T Nation

Wal-Mart Heroes

It started off innocently enough, first it was ?fan? shirts. In your favorite ?Walter Mitty? moment, you could put on a sports jersey with your favorite star. Caught somewhere between hero worship and the need to identify with something larger than the 40 hours you put in every week at your job.

For only $189.95, you could be Jose Canseco or John Elway or even Patrick Roy. An easy bargain to slip into fantasy land pretending you are something your not. After all, what is better than standing up at the bar on Friday afternoon pretending you are a big time sports hero? Kind of an interesting thought when you consider the person in the shirt (nee Jersey) is probably drinking far more than any professional athlete (this would exclude John Riggins) would consume on a given evening.

However that wasn?t enough, pretty soon you could buy a T-shirt (nee Jersey) for $249.95 with your name on it. Not too bad, for a mere $249.95 you could really be a sports hero in your own mind. Just the thing to impress the women, after all what woman wouldn?t believe that someone five foot two and one hundred and twenty pounds isn?t a real NFL football player. We?re not talking water boy, its quarterback or nothing.

That lasted for a while as ?fantasy? sports began to take on a whole new meaning. Now for $44.95 you could buy a ?team? picture (facing backward of course) with your name somewhere in the middle (I guess the outer edge would be a tip-off) of a handful of famous names. Not bad, a couple of twenties and a five and you could hang your ?lie? on the wall. That?s got to impress Neil and his wife next time they come over for a beer.

But hey, Bobby beat you! For $89.99, he bought a ?Hall of Fame? picture and the guy wearing his name, sure isn?t that fat SOB. This could go on forever, all these nobody?s paying to be somebody. It kind of reminds me of the Dr. Seuss?s story about Sneeches. First the best ones had stars and then the best ones were the ones that didn?t and then they were the one with stars, on and on and the guy running the machine kept going until no one had any money and he left.

You can buy posters and ashtrays (like real athletes smoke) and Bar-B-Que aprons. Hell, for enough money you can probably get your own ?yes? man. Yes sir, right here in River City. Imagine buying a poster of Schwarzenegger at his prime with your face laid over the top. There no end to the possibility of mail-order hubris.

People will say, ?oh that means nothing?, your reading too much into this hero-worship thing. But you know, I don?t ever remember seeing my dad in a T-shirt with Vince Lombardi or Johnnie Unitas, much less his name on the back???

I think you have a valid point, RW. Having heroes is great if it inspires action. My cousin Cameron had heroes all through his childhood. Michael Jackson (before he was revealed as a pederast), Gary Sweet (star of the Australian TV show Police Rescue), and others. They inspired him to work hard and go for his dreams, and he’s the most successful person I have ever met. Far more successful than me, in every area of his life.

But the Wal-Mart Heroes you talk about are just fantasising about being successful; it’s all imagination and no action…

First of all, you say the guy at the bar with the jersey on is drinking far more than the average athlete would in a given evening. Have you ever seen a professional athlete out on the town? Because I think you’d be surprised, to assume that these guys dont party hard is pretty naive.

Second of all, I will say you’re reading into it too deeply. I hope nobody fantasizes that theyre actually an nfl player, although I’m sure they do. I own two jerseys, Kerry Collins when he was with the panthers and Keyshawn Johnson when he was with the jets. I think it’s funny/interesting to have jerseys that most people no longer associate with these players. They forget they were ever on another team. But when I see people wearing player jerseys I dont think any more of it than I would a fan wearing a yankees cap, or the jacket I own with the jets logo: just a fan showing their support. Jerseys allow you to be a little more specific, answering the question “who’s your favorite player?” And I’m not sure why anyone would base their decision on what to wear on what your dad wore. Times change, clothing changes.

I agree with the jerseys where you put your name on it tho, I’ve always laughed at those. Never heard of the pictures, might just be considered a curiosity but it does strike me as a little odd.