I was extremely reluctant to write this. It’s embarrassing. I am publicly admitting that I, a self-proclaimed devotee of sports aesthetics and uniforms, was duped by a bootlegger. All my years of following @UniWatch on Twitter, wasted. All the snide jokes I made whenever I saw some rube wearing an awful bootleg Felix Hernandez jersey at Safeco Field, now made forever ironic.
My initial inclination was to hide my shame, but I decided to share my experience as a cautionary tale to all jersey buyers. Also, it involves Dae-Ho Lee, for whom I’ll forever hold a candle. And finally, this offseason has been horrible and never-ending, so we could all use a few more things to laugh about.
Enough preamble. Here is my sad, sordid story.
My family started doing a gift exchange for Christmas a few years ago. My newly-minted brother-in-law drew my name. He is a Mariners fan, as well, and has a very strong track record of gift giving. A baseball scout would say at least 70 grade, if not 80.
I had been having a hard time thinking of things to put on my list because a) I’m 34 and b) this was my daughter’s first Christmas so the focus was primarily on her, of course. I put stuff on my list that was for the baby because that’s what you do when you’re a parent. Beyond a couple shirts and some socks, I was pretty well set. But wait, I thought, what’s something ridiculous and Mariners-related that I could ask for? Something I wish I’d spend money on, but knew I never would anytime soon. Suddenly, it came to me: a Dae-Ho Lee Mariners jersey.
I had foolishly missed out on snatching up a Dae-Ho jersey when they were on clearance at the Mariners Team Store in the 2017 offseason. And despite many, many attempts to find a Lotte Giants Dae-Ho jersey somewhere, ANYWHERE online, I had so far been unsuccessful. I even tried the official Korean site for the Giants, but Google Translate only goes so far when it comes to ordering merchandise. So I saw this as a good opportunity to ask for something frivolous, assuming I could a decent price.
I typed “Dae-Ho Lee Mariners jersey” into a Google search and clicked on one of the first results. I found this site, which to my probably sleep-deprived brain (again, first-time parent), SEEMED legit looking enough.
And boy, that PRICE! $110 for an authentic MLB jersey? That’s like $200 off! Must be trying to get rid of them since he’s no longer on the team, my dumb brain reasoned with itself.
I thought, sure, what the heck? I don’t have one of the newer navy alts with “Seattle” across the front instead of “Mariners,” so let’s go with that one. Let’s do size 44 (men’s XL) and keep it roomy in honor of my favorite large baseball playing man. Boom. Link sent to brother-in-law. Christmas list done.
Fast forward to Christmas. Baby is having a wonderful time. All is well. Brother-in-law tells me he did indeed order the jersey, but it won’t be here for another week or so. The site said it would take about a month total to arrive from China, which was another obvious red flag that I didn’t really think about enough at the time. “No worries!” I said. “Pass the eggnog.”
About a week after New Year’s, the jersey arrived. I picked it up at my sister and brother-in-law’s house after walking their dog for them while they saw “Book of Mormon” for a date night. I was STOKED. I got home, took the jersey out of the packaging, unfolded it, and my heart sank instantly.
Yeah, that’s one ROUGH bootleg. The jersey material is like cheesecloth and the size is a joke. That is...not an U.S. extra large, that is for sure. And of course, the material used for the lettering and numbers looks far worse in person than it does in these photos, I assure you.
Here are a few photo comparisons with my 2010 Felix Hernandez authentic navy alt, which, yes I know is not apples-to-apples, but the differences between the boot and any real jersey are glaring and obvious.
Boot on the left, legit on the right.
WOOF. The font! The shade of teal in the compass! That fucking joke of a Majestic logo!
Colors are wrong and the batting helmet on the boot looks like a WWII US Army helmet. The baseball man appears to be hitting the ball off a tee, as well.
Okay, this is the one that hurts the most. HOW DID I NOT CATCH THIS? The boot, both the actual version AND the screenshots on the fucking website feature the WRONG DAMN FONT for both the last name and numbers. The navy alts use the wacky pointy nautical font for the names and numbers, which is unique to that navy alt. All other Mariners jerseys use the more standard looking block letters and numbers. ALSO, the navy alts feature the numbers on front of the jerseys on the lower left side below the team name. The bootleg does not have those numbers. I mean, of all the things that should have tipped me off, this one was blaring like a doomsday siren and I just strolled right past it, oblivious.
How did this happen, I thought? Where the heck did my brother-in-law get this monstrosity? I frantically pulled up my original email, followed the link, and examined the site and jersey with fresh eyes. “Oh no,” I said out loud, and then uttered a great many curse words and several open-ended, rhetorical questions directed at no one but myself. The wet blanket of shame weighed heavy on me. That god damn @dril tweet played in my head on a loop. This was some brutal self-ownage. It burned. It still burns.
So, here are three simple rules for safer Mariners jersey buying:
1. Inspect the website carefully
This site was sneaky. It put “Fanatics” in the URL (Fanatics is the official company that sells a great deal of MLB’s official gear) and it had all the right logos featured. So, take your time and poke around the site. Check and see if everything is where it should be. Look for certificates and a location, if possible. And really, just don’t order from anywhere that’s not directly linked to the Mariners website or to a nationally-known company like Fanatics, Dick’s Sporting Goods, etc.
2. Do a photo comparison
30 seconds or less of Google image searching would have saved me from this debacle. Look up a real photo of the player wearing the jersey you’re after. Does it match up? Are the numbers and logos in the right places? Do the colors and fonts look correct?
3. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is
$110 for an authentic jersey is probably bullshit just about anywhere considering authentic jerseys typically run $220-$300. Even if it’s an end-of-season deal and a retailer is still clearing out its Figgins and Ackley jerseys, do your diligence and make sure it’s legit.
If you follow these simple steps, you may well avoid a fate like mine. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must return to my lair of shame. Please mind the sign that reads, “Do not disturb until March 29.” Thank you.