Thursday, April 15, 2010
Take this jersey & shove it
You’d think I’d have known better by now. It was just six years ago that I laid down the law about shelling out big bucks to wear the jersey of any professional athlete.
First of all, I didn’t want to wear a jersey of someone who would beat or kill his wife. You don’t see many tasteful folks wearing Buffalo Bills jerseys with no. 32 and “Simpson” on the back.
The player would have to be either a native Pittsburgher or enjoy a strong bond with his adopted city. He’d have to be visible in the community and do charity work. That’s important to me.
The guy would have to be a Hall of Fame shoo-in. The jersey needs an heirloom quality to it for it to be a smart purchase.
So I chose well, I think, when I paid $85 for a Hines Ward jersey in 2005.
But for the past month now I’ve opened up my closet, saw the big black and gold jersey with the no. 7 and thought, “How could I be such an idiot?”
See, I didn’t consider a fourth essential rule: Wait until the player is dead or too old to disgrace himself, the team or me with shameful criminal activities.
But in a weak moment last year I broke all my rules and wound up with a Ben Roethlisberger jersey.
Blame the thrill of a bargain.
Every year a lively group of friends from New York City come to Pittsburgh and we all whoop it up for a weekend centered around a Steeler game.
One of the shiftier sorts brought a trunkful of pristine jerseys of questionable origin. They were dandies, too. Double stitched, hi-gloss numbers, NFL authentication, etc. The price tags for the Roethlisbergers said $125.
He told me, hey, sweetheart, because we’re chums, he’d let me have one for $100.
“Ha!” I said. “You must think I’m an idiot. Buying one of these, I’m sure, would make me an accessory to one of your criminal activities. And I have firm rules about whose jersey I’ll wear.”
Okay, he said, how about $80?
“Look, the guy’s already got a rape charge against him in Reno and everyone in town’s heard stories about him being huge jerk.”
“I know, I know, he just led us to a glorious Super Bowl victory and he’ll likely retire a Steeler, but . . .”
“C’mon! In this day of salary cap value . . .”
“Uh . . . Sold!”
I wore it twice and will never wear it again.
Ever since the damning press conference by Georgia District Attorney Fred Bright, I have been confounded by what to do with the damn thing. Didn’t want to burn it. Couldn’t give it to an impressionable.
So after much consideration, yesterday I got in my car and drove an hour to the Steeler’s headquarters on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
I handed the jersey and a letter to Steeler president Art Rooney II to the receptionist and asked her to give them to Mr. Rooney. She smiled and said, “I’ll be sure he gets them.”
Here’s what the letter says:
Dear Mr. Rooney,
I don’t know what to do with this Ben Roethlisberger jersey. I can no longer wear it. I can’t give it to my nephews because I don’t want them thinking No. 7 is someone their uncle would want them to cheer on.
I won’t give it to charity because I don’t want someone less fortunate to think Ben’s someone they should emulate. I can’t give it to a friend because I don’t want to see him or her wearing it at the stadium where the sight of it will disgust me.
So I’m giving it to you. I’m a second generation Steeler season ticket holder. I travel a good bit and have friends all over the world. Like many avid Steeler fans, I consider myself an ambassador for the team and the city I love. I wouldn’t do anything to disgrace those proud affiliations.
Wearing this jersey in public would do that.
I trust you’ll know what to do with the jersey. I don’t want to ever see it again.
And the same goes for the son of bitch who’s worn it for the past six years at Heinz Field.”
Now I’m in the market for spiffy new Terry Bradshaw jersey.
I’ll pay big bucks for one.
Just as soon as I hear the man’s dead.