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With throwback jerseys, old costs like gold

By By Will Bardwell / sports writer
Feb. 26, 2004
Remember the episode of "Seinfeld" where George learns from Kramer about a used clothing store that buys old people's threads?
George, who lived with his parents and whose father hadn't bought a new shirt in decades, realizes he's sitting on a gold mine.
Why didn't the concept of throwback jerseys come to me then and there?
Sitting in front of a television in the early 1990s, the idea of a marketplace for outdated, ugly clothing was hilarious. Now, it's all the rage.
Only in the realm of sports fandom could this happen. After all, you don't see sorority girls lugging their grandmother's moo-moo out of the mothballs, or high school kids breaking out their dads' tie-dyed t-shirts.
I imagine that one day not long ago, somebody pulled an old Jack Kemp jersey out of an otherwise-empty closet as a last resort. Maybe it was Laundry Day and nothing else was clean.
Regardless, it must've impressed someone, who decided it would be cool to resurrect his old Willie Stargell jersey. It wasn't long before the uniform from Dale Murphy's early days with the Braves you know, the blue and white one with the stupid looking feather on the shoulder was making the rounds.
A few hundred powder blue Mike Schmidt jerseys later, people were paying $300 in sports clothing stores for threads they could've bought for $15 at a garage sale.
While the word "throwback" seems to imply age, one glance at a price tag will teach you that the word is also a synonym for "overpriced."
Remember when LeBron James' high school eligibility was questioned after he received a Humvee and a couple of throwback jerseys? The Hummer, you may remember, was a birthday present. What you probably didn't realize was that it was the least expensive of the three gifts.
And I can't claim financial sanity in this debate. I'm a huge Nolan Ryan fan, so last week I bought an orange and yellow No. 34 Astros jersey. I suppose that, subconsciously, there's just something about ugly clothes that I like (which would explain a lot). And if there was a way to work a childhood hero into that equation, I guess I was doomed.
The Ryan throwback cost me $150, but that's a bargain in the throwback genre. Usually they run between $300 and $500, unless you're an old Philadelphia Eagles fan and landed the sweet Ron Jaworski throwback I saw in Jackson the week before Christmas a steal at $110.
But every once in a while, I see throwback jerseys that even Super Fan Uncle Larry couldn't have bought during his heyday.
Every once in a while, I catch someone wearing a blue old-school Minneapolis Lakers jersey with "34" on the front and "O'Neal" on the back as in Shaquille O'Neal, who couldn't even pronounce the phrase "overweight and spoiled" when the Lakers last played in Minneapolis.
The worst, sadly, seems to be one of the most popular a Washington Bullets jersey with Michael Jordan's name and No. 23.
Jordan is one of my all-time favorites, but anyone who would want to memorialize his two-year farewell tour with Washington is a Wizards fanatic of a rare breed none of whom live anywhere near here, and few of whom live within the nation's capital, judging by the Wizards' home attendance. And anyone who would drop $400 to do so would be better served by spending that money on a shrink.
These conflicts between fashion and reality are apparently not enough to deter some people.
Still, it begs the question: when is a jersey a throwback?
Mere ugliness cannot be the sole requirement, or else the streets of Meridian would be full of Oregon Ducks fans. But how much time must pass before "old" becomes "old school?" How long until "throwaway" becomes "throwback?"
I saw a fan at a basketball game not long ago wearing an orange Denver Broncos jersey with a navy blue "7" on the front a John Elway throwback! Too cool, I thought. But then I realized the Broncos were sporting those jerseys until the mid-1990s.
If that qualifies as classic, then show me some love for my throwback car and apartment.

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