Everyone goes through it. Every year, a deluge of new jerseys from across the league. Most are boring but competent, a few are eye-gougingly awful, and rare few break the barrier to become the pinnacle of class and sophistication in the league. Fortunately for Colorado Rapids fans, we’re in the top tier for 2020.
But with every jersey purchase comes another question, too: What name and number to get on the back of it?
The obvious instinct is to get the name and number of a player from the current season and there are a lot of great players on the field in the 2020 roster.
How about a player who is practically synonymous with the Rapids, like our returning favorite Drew Moor? How about getting a jersey of one of our many talented homegrown players, like Sam Vines or Cole Bassett? What about one of our relatively new players who have had a huge impact over the last few years, like Jack Price or Kei Kamara? Or how about taking a risk on a brand-new player to the team, who hasn’t had a chance to prove himself yet but initial signs are quite positive, like Younes Namli?
Any one of the above are probably safe picks, but be warned. When you get a current player, it can tie you to them in a way that just watching them on the field can’t give you… which can be a double-edged sword.
I’ve had mostly bad experiences putting player names on jerseys. My first Rapids jersey was the 2016 home kit. Overall a solid kit, and to me it always seems like an iconic look from the team, especially amidst an excellent year in club history. Awesome, right? Well, no. In my naivety, I decided to get a Jermaine Jones #13 jersey. And yes, the use of the unlucky number thirteen is an irony that is not lost on me.
While the kit still ranks as a solid one, wearing it with the Jones name and number on the back comes with a bit of a stigma to it. The former USMNT player joined the club in 2016 as one of the most anticipated arrivals of the year. He made his debut in one of our Snow Clasico matches and even scored a goal. Our team had a world-class midfielder!
But Jones left the club in an incredibly rude fashion, trashing the team just minutes after their postseason ended, talking about how excited he was to leave. While on the field, Jones’ production made him one of the strongest players on the 2016 roster, off the field his name is a black mark on the club.
One of my friends has had even worse luck than me. His first Rapids jersey purchase was Stefan Aigner. Months later, Aigner left the club after a notoriously bad experience with Hudson, after playing less than 12 minutes in the 2018 season. A player who arrived as one of the most exciting offensive threats for the team in 2017 and was posed to be a centerpiece player in 2018 left as one of the greatest Rapids villains in history.
My friend’s second purchase was a little better, a 2017 Jared Watts away kit. I asked my friend why Watts and he told me it was because in the first Rapids game he watched, Watts was closest to where he sat, so he watched him for most of the game. He was impressed with his skills and actually got Wattsy to sign the jersey later on. Happy ending, right? Well, no. Shortly after, in that same season, Watts was unceremoniously traded to Houston Dynamo. Only a few short months after buying the jersey, it was basically rendered a novelty.
Whenever anyone gets a player name and number, there is a risk that something happens with that player. They might get traded, have their contract terminated, or they might turn from hero to villain. Keeping that in mind, what are the other choices if you don’t want a current player?
You can’t go wrong with a club legend
Well, there’s always the option of getting a franchise player who no longer is on the field. Guys like Conor Casey, Pablo Mastroeni, and Marcelo Balboa have all had their legacy cemented. Even after Pablo’s mixed history as a head coach, he’s still a Rapid through and through. Casey might not have wanted to stay with the Rapids as a coach, but he too has bled burgundy and blue since the Rapids became burgundy and blue. And as for Balboa? He’s been there since day one and continues to be a huge part of the team as an announcer and champion for the Rapids.
If you don’t want a player, then you could always go with a family name or nickname and custom number. Lots of people do this and I don’t fault anyone who does that. However, there does come the risk of people not completely in-tune with the Rapids asking what player you have. It can be an awkward question sometimes, but if you don’t have a problem with it, it can be a huge source of pride.
And there is one final option—don’t get anything on the back at all. Oftentimes, this works out to be the cheapest option (which can often translate to best). Fortunately for us, almost every year the Rapids have had a jersey launch party, our jersey sponsor Transamerica pays for the jersey customization. If you are going to get one at these parties, I’d always recommend getting the customization. It is something that makes your jersey just a little bit cooler.
Ever since after the disastrous Jones jersey, I’ve played it safe and put the name and number of the greatest supporters’ group in the world: Centennial 38. It’s something I wear with pride as it is a community that I feel so deeply ingrained in. In five years, ten years, twenty years—players will be gone, names forgotten, trophies won and lost. But no matter where the Rapids go, no matter the wins or losses, C38 will always be with them.
So for me, I’ll pretty much always get a C38 Rapids jersey. That isn’t to say you should do the same, just be aware that your jersey might be cool one minute and passé the next.
But at least we can all surely agree on one thing: RSL’s jerseys continue to be the ugliest things ever created.