Pursuit of Perfection

All About Sports: Especially Stats and Video Games

Adventures in NFL Jersey-Land: Super Bowl XLIV Edition

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Over the past few months, I’ve become somewhat of a football memorabilia nut.  I’ve purchased Riddell’s set of 43 Super Bowl Champion Pocket Pro Mini-Helmets, Riddell’s set of all 32 current NFL teams in Pocket Pro Mini-Helmets, Riddell’s set of AFC 50th Anniversary Pocket Pro Helmets, and Riddell’s Football Helmet Standings Tracker sheets with all 32 current NFL teams in Gumball Mini-Helmets.  I also received a genuine Reebok Premier/EQT Tom Brady New England Patriots Team Color Jersey for Christmas from my parents.  Given the price and quality of jerseys, I asked for a Premier/EQT jersey because it is the mid-priced option (MSRP: $109.99) and has some stitching on the jersey instead of the Replica jerseys which are all screen-printed for an MSRP of $79.99 and the Authentic jerseys which are fully-stitched and game quality but carry an exorbitant $259.99 MSRP price tag.  More info on the differences between the jerseys can be found here.

Growing up in the state of Maine, I’ve always been in a bit of a football “dead zone” in terms of being able to easily access NFL merchandise and games.  The New England Patriots–my “hometown” team–play nearly 3 hours from my hometown and a full 5 hours from my current location.  As such, the only true option for me to purchase NFL merchandise has been through online outlets.

For the memorabilia I mentioned in my opening paragraph above, I went through NFLShop.com for the items.  After the New Orleans Saints upset the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and I had interest in purchasing a jersey to remember that victory–particularly since it was the first Super Bowl my fiancée had ever watched and it was our first Super Bowl since getting engaged.  Unfortunately, NFLShop.com dropped the ball with the Super Bowl XLIV jersey situation.

During the week before Super Bowl XLIV, NFLShop.com uploaded Super Bowl XLIV jersey items for both the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts.  A number of players from each team were available in Replica jersey style for an MSRP of $84.99 or customizable jerseys in Replica style were available for $99.99.  Prices have since dropped for the Colts–as few fans would want memorabilia from a lost Super Bowl–but the prices remain for the Saints.  Unfortunately, here was the first issue with the jerseys on the Saints side:

Looks fine at first, until you consider these:

The New Orleans Saints Super Bowl XLIV  jerseys offered through NFLShop.com had the wrong color collars.  Let that sink in for a second; the official shop of the National Football League, in producing jerseys for the biggest game of the season (and a rabid New Orleans fanbase), got the details of the jersey wrong.  It isn’t as though the white collar is an alternate jersey design–just look at photos from Super Bowl XLIV.  The standard Replica jerseys (the lower images with black collars) also retail for nearly $10.00 less, albeit lacking the Super Bowl XLIV logo.

Even that, however, wasn’t done successfully; Replica jerseys feature screen-printing for all jersey items: numbers, names, logos, etc.  The Replica Super Bowl XLIV jerseys had the Super Bowl XLIV logo, but they were screen-printed on the jerseys.  Within the first few weeks of sales, numerous customer reviews on the NFLShop.com site cited poor quality of the Super Bowl XLIV logos, with patches coming off the jersey after a few washes.  There were no images cited for reference, but a customer review on the Customized Replica Team Color New Orleans Saints jersey included an image which gives a good idea how the quality of screen-printed jerseys can be affected:

From my own personal experience–having briefly owned a Boston Patriots AFL 50th Anniversary Tom Brady Team Color Replica Jersey–the screen-printing quality varies greatly.  In my jersey experience, the AFL 50th Anniversary logo that was screen-printed on the jersey began peeling before a single washing.  That was the chief reason behind my decision to return the item for my money back (since the Premier/EQT version of the jersey–with the AFC 50th Anniversary Logo stitched on the jersey–went out of production).

New Orleans Saints fans were obviously (and rightfully) upset about the quality of these Super Bowl jerseys, and an MSRP of $84.99 is a steep price to pay for any fan to receive a jersey that has questionable quality.

In the past week, NFLShop.com uploaded a new item: a New Orleans Saints Drew Brees Super Bowl XLIV Premier White Jersey.  As is evident from the product image below, the collar color snafu has been addressed:

However, the issue of screen-printing persists, even though this Premier jersey features sewn tackle-twill numbers and name.  The Fleur-de-Lis logos on the sleeves are still screen-printed, and (perhaps more importantly) the Super Bowl XLIV logo is still screen-printed as well.  I can attest to the improvement in overall quality from Replica to Premier/EQT (having owned examples of both myself) but with an MSRP of $114.99 ($5.00 more than a standard Premier/EQT jersey and $30 more than the Replica jerseys) there are fewer fans who have the money to put into such a jersey.  Even then, those fans who can afford the step-up in jersey quality will still have to “baby” the Super Bowl XLIV logo on the jersey to avoid having it wash away.

Now, I am not a big New Orleans Saints fan.  I am a fan of the National Football League in general, though the Patriots are “my team” thanks to geographic location.  I cheer for the Saints when I get a game on TV, but as I stated earlier, my main motive for buying a Saints Super Bowl XLIV jersey was for nostalgic reasons to remember the first Super Bowl with my fiancée.  Being a bit of a jersey nerd, I could not bring myself to pay $84.99 for a Replica jersey or $114.99 for a neutered Premier/EQT jersey only available in white (I prefer to have a team color jersey; just a personal quirk).

I did what most people would do; I searched out other alternatives.  I went on eBay and found a listing for a black Drew Brees jersey with all jersey elements stitched to the jersey along with a stitched “C” patch and a stitched Super Bowl XLIV patch.  Even better, the Buy-It-Now price was $69.99 and UPS 2-day air shipping was free.  The attached images were consistent with the item description, a new Reebok tag was attached to the jersey, and the skeptical part of my brain turned off as I purchased the item.  After the transaction was complete, of course, the realization dawned–a realization confirmed by research online–that I most likely was not receiving a genuine NFL jersey.  Still, at $15.00 less than the official Replica jersey (before shipping costs) and with no returns allowed by the product seller, I was resigned to my fate.

My jersey arrived in the mail today, and after a quick check of the points noted by the research link above, it was clear that the jersey was not a genuine NFL product.  The people responsible for making it should be commended for the quality of the fake, but there are tell-tale signs as to why it isn’t genuine.  I took my Premier/EQT Tom Brady jersey out of the closet to make some direct comparisons between the jerseys to illustrate the differences, which I have presented below:

So there are the two jerseys side-by-side; a genuine Reebok Premier/EQT Tom Brady next to the eBay-purchased all-stitched Drew Brees.  From a distance, obviously the differences prove negligible.  The jerseys (the Brady is size XL, the Drew Brees is size 52, the numeric equivalent of XL) are about the same size and there are no real glaring issues (numbers being different sizes, for example) between the two.

Obviously, it is necessary to get closer to the jerseys.  For the pictures below (though the color differences are quite noticeable anyway) the left picture is the genuine Brady jersey while the right picture is the Brees jersey.  Clicking will take you to a slightly-bigger version.

The genuine jersey’s equipment patch at the neck has much better spacing between the letters in “EQUIPMENT” and the NFL Shield is much more well-defined in the details.  The Brees jersey has a smaller football in the Shield Logo and less space between the bottom of the Shield and the bottom of the patch.  Also, though these pictures aren’t really close enough to show it, the genuine jersey has the equipment patch stitched on with clear nylon thread while the Brees jersey is stitched on with white thread.

Again, picture quality is a bit hard to discern here, but this is another key difference between the jerseys.  The genuine jersey is made in El Salvador and the Brees jersey is made in Vietnam; as far as the research shows, genuine NFL jerseys are made in either El Salvador or Korea (depending on jersey quality) and no genuine jerseys are made in Vietnam.  Aside from that, there are slight differences: for example, the genuine garment tag has the proper accent mark on the Spanish spelling of “Poliester” while the Brees jersey lacks this.  Not a huge deal–it certainly doesn’t affect the wearability of the jersey–but it is a key difference in knowing that it is not genuine.

To the credit of the people who made the Brees jersey in Vietnam, they got the OnField tag pretty close.  The pictures here don’t show enough detail to really separate the two, but again the Brees jersey has less detail to the NFL Shield and the EQUIPMENT lettering above it.

The neck lining displays a few noticeable differences in quality.  The genuine jersey has a very clean lining, the logos are sharp, and the “Q” in “EQUIPMENT” has a particular font style.  By comparison, the Brees jersey has uneven (to the point of nearly being scalloped) lining, sloppier logos, and a plain font for the “Q”.  Again, not something that would be noticed as you wear the jersey, but a sign of lesser quality in construction.

And the hologram tags from the items.  The square hologram is the most recent hologram I’m aware of, as it came on my Brady jersey as well as a Patriots T-shirt tag that I received at Christmas from my future mother-in-law.  The circular hologram is the older version of the NFL hologram and doesn’t actually function as a hologram; the tags are side-by-side in the same lighting for this photograph but the hologram colors do not show.  The circular hologram also displays the old NFL Shield logo instead of the new one with only 8 stars.

On the front of the NFL jersey is a tag that denotes the size of the item; this tag appears at the bottom-right side of the jersey when you look at it head-on.  This comparison is a bit unfair, as the Premier/EQT jersey and the Authentic jersey (that the Brees jersey is  meant to reflect) have different jock tags here.  Compared to a true Authentic jock tag, the Brees jersey gets it all right (even the spelling, which has been an easy way to differentiate genuine products before)–however, the stitching of the tag to the jersey is subpar compared even to the Premier/EQT.

This comparison detail of the player names is again unfair by direct comparison because the Patriots jersey has a single-color name while the Saints jersey has multiple colors.  Both are stitched to the jersey, but there are blemishes on the Brees jersey.

The final side-by-side comparison shot compares the detail of the numbers on the jersey.  For the genuine Premier jersey, the red part is sewn to the jersey while the gray and white are screen-printed tackle twill on top of the red to represent the layering.  For the Brees jersey, meant to represent an Authentic jersey, the gold and white are actual layers stitched on top of one another.  The gold color seems close to the actual team color, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were differences put up against a genuine jersey.

And to end the photos, some detail pictures of the captain’s patch (with the correct 3 of 4 stars for Brees’ tenure), Fleur-de-Lis logo from the arms, and the Super Bowl XLIV patch.  The shoulder numbers and Fleur-de-Lis patches have some serious folding issues right in the middle of the patches because of how the item was shipped and (presumably) the quality of the craftsmanship.  The “C” logo is fine, but the Super Bowl XLIV patch has a bend above the “L” in the logo which is pretty visible in the photo detail and may have been a result of shipping.

And as I’ve crossed the 2,000-word mark here and given you all sorts of photographic evidence, you may find yourself asking, “What’s the point of all this?”  And, at this point, I’m not really sure how I would answer the question.  I’ll attempt to break it down into bullet points below.

  • If you want to get a really good quality jersey, especially if you have the money to spend and you want professional quality merchandise, you’d be kidding yourself not to go with NFLShop.com to get a genuine jersey.  The Premier/EQT jerseys are really nice for the middle-range price, and I’ve had no problems with my Brady jersey.
  • At the same time, NFLShop.com majorly dropped the ball in rolling out merchandise to coincide with Super Bowl XLIV, the biggest event of the 2009-10 NFL season.  As the sole provider of genuine league merchandise, there should be a higher standard of quality expected of them–the collar color snafu is embarrassing, as is having Replica jerseys as the only initial option for Super Bowl XLIV jerseys when Replica jerseys have such issues with quality.
  • Given the quality of their Replica jerseys, it would be nice to see NFLShop.com drop their prices to more accurately reflect the quality of the product.  An MSRP of $79.99 for an entry-level jersey is still quite pricey for the average NFL fan.  A big part of why there is this counterfeit market for jerseys, it would seem, is because people can find ways to pay less for the items.  While this Brees jersey is certainly not genuine, it would be hard to argue that it is of lesser quality than the Replica jerseys when the item has all jersey elements stitched instead of screen-printed.
  • No matter what, if you’re looking for genuine jerseys, eBay is a dangerous place to be doing it.  I must admit to kicking myself a bit for getting taken by possibly thinking that the jersey I purchased would be a genuine Authentic, even though the listing at no point mentioned those terms.  I gave the seller of the item positive feedback, as they didn’t mislead me, but I did remark in my comments that the item was not genuine NFL merchandise to warn other buyers.
  • While on the topic of eBay, I wouldn’t mind seeing stricter regulations for the images people use to sell their items.  If something like an NFL jersey is involved, there should be certain requirements about how many pictures should be displayed and that close-ups (as I used in this story) should also be necessary.  I contacted another seller on eBay who claimed to be selling an all-stitched Team Color Tom Brady jersey with the 50th Anniversary Patriots patch on the front; however, the listing only showed the back of the jersey in a stock photograph.  When I sent a message to the seller asking for specific pictures of the item that would be sent if I won the bidding, I was told in response that those pictures could not be provided but that I could get my money back if I bought the item and was unhappy with it.  I feel as though most people would see that as a good sign that the jersey is not genuine and that pursuing the item would be foolish.

In the long run, I can’t complain too vehemently.  I made a questionable purchasing decision and received an item that has some issues with it.  Would I rather have paid more for the genuine Premier/EQT jersey?  Probably not in this case, where the purchase is more ornamental than anything else.  What started as an attempt to memorialize the first Super Bowl spent with my fiancée turned into an eye-opening journey into the NFL jersey world.  I would welcome any potential readers to share similar stories here so that others can avoid going down this particular road in the future.


Written by Brian Parker

March 3, 2010 at 2:44 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Do you know what the numbers sewn into the INSIDE of a pro jersey represent? In this case, it says 07-46 S. Is that a size indicator?

    Jeffery Diduch

    November 20, 2010 at 10:46 AM

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