My Stupid Jersey Obsession
I suppose it started in 1994. Watching the World Cup being played in stadiums I had been in before. In states I had visited. With people in the stands that I knew from school or work. The bright colors, the distinctive patterns, all the amazing traditions that were unique to soccer, sometimes fully dedicated to their country’s flag, other times with a full regal backstory. I’ve been a design guy, someone who paid attention to the shape, layout, color, since I was a young kid. It was the bright signs of fast food. Then the new cars at the car show. The staid traditionalism of baseball. The slight upgrade to NFL. But soccer. Man, was soccer different. Huge, bold, brash, gorgeous, ugly, delicate, textured.
It was several months later before I bought my first soccer jersey. I still had souvenirs from my youth; an Earl Campbell Oilers jersey from when I was 10 and lived a year in Houston, the tequila sunrise Astros jersey from a trip to the Astrodome, the ink black Steelers jersey from a stop at Three Rivers. But I hadn’t yet bought “my own” jerseys. I went into a local mall and went into a shop that sold both shoes and jerseys. When I looked for soccer, none were to be found. When I asked, I was told the World Cup jerseys had all been sold, but the Nike jerseys came out the following Tuesday. A long three or four day wait later, I arrived at the same shop to a huge display in the window… alright, an interior display… in the back of the store… an entire rounder full.. ok, half full… but of bright white 1995 Nike USA soccer jerseys. 6’2 180lbs is not a particularly “extra large” sized person, but this being the mid-nineties, big and baggy was the thing. So, an XL came home with me that day, pulled on over my Bugle Boys and braided leather belt.
Today, 22 years later, my jersey collection is absurd. I have at least two for every NFL team and for some teams as many as six. For the Falcons, I have more than 15. I have Braves jerseys of every era—game-worn, batting practice, all types. I own every XFL jersey and most Georgia Tech jerseys. For soccer teams, I own 15 to 20 international team jerseys, but my largest single team collections are Manchester City and my home country, the USA.
I will bring both of those collections to show you, the visitors and attendees of ATLSoccerCon. Instead of shame for the vast amount of funds invested in my spare bedroom closet… other bedroom closet… two boxes in the basement… and 6 or 8 on the wall… I feel pride. Proud that I can say that I nearly own every US jersey. I have duplicates or weird sizes that I will bring to the Con. Bring yours, and maybe we can help complete one another’s collection. My 1995 US home shirt is 21 years old, old enough to drink and a little less bright white, but will never be as ugly as the 1994 World Cup set.