The Jersey Rules
The three fastest-growing diseases in America today are diabetes, Lyme disease, and sports jerseys.
Wearing a jersey used to be for kids. You be Tom Brady and I'll be Darrelle Revis. Now people with actual jobs are wearing them. At 6, it's adorable. At 36, deplorable.
You can't swing your arms at an NFL game without hitting somebody in one. (A very good idea, by the way.)
You say it's your way of expressing devotion to your team? I say try a hat. It doesn't make you look like an adult Trick-or-Treater.
What's your jersey dream? Someone shrieking, "Oh, my God! There's Brian Urlacher! Oh, wait. No, no. It's just Justin from purchasing."?
Women in jerseys? Fine. But dude, you're really going out with another man's name on your back? Do you have no male pride?
But like gluten-free beer, the jersey flood seems un-damn-able. But can we at least have some rules?
Jersey Rule No. 1: You may not wear a jersey past age 29.
a) You are immediately related to the person whose name is on the back.
b) You are the person whose name is on the back. (Team photo required.)
Jersey Rule No. 2: You may not wear a jersey without a shirt underneath it, especially NBA jerseys. We do not want to see your rash. Or your spare tire. Or your nipples. My God, people.
You may not, under any circumstances, wear a jersey AND a hat. Who are you, Tony Romo?
Jersey Rule No. 3: You may not wear a jersey if somebody else in your group is already wearing one. This is also known as The Fedora Rule. No two guys in any group can be wearing a fedora. The second man's fedora must be trashed, crushed or sold. You never saw Sinatra and Dean Martin wearing one, right?
Jersey Rule No. 4: You may not, under any circumstances, wear a jersey AND a hat. Who are you, Tony Romo?
Jersey Rule No. 5: You may not wear a jersey with your own name on it if you didn't wear it on a real team once. Please. Are you expecting Bill Belichick to look up in the stands and go, "Flanagan! Get in there at tailback!"?
Jersey Rule No. 6: You may not wear a jersey of a player who has been gone from your team for more than a year, unless that player is in the Hall of Fame or will be soon. I saw a guy Monday night at the New York Giants game wearing an Amani Toomer jersey. I believe Toomer is managing a Round Table pizza in Parsippany now. Buy another damn jersey, cheapskate.
Jersey Rule No. 7: If you have a nose tackle body, you must wear a nose tackle's jersey. We do not need to see your 385 pounds busting out of a DeSean Jackson jersey. It's unseamly.
Jersey Rule No. 8: Absolutely no cutesy wrong-color jerseys. No pink Yankees jerseys. No camouflage Cowboys jerseys. And no new University of Maryland jerseys. They look like an explosion at a Benjamin Moore store.
Jersey Rule No. 9: No wearing NBA shorts with your NBA jersey at any time. Horrible. It makes you look like Red Klotz. (Corollary: Do not wear all-white to watch a tennis match, either. Pathetic.)
Jersey Rule No. 10: No wearing your jersey anywhere but a) to the stadium or b) home. Nobody at the urologist's office wants to talk about your Ray Lewis jersey.
If you still qualify under all these edicts, then you must sign these waivers before donning a jersey:
Jersey Waiver A: By wearing a jersey, you are waiving your rights to any sexual activity for the evening. No woman in history has ever said, "Oooh, that guy wearing the jersey of another man! That's hot!"
Jersey Waiver B: By wearing a jersey, you are waiving any semblance of coolness.
"It's like going to a concert in the T-shirt of the band that's playing that night," says Ari Pillar, 29, who was wearing a simple, cool retro Giants T-shirt Monday night. "It's cooler to wear another band's T-shirt. But wearing a jersey of somebody you're watching? That's way high up the Dork Scale."
(A note on T-shirts: Enough cussing, especially those West F***in Virginia T-shirts that West Virginia fans are wearing. Your athletic director, Oliver Luck, was right. Show a little class. And Ohio State fans: No "Ann Arbor is a whore" T-shirts either. And, Wisconsin students, we've all seen 1,000 variations on "Huck the Fuskers" already. Try something original.)
Jersey Waiver C: By wearing a jersey, you are waiving any contact with the very person you're worshipping.
"Those are the guys we went out of our way to avoid in the autograph lines," says former Baltimore Ravens QB Trent Dilfer. "They were the ones who wanted your email address."
Jersey Waiver D: By wearing a jersey to a road game, you waive your right to a busted-free nose. Wearing a Lakers jersey to a Celtics game is like wearing an Obama T-shirt to a Dick Cheney book signing. Bring gauze.
"My wife tells me it's dangerous," says Giants fan Adam Herman, 31, who spoke from inside a Brandon Jacobs jersey. "But I do it. I wore it in Philly to an Eagles game. It was a little scary, but I got out OK."
Of course, you might not get out OK if you wear another team's jersey to Adam's house.
"Won't happen," he says. "If my friends come over in a Jets jersey, they're not getting in. They can just turn right around. No exceptions."
Adam, I'm begging you and all jerseyites out there: Rent, lease or purchase a life.
And it better not involve cowbells.
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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "Monday Night Countdown," "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.
Feel like taking a detour from sane sports? Try Rick's latest book, "Sports from Hell."
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LIFE OF REILLY
RICK REILLY, 52, has been voted National Sportswriter of the Year 11 times. His latest book is called "Sports From Hell: My Two-year Search for the World's Dumbest Competition." A finalist for the 2011 Thurber Prize for Humor, it's the account of his search for the dumbest sport in the world.
Not to give anything away, but a good bet would be either Ferret Legging or Chess Boxing. It also includes embarrassing attempts by Reilly to try Nude Bicycle Racing, Zorbing, Extreme Ironing, the World Rock Paper Scissors Championships and an unfortunate week on a women's pro football team.