When my wife and I were expecting our first child last year, I was told by multiple family members and friends that having a baby is one of the most wonderful joys and expensive investments you'll ever make. Little did I realize the majority of the costs would be related to dressing her in team paraphernalia.
Call it a rite of passage, from the miracle of birth to a blank canvas on which to dress my newest best friend, in an effort to say, "This baby is and forever will be a Cubs fan." Sports have a way of turning a father into a braggart for his favorite teams through his child.
Even before experiencing the joys of fatherhood, I was confronted with the challenge of finding a sport/team for which to share with my wife - a person who never enjoyed athletics. I tried baseball, football and basketball, all of which were worthy efforts but, in the end, fell short. It wasn't until I took her to a Blackhawks game some years ago that I struck a nerve. She was instantly hooked.
From that moment on, I would occasionally buy her a Hawks t-shirt or hooded sweatshirt, both of which she still wears to this day. She's even purchased a few other items on her own.
Sports paraphernalia is a huge business each and every year. According to a global industry analysis, the sports apparel industry will succeed $126 billion by the year 2015. Not to mention, according to IBISWorld, online sports apparel will contribute to the economy up to 2017 at a growing rate of 6.3 percent. These are daunting stats, which begs two questions: 1.) Why am I not in this industry? And 2.) How much of my money is going to make sure those numbers stay on track?
Just a few days leading up to the birth of our daughter (we knew ahead of time the baby was going to be a girl), I wanted her first outfit to be a Cubs onesie. I initially thought about a Hawks or Bears onesie, but it was the end of June and felt the timing was right for a baseball outfit. Not to mention, the Cubs are, with some admitted sadness, my favorite team in the city.
A few hours after she was born, I was given the green light to dress her in her newest outfit, the Cubs onesie, pink. I stepped back, took a deep breath, and then apologized to her for what was sure to be a lifetime of ridicule and heartbreak. If anything, it'll prepare her for life's other heartbreaks.
Since then, I've bought her a Bears outfit, a handful of Hawks gear and, most recently, more Cubs outfits to show off in front of her classmates at daycare. Her response to all of these outfits? Some occasional drool and regurgitated formula. But, hey, she looks great, and I'm taking all kinds of great pictures, even if I'm $50 in the hole with each purchase.
Looking back on my childhood, I remember receiving some Pittsburgh Steelers hats and shirts from some relatives on the east coast. Did I routinely root for the Steelers when I was six? Not really, but that Steelers hat was my lucky fishing hat and I eventually took a liking to Bubby Brister.
In the end I'm sure my daughter will either play along, or denounce her father's motivation to cheer on a bunch of athletes with whom she wants no allegiance. And perhaps playing dress-up is my way of subconsciously wishing I had more options to choose from besides a pair of black and gold sweatpants.
Regardless of whether or not she rebels and chooses the White Sox or, God forbid, the Cardinals as her team, I figure I'm at least doing my part in keeping the economy rolling with over-priced junk she'll eventually grow out of or crap into beyond repair.
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