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Wednesday, January 7: Revisiting Awkward Jerseys

Posted by Matt Terl on January 7, 2009 – 9:52 am

A couple months back, I observed that purchasing a jersey is a risky endeavor. Get unlucky and you’re wearing a Heath Shuler jersey long after the man himself has failed in D.C., bounced through New Orleans and Oakland, and returned to D.C. as a Congressman. It was all light-hearted and well-intentioned and amusing and all of that.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this is actually the sort of thing that honest-to-goodness economists study and analyze. The excellent Freakonomics blog at the New York Times takes a look at the question from that standpoint in regard to Brett Favre New York Jets jerseys.

So how do all those people who paid $80 for Favre Jets jerseys feel today? Do they wish they’d spent their money elsewhere? How much would they pay for the same jersey today? Did they derive $80 worth of pleasure from it up to this point – i.e., was the thrill of the first two-thirds of the season worth the pain of the last third?

Part of the question turns on the reasons people wear jerseys, which psychologists have actually given names to.

And what about wearing the jerseys they’ve already bought? Psychologists have noted a pair of phenomena related to this question: Basking in Reflected Glory (BIRGing) and Cutting Off Reflected Failure (CORFing). This boils down to the fact that people like to wear a team’s jersey after the team wins (that’s a BIRGer binge) and they like to bury a team’s jersey deep in the closet after the team loses.

I’m not sure if any recent Redskins jersey carries quite the weight that Favre’s does — as the article notes, Favre’s Jets jersey broke the previous single-day sales record by something like 700% — but I feel like, within reason, Jason Taylor might come close.

The ad for presales of his Skins jersey was on the website before his number was finalized, and (although it’s tough to remember now) people were excited about the trade. Then a freakish calf injury cost him a chunk of the season and he never seemed to quite settle in to the scheme here, and all of a sudden Taylor’s on the radio talking about how he wouldn’t pay himself eight million. There’s still the chance that he’s rejuvenated next year and wreaking the havoc in D.C. that we all hoped to see, but as it stands now, I’d say that there’s probably a lot more CORFing than BIRGing in 55 jerseys this year.

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