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What’s your Favorite Bears Jersey?

As we continue Jersey Week we want to know your favorite Bears jersey story.

Tom Waddle

Sentimental Value: the value of something to someone because of personal or emotional associations rather than material worth.

Autographed Tom Waddle jersey from the author’s collection
Jeff Berckes

The jersey in the picture is not worth much. Purchased in early 1992 from a local shoe store with money earned shoveling driveways, $5 a customer. A trip to the local screen printer added plain white letters W-A-D-D-L-E to the back for a bargain rate because, quite frankly, it didn’t turn out all that well.

“Who is Waddle?”

“He’s my favorite player.”

“Why is that jersey so big?”

“So I can wear it forever.”

A trip to Platteville, Wisconsin in late summer earned the now-faded ink across the 7. Tom Waddle, or Tommy as we called him because, you know, we felt like we knew him, was making his way down the autograph line and just as he’s about to run away, he catches #87 out of the corner of his eye. He jogs over and, armed with the black sharpie I bought on the way out of town, signs the jersey while telling my mom he’s ruined the value.

THE jersey was worn regularly to school, on Sundays for games, cookouts, Halloween parties with some eye black, wherever I could get away with wearing it. I wore it to every Super Bowl party until the 2006 season when I finally retired it.

While the exact circumstances elude me, Tom was booked to speak at my high school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa during my junior or senior year. Of course I was going but would I wear the jersey?

High school is a funny thing. You care what other people might think about you. Was it uncool to wear the jersey of the guy giving a lecture? I would almost certainly be the only one.

In the end, I wore the jersey, thinking it was my best bet to grab a few words with him after the talk ended. I traded cool for a conversation. I’m glad I did.

They say never meet your idol, but they clearly weren’t talking about Tom Waddle.

After the speech, an inspirational story of grit and stick-to-itiveness, I approached the dais.

“Hey, I wondered if that was my jersey or Ricky Proehl, but I see my signature there.”

“Ha, yeah, you were my favorite player growing up.”

“Oh man, you need a better eye for talent.”

It went on like that for two or three minutes before I felt like I had taken up way too much of his time and rejoined my friends, waiting a respectful (and fearful) distance away.

It’s my favorite jersey for a lot of reasons. I like the faded ink, reminding me of my mom secretly washing it without my consent. I like the incongruous white letters with creases from the front v-neck collar, reminding me of a childish foolishness. I like that my 9-year old self thought I would wear the jersey forever and bought multiple sizes up to ensure I wouldn’t grow out of it.

That jersey might fetch $5 on the open market today, equivalent to the pay I received from shoveling one of those driveways back in 1992. The thing about sentimental value is, I wouldn’t sell it for $500.

Your turn. What’s your favorite jersey and why? Is it your first purchase? Your favorite player? One given to you by a loved one? Share you story below.