Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Life Clubhouse Store

I had an enjoyable trip to Miller Park this weekend to watch the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Florida Marlins (the only game of the series that they won, alas). It was my first trip to the ballpark in over a year. Back in my college days, I frequently attended games, a couple dozen a year, back at the old County Stadium. It's interesting to see how crowds have changed over the years. Yes, the crowds are about three times as large as back then, but now there are more legitimate fans. As I was walking into the stadium, it was rather striking to see how many people were wearing Brewer apparel of some sort, with an abundance of replica player jerseys. I've been to Packer games at Lambeau Field, and every other person wears a jersey (I'm sure Favre jerseys will continue to be worn for decades to come), but back in the old days you would be lucky to spot more than two Brewer fans wearing a Jeromy Burnitz or Bob Wickman jersey. Now, the concourses are flooded with Prince Fielders, J.J. Hardys, and Rickie Weekses--and I even saw a Derek Turnbow and a Chris Capuano.

Noticing all the last names plastered on jerseys got me to thinking about the role of player names on jerseys in baseball, or more accurately, the non-role. I've come to the conclusion that the only real purpose that names on baseball jerseys serve is to sell jerseys. As opposed to football games or even basketball games where TV close-ups of jerseys help to identity players, the action in baseball is slow-paced enough that graphics inform us of the identity of the players we are viewing. In person, the scoreboard always tells us who is pitching, who is at bat, and even who is playing every defensive position.

Yet given the superfluity of player jerseys, there is something intriguing about seeing on every player's back a marker that specifies that said player is a unique subject in the sport, that he carries a fixed identity separate from the other players on the team. It is actually something that is oxymoronic to the concept of a "uniform"--something that along with an equally unique numeral, is not actually uniform.

But the concept that an athlete should have a name and numeral strikes me arbitrary. Why shouldn't every worker in every company, especially the ones that are assigned "uniforms," but even the ones that aren't, be given such a status? If every company issues every employee a "jersey" with a number and last name prominently displayed on the back, would that be something that employees would embrace, or something they would rebel against?

My suspicion is that the vast majority of workers would find such a proposal absurd, and they would probably even be angry should it be imposed. This leads me to two rhetorical questions:
1. What does this say about the concept of worker identity in America? and more importantly 2. Why do so many people get replica jerseys?


Blogger MarkL said...

I believe I'm laughing to myself at the contradiction.

BTW- Were you caught in the rain before the game as I was? I was drenched.

10:31 AM  
Blogger scuzzpuppy said...

I think it would be funny if famous players started wearing arbitrary names and numbers on their backs to make a point. Great blog topic.

10:17 PM  

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