My Landon Donovan jersey came in the mail today.
Yes, just in time for the World Cup (I ordered it during the world cup). Whatever, it is still good to have for the US-Brazil friendly tonight.
But the sight of a new jersey brought thoughts of a new Browns jersey to my mind. And I quickly dismissed the notion. I remembered how many embarrassing Browns, Cavs, and Indians jerseys my wife and I own. And I remembered that its something we Clevelanders on twitter like to discuss frequently.
Tim Couch? Ouch. Lee Suggs? Ooh. Jim Thome? Yikes. Martinez, Sabathia, Quinn, Frye, Edwards, Winslow, James. Please stop.
I myself am guilty of the last three. But then I also remembered that I bought a Cribbs jersey last year, right before the first game of the season. And I really went all out too, with the more “expensive” stiched-numbered, away-white, #16. I remembered that I was very happy when I purchased it. This jersey, I assumed, would be the one to break the “curse” of the Cleveland jerseys.
And then Cribbs’ contract drama began. I immediately blamed myself and wondered to my wife (who owns Edwards and Gibson jerseys herself) if I should ever buy a jersey again. They just leave too quick.
The age of free agency is great for the leagues. They make tons of money every time a player changes teams. One can only wonder how much money the NFL and reebok have made off of T.O. jerseys over the years. But it’s not so good for the fans. Especially fans in the blue-collar towns across the nation. How much longer can I justify spending the ever dwindling disposable income on jerseys when I have to throw them away every 2-4 years?
And I’m not alone in this thinking. As I mentioned above, many Cleveland fans discuss this same topic, over and over. The consensus? Buy older jerseys. A Kosar jersey may not be fresh, but he will forever be a Brown (just forget the Miami and Dallas stints). And he’s less likely to embarrass the name on the back of the jersey. Same with names like Nagy, Price, Brown, Alomar (Sandy, of course), Nance, etc.
But as I thought of all the retro jerseys I could buy, I came to a realization. There are problems with this theory. See, hindsight is 20-20, as they say. For every Kenny Lofton, Brad Daugherty, and Hanford Dixon jersey, there is a Joe Carter, Ron Harper, and Mike Junkin jersey. Not to mention Jose Mesa, Manny Ramirez, or “Touchdown” Tommy Vardell.
I should stop there. The point is not to depress all Clevelanders reading this. But rather: one could not know at the time who would become a Cleveland sports legend and who would be tossed aside one way or another. So we bought the jerseys even then, casting aside our jerseys when they left, or keeping the ones that stayed. The important part was the buying. The prospect of getting a winner.
The Hope that we pick the right rookie. That he leads Cleveland on the field AND off the field. That we can be proud of him and his accomplishments. That we can wear his jersey for more than four years. That we can wear his jersey at the bars on game day. At the muni lot. At the stadium. Without taping over the name, of course.
That Cribbs jersey I bought is still in my closet, and the tension I felt when Cribbs announced he would never play for the Browns again was replaced with happiness when he signed his extension. A happiness that I picked correctly this time.
And that’s why I buy Cleveland jerseys.
I need that hope, that dream, that wish. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to watch my teams play every night, every weekend. And since I have the hope, I should want to express it to the world. We should be proud of our teams, and confident that they will do well. We should represent the city proudly. “The city that never quits,” as my wife calls it. Because Cleveland never does quit.
And I won’t either.
So I will buy that Browns jersey this year. And I will probably buy a rookie’s jersey. Haden, Ward, or even McCoy. Because what they represent IS hope. A winning future. And I want to be there when that time comes, wearing that jersey proudly. Knowing that I picked correctly.
And that jersey will erase all of the Edwards, Winslow, Couch, and William Green jerseys in the world.