I Didn’t See Tom Brady in the Supermarket Today
I saw three people wearing Tom Brady jerseys in the supermarket today. I don’t watch football and I am bad with faces, but I would venture a guess that not one of the three was the Tom Brady who will be playing in the Super Bowl today. For one, none of them looked the part. If forced to provide a description of Tom Brady, I would go with somewhere north of 6 feet, fit, athletic and most importantly, somewhere else. I don’t know where the Super Bowl is being played today, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t in Long Beach, CA. (Breaking: I pulled out teh Google, which tells me the Super Bowl is being played in Houston.)
But I was wondering – what possesses grown men to wear a jersey with Tom Brady’s name and number on it? Of course, the question generalizes to any other athlete. You don’t see people wearing a jersey proclaiming themselves to be anything other than athlete. I get why nobody wears a jersey with, say, Andrew Wiles name on it, and he was last year’s Abel Prize Laureate. Few people would recognize what the Abel Prize is about, who Andrew Wiles is, or what Andrew Wiles did to deserve the Abel Prize. But we also don’t see people wearing a faux-Marine corps uniform with James Mattis’ name tag on it, and Mattis was pretty damn popular among military personnel long before The Donald put him up for Secretary of Defense. Ditto now dead Stormin’ Norman, and he was widely known in his day. To go back a war or two, I doubt anyone was wearing William Westmoreland get-ups either. In fact, I cannot think of any field other than sports that results in people dressing up as other people when neither Halloween nor fraud is involved.
So what is it about sports that generates that sort of behavior? And what is that behavior representing? It is very unlikely that anyone is actually fooled into believing some middle-aged out-of-shape guy wearing a Tom Brady or a Stephen Curry jersey is the person whose name is on the jersey so it’s gotta be something else. I also don’t see how wearing one of those jerseys confers any sort of simpatico or affinity. I say this as someone who has on occasion worn jerseys from one or another soccer team (though none with a player’s name and/or number on it). In each case, however, the jersey was a gift, and I made a point of wearing it when it the gifter was likely to see it. So what am I missing?
Marketing to tribalism. People love to wear clothing that allows them to identify with their “tribe.” Hence, the rage for desert camo among civilians who never served. Religions got this a long time ago: tribal headgear, like the yarmulka, the headscarf, the turban. Orthdox Jewish men and Mennonite women. College and professional sports franchises make millions on sports apparel. Then there are the tiny signifiers like the tiny gold cross necklace or the flag lapel pin. It’s all tribalism.
While we’re at it, someone explain why any woman would wear a Duck Dynasty t-shirt? I keep seeing them at the thrift shops, so there’s that. Maybe that’s where they all end up. Maybe a clueless fellow bought it for his girlfriend as kind of a hint, or a joke, and she initially wanted to slice it into rags to dry the car, but didn’t have the time so just chucked it in the donation bin. But … Duck Dynasty? Ewww.
Same reason Bill Maher has got a boner right now watching the Patriots lose.
Bill Maher may have had a stroke after the Patriot’s comeback.
Or to go a bit further why folks spend 2x the price of the base clothing because it has an athletes name on it (like shoes). Or are willing to be walking ads for the manufacturer of the clothing (showing the logo). I guess its showing they are hip.
A lot going on. I agree with Joel on the tribalism but even that is nuanced. Check out ‘The Hockey Sweater’ that was made into a 10 minute short by our NFB in 1980.
Then there is marketing —- try to buy a generic piece of sports equipment without a logo or professional player’s name plastered all over it. I’ll give away my age by noting I had a Harvey Kuenn baseball glove and a pair of Julius Erving endorsed basketball shoes;-)
You can buy such if you buy the store brands, They may be in the back of the store, but if you look you can find them. Today it is easier with on line shopping. One has to decide how much the logo is worth. Or in the case cited compare the cost of an unlabeled Jersey with the cost of the player jersey.
But then that is another piece of the behavioral economics puzzle, that folks make decisions based on other than pure economics factors.
I’m an avid cyclist. I’ve done Ride the Rockies three times. By the end of the summer (in the midwest) I can do 60 miles in about four hours (I’m about to turn 62 years old). I wear plain old shorts and a short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirt, depending on the temperature. No logos none of the time. Cycling gear, like sports-themed clothing, is about branding, not comfort or necessity.
Yup, Lyle and Joel, I’m reasonably happy that ‘behaviorism’ has finally cracked into economic thinking. Took a long time and still not *normal* but getting closer;-)
On topic but an example: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2000/04/harper.htm.
PS— my Erving shoes were bought off the remaindered rack when he no longer was marketable. No way did the marginal benefit warrant of a more current shoe cover the price differential to make me a better player.. One empirical question still not totally resolved is why poorer people continue to prefer national brands over cheaper generics at the grocery store. Obviously perceived status to supply the ‘best’ for the family plays in.
What I find more troublesome is grown adults (and it is not just men, plenty of female football fans wear NFL jerseys too – try to tune your google into that reality maybe) who wear jerseys with their own name on the back. Are you expecting Hue Jackson or Belichick to point at you and say “Costanza, go cover this kickoff for me”. Ok, maybe the Browns are a bad example there…
If you want a decorated jersey you might as well put your name on silkscreening your name and a favorite number costs a lot less then buying a jersey with a star players name/number. Of course if I did this I would put the number i (the base of the imaginary number as the number. (i is the square root of -1) ) In one sense wearing your own name is essentially a name tag.
What a bunch of snobs.
“What a bunch of snobs.”
Impressive rebuttals there, gents.
Lyle, the skater “Radar Love” from the Charm City Roller Girls (Baltimore women’s flat track roller derby) used to have the number i. The announcer would occasionally say things like “Her number might be imaginary, but she’s not.” when introducing her.
There is no argument being made here. So there is no rebutting. I would expect a big time scientist to understand this