What to Wear – What to Wear?

April 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

As I often do, I was checking out the WashingtonPost.com site on Monday to read the latest about my favorite sports teams.  I clicked on Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog and in one of his blogs he talked about attending the Redskins Draft Party for fans at FedEx Field on Saturday.  One of the main things that he observed was the large number of fans there who were wearing burgundy and gold #5 McNabb jerseys.  As he noted, this is just a few weeks after McNabb was traded to the Redskins from the hated Philadelphia Eagles.  Clearly, there is a groundswell among Skins fans that McNabb could be the long-awaited quarterback hero that will lead us to playoff glory.  The Redskins of course have been quick to facilitate the McNabb-mania, as evidenced by the picture that Steinberg included which showed one of the Redskins Team Stores at the stadium displaying several fully loaded racks of the McNabb jerseys.

Indeed, the sale of team apparel is a huge source of revenue for the various sports leagues.  As reported by Greg Stohr and William McQuillen in a January 13, 2010 article on Bloomberg.com, sales of NFL-licensed merchandise in the United States and Canada exceeded $3.2 billion in 2007 and the combined sales for pro football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer exceeded $9 billion.  My family of course has done it's part in helping out many of those sports leagues given the multiple items of apparel and other merchandise we have purchased in a show of support for our favorite teams.  Although, I must admit I have yet to acquire a Redskins game jersey – I'm more of the polo shirt kind of guy.  But we are like  most sports fans around the country.  The thing to do is to wear your teams' colors.

In any event, Steinberg's blog about all of the McNabb jerseys that he saw got me to thinking about how it used to be. After all, this is Nostalgiaspeak so I have to talk about the past.  And based on my recollections, it wasn't too long ago that things were different.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experience at the "Immaculate Reception Game" between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders in December of 1972.  I had mentioned the older gentleman who was seated next to me and that he was wearing a trench coat and a fedora.  And as I recall, the majority of the people in the stands were wearing their everyday clothes.  There wasn't a sea of black and gold in the stands like you would see at a Steelers game today.  There may have been a smattering of some people wearing black jackets with the Steelers name on it.  Probably the most you saw in the way of  Steelers garb was  the black and gold knit hat and maybe a few black and gold scarves.  But that was it.  If you don't believe me, just take a look at the video of the Immaculate Reception and look at the fans who stormed the field after the play.  See how much black and gold apparel you can find on them.  Not much.  I guess back then nobody, not even the league, figured that fans would be willing to fork over  their hard-earned dollars to buy jerseys, t-shirts or even a polo shirt in their team's colors.  I'm not sure when things did start to change.  I even checked out video of the 1980 Super Bowl between the Steelers and the Rams and while you did see a few guys wearing team jerseys and some wore clothing that matched their team's colors,  for the most part the fans were wearing everyday clothing.  I don't know what triggered the changeover to where it became the thing to do to wear actual team apparel.  Maybe it was around the time of the Mean Joe Greene Coca-Cola commercial where he throws his jersey to the "kid".  Whatever prompted it, once the league realized that they had a money-maker on their hands and they began to market team merchandise, it took off.  And the other pro leagues followed suit.

But going back to the guy in the trench coat and fedora and forgetting about team apparel, I am reminded of the style of dress by fans going back well before that 1972 football game I attended.  My reference here is from attending major league baseball games as a young guy throughout the 1960's.  Except for the occasional team ball hat, nobody wore any type of team apparel.  For the most part fans were dressed casually.  But then again, we were usually sitting in the $1.00 bleacher seats or the $1.50 rightfield grandstand seats.  It was not uncommon for the men sitting in the $3.00 field box seats to be wearing a suit and tie, and of course, the ubiquitous fedora.  The women who attended games back then with the gentlemen in the suits would also be dressed to the hilt.  I guess maybe it was a status thing – sort of like a spectator class system.  Looking at old TV film footage or old newsreel footage, it seems like the further back in time you go, the more the fan attire was formal.  It also seems that there was a more formal dress code so to speak when it got to the fall classic.  Even in the 1960's.  Pay attention the next time MLB Network runs those old World Series Highlights productions and observe how the fans were dressed.  Coats and ties for the men were the norm and most of the women would be wearing dresses, jewelry and sometimes even the white gloves.  I still can remember going to the first game of the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees and being impressed with how well-dressed many people were.  Being a 7 year old, I didn't wear a coat and tie and I'm pretty sure that my dad didn't either.  But I know that my mom and aunt who joined us were all decked out (even though we were bleacher bums that day).

But that was a different time.  And as is sometimes the case with nostalgic moments in a persons life, the memories are nice but the current is better.   Frankly, I couldn't imagine sitting through a ballgame in a coat and tie.  Even though it can get expensive to adorn yourself in team gear, I think it adds to the excitement of attending a game.  Last week we were at the Stanley Cup Playoff game between the Capitals and Canadiens and just about everyone in the arena was wearing red Capitals apparel.  That sight helped to further charge up an already electrifying scene.  And when we go to Redskins games and walk up to FedEx Field among all those other people clad in burgundy and gold you feel energized and part of something.  (Unless of course its a night game where you then have to share that walk with way too many fans who are wearing the colors of the opposing team because of the numerous season ticket holders who sell off their tickets since they can't be bothered to attend a night game!  No bitterness here!)  Someday soon, I hope to be able to regularly attend Nationals baseball games where the stands are packed with fellow Nationals fans wearing our team's stuff.  So let's see – coat and tie or team polo?  Hmmm!

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