darker, and the difference in the material takes out a little bit of the 'shimmer'. IMO, the authentic home looks great, but the replica home is 'close, but no cigar'.

Believe me, I hear you on the guilt thing. My amazing wife rationalized it like so: "Why spend money on a jersey that doesn't completely satisfy you? It's a waste of money; you'll just start saving up for the jersey you *really* want." It was a fair point. Plus, with the sewn-on letters and numbers, it won't peel and fade in the wash like all my other replicas. With care, and a little help from Matthew Stafford, I'll be able to proudly don this thing for many years to come. As far as the deal itself, I'm afraid to publicize it--I don't want people going to Legends and trying to lowball them--but his listed price was $149.99, and he sold it to me for notably less than that.

Peace
Ty

Ty August 10, 2009 at 9:55 AM  

witless chum--

Man oh man, I actually, literally laughed out loud at the Caseon crack. I don't know what it is about that guy, but he's a roster cockroach. He simply cannot be gotten rid of!

I think you're safe on the JP call. He may or may not produce like he did a few years ago, but you can't go wrong with a Spartan luminary who's also a 5-time Pro Bowler. He should acquit himself well enough as a Lion to be more than jerseyworthy.

Peace
Ty

witless chum,  August 11, 2009 at 7:02 AM  

Thanks, Ty. I'm enjoying this site a lot. I don't mean to be be an irrational Cason hater like the Antone Smith superfans on the mlive boards. He gets resigned because he does a lot of things okay for a team and the Lions haven't found backs that demand to be on the roster.

I'd love it if this Aaron Brown guy could make himself indispensible in camp and could become a solid second option to Kevin Smith.

Matt,  August 14, 2009 at 10:04 AM  

There's gotta' be some kind of joke that can be made with a Kevin Smith jersey. Grow a beard, long hair, wear a dirty baseball hat backwards and smoke. . .a lot. Or something like that. There's a joke there, I just can't find it.

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