I'll bet that any female sports fan can fill in the end of that sentence.
I was talking with a friend of mine the other day; we're both relatively new NHL fans, and we're both trying to figure out which players' shirsey we want to get. My friend is a Penguins fan, and she was debating the merits of various players, whose she was considering getting, and who she'd ruled out. She said she can't get an Evgeni Malkin shirsey because he reminds her too much of her dad, and she can't get a Sidney Crosby shirsey because...
I answered for her.
"Because it's Sidney Crosby."
Because it's easy to be a Sidney Crosby fan. Because he's the team captain so he's well-known and accessible. Because he's generally thought of as being attractive. Because a girl wearing a Sidney Crosby shirsey won't get any respect or credibility as a hockey fan.
I've been having the exact same dilemma. I'm a Colorado Avalanche fan, and I'd love to get a Gabriel Landeskog shirsey. The only problem? This is Gabriel Landeskog:
Are you kidding me? If I have this dude's name on my back, I go from "hockey fan" to "oh, she only likes him because he's pretty." It doesn't matter that he's a phenomenal hockey player and a great person and a lovable goofball. He's an attractive face with a C on the front of his jersey, so there's no way I could like him for any other reason, right?
I can't get a Gabriel Landeskog shirsey because it's TOO EASY.
It's weird how deeply ingrained this desire to prove myself as a sports fan is. Of all the player-specific merchandise I've gotten in my adult life (only three things, to be fair), two of those athletes are long retired (one of them played for a team that's now defunct, and one of them is literally known for avoiding publicity). The other, R.A. Dickey, was the gem of the Mets' starting rotation when I got his shirsey, but he was never typical "star" material; he's older, nerdy, scruffy. And he's not even on the Mets anymore. So whenever I wear any of them, they all subtly say, "I know more than you do. Try telling me I'm not a real fan."
(I also want a Jacob deGrom Mets shirsey, but I've suffered through an entire lifetime of Mets fandom. I'm allowed to like the cute, lovable sweetheart with flowing hair and a nasty arm, right? I deserve some "easy.")
I guess I'm lucky that it's in my nature to ferret out the under-appreciated athletes and throw my energy into supporting them. I have a crazy strong underdog complex, so it's rare that my favorite players are universally popular. But what about when they are? Why am I going to get crap for liking a fan favorite? I mean, they're fan favorites for a reason, right? But because I'm a girl, I'm only a "real fan" if I know their brother's best friend's middle name and can rattle off all of their career stats. That, quite frankly, is bull. I might not know Gabe's life story but I can certainly appreciate him as a human and as a hockey player. (And I'd be more than happy to discuss at length some other blonde hockey players. Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. )
I don't totally know where I'm going with this. Maybe I'll hold off on my Avalanche shirsey-buying until I inevitably discover some under-the-radar defenseman that becomes my favorite. Or maybe I'll say the hell with it and try to stop caring and buy whoever's shirsey I damn well please. Or I could say the hell with it and get a shirt that's not player-specific. All are tempting.
To any female sports fans that are reading this... you feel me? Do you have the same compulsive desire to have your merch prove your worth as a fan?