WASHINGTON — It’s not just the D.C., mid-Atlantic or East Coast bias–the 2016 Washington Redskins had some star power on their team. Receiver Pierre Garcon, tight end Jordan Reed and cornerback Josh Norman all warrant consideration among the best at their positions.
But Washington, D.C. is a quarterback-driven town, taking pride in being the original home of the quarterback controversy (Billy Kilmer vs. Sonny Jurgensen). Therefore, it should come as no surprise that quarterback Kirk Cousins was the team’s lone representative for NFL jersey sales between March 1, 2016 and February 28, 2017, ranked 39th overall.
Unfortunately, it should also come as no surprise that this list was headlined by two Dallas Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, rookies who took the league by storm in 2016. This is a similar phenomenon to when Robert Griffin III had NFL record jersey sales in 2012 during his miraculous rookie campaign.
Here’s a look at how the other three NFC East teams were represented on the list:
Dallas Cowboys: 5 (Elliott, Prescott, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Tony Romo)
New York Giants: 2 (Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning)
Philadelphia Eagles: 1 (Carson Wentz)
Romo is among the biggest surprises of any players on the list, given that he played only garbage time last season after suffering a serious back injury. The writing was on the wall early in the season that he had been supplanted by Prescott as the team’s starter and would likely be moving on after the season–if not to retirement, to another team.
Perhaps nostalgia is strong enough to have him ranked 15th among NFL sales.
Fans wearing “authentic” and replica jerseys rose to prominence in the 1970s. Before that, fans attended games primarily in business apparel, with men watching in suits, ties and dress hats, while women were not out of place in dresses, furs and hats.
According to Sports Illustrated, pop culture helped to advance the narrative that jerseys should be worn by true fans, as McMillan and Wife and the Mary Tyler Moore Show depicted fans in team-official swag. SI.com also offers to explanations for why fans buy jerseys:
There’s a complex answer, first validated in a 1976 Arizona State study, performed by Robert Cialdini and five colleagues, that coined the acronym B.I.R.G. (Basking in Reflected Glory) by establishing that college students showed a greater tendency to wear school apparel (and use the pronoun “we”) after ASU’s football team had won than after it had lost.
This concept goes further. “People have a need to belong and we want others to know that we belong,” says Dan Wann, a Murray State professor of psychology who has studied fan behavior. “But we also have the need for distinction, so you personalize your Royals jersey.”
Eric Simons, author of The Secret Lives of Sports Fans, says, “Humans don’t change. The culture changes. Clearly, jerseys are something that would have been desirable long before they were actually available.”
Whatever the reason, Cousins creates enough excitement among fans to make them spend significant money to look like him on game day. If he signs a long-term contract with the Redskins, look for those numbers to rise even more.