When a Number is Not Just a Number

We all know that professional athletes that rise to the highest levels of their respective sports are often largely out of touch with the rest of us. It’s to be expected, I suppose, when you’re talking about a profession where the “minimum wage” is somewhere around half a million dollars a year.

But every once in a while, something comes up that reminds us just how out of touch some of these guys really are.

Usually, it involves their paychecks… like when an NBA near-star complains about not being able to feed his family on the $3-4 million his current contract calls for or when someone with 2-3 years remaining in his contract “holds out” of training camp or spring training because he wants a new contract more befitting his recent contributions. (Funny how none of these guys follows up a crappy year by insisting on taking a pay cut, though, isn’t it?)

A couple of recent reminders of just how out of touch players are with their fans, however, have had little at all to do with their inflated paychecks. No, the issue was something a bit more subtle… their jersey numbers. Both instances involved players from Minnesota’s major sports.

Did you shell out $100 for a #19 Valencia jersey? Tough sh*t.

As many of you may be aware, Danny Valencia has decided to change his jersey number this season. Instead of the #19 he’s worn during his first couple of seasons as the Twins third baseman, Valencia has elected to switch to #22 for the 2012 season.

Valencia was one of the players participating in the “Tweet and Greet” during Twinsfest on Saturday afternoon and he was asked by one of the fans what he suggests fans who bought his #19 jersey should do with them. His response was something along the lines of considering it a “throwback jersey”. When the fan responded with, “you mean throw away jersey?”, he didn’t seem amused.

Not to pick exclusively on Valencia, because he’s certainly not the first Twins player to change numbers. Justin Morneau switched from #27 to his current #33 a few years back, as well. But his perturbed demeanor at having a fan dare to even question him on the subject just demonstrates how out of touch he is with the fans.

Valencia’s going to be among the lowest paid players in Major League Baseball this season at a mere $480,000, but you would think that he’s still young enough to remember when shelling out over $100 for a player’s jersey (and a replica jersey, at that) was a big deal. His cavalier attitude on the subject indicated that he clearly doesn’t “get it.”

Frankly, if I were running the Twins and Valencia told me he wanted to change jersey numbers, I’d have told him he should learn how to field his position and make a decent throw to first base (not to mention getting on base more than 29% of the time) or he can ask for whatever number he wants… from his next team.

Peterson will keep #28

But Valencia’s nowhere near the biggest name on the list of Minnesota sports heroes that “don’t get it.” That honor (for this week anyway) goes to the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson.

It seems “AP” decided he’d like to turn in his #28 for #23 next season. Exactly why seems to remain a bit of a mystery, but it hardly matters because once Peterson found out he’d have to write a check for about $1 million to cover the cost of all of the #28 jerseys the NFL and their licensed retailers have in stock, he decided against the change.

But he wasn’t happy about it.

Get a load of these quotes, (courtesy of 1500ESPN’s Tom Pelissero):

“Ok so I see maybe ten thousand dollars of my total jersey sales! That’s it!!!” Peterson wrote, referring to a player’s cut of the licensing fee.

“(And) I know I’ve mostly likely been in the top ten (w)hen it comes to top sales ! Why in the hell do I have to pay a Million dollars to change my number! I don’t even get paid a million (d)ollars by my sponsors a year! Wow!!! (And) I’m talking about my (N)ike deal!”

I guess that kind of reaction shouldn’t surprise us. After all, this is the same guy who complained a year ago that being an NFL player constituted “modern day slavery.”

Poor Adrian. Maybe we could arrange a telethon or something.

Yo Adrian! It’s not all about YOU, jerk!

It’s about the store owners who still have a crapload of your junk with #28 plastered all over it that they couldn’t sell because you and your team stunk the place up this season.

And while you may “only” have seen about $10K of the money spent on your crap, your fans have spent MILLIONS of dollars for the privilege of wearing your name… and number… on their backs.

Frankly, I think the NFL is letting you off easy by just making you pay for the unsold stock of #28 jerseys. If changing your number is so important to you, you should have to pay to REPLACE all of the jerseys your fans have purchased and which would become instantly outdated for no reason other than your own self-centeredness.

I’d like to see fans send a little message to Adrian Peterson, Danny Valencia, and any other big time player who changes their jersey number. It’s simple really. Don’t buy their stuff. Any of it.

Let Valencia look around Target Field for kids wearing his #22 and see… nobody.

If AP is so proud of being in the “Top 10″ of jersey sales, let him drop through the floor in those rankings and see how big his next Nike deal is.

Maybe at some point these guys will start to understand that every dollar they make originates with us… the fans… and maybe at some point they’ll realize the effects that their stupid whims have on their fans.

Nah…. probably not.

- JC