No, that doesn’t mean I was so obsessed with the Suns that I couldn’t think, speak or interact with the rest of the world, like Patton Oswalt in the excellent new film, “Big Fan.” Rather, I thought the Suns were cool. So, in order to be cool myself, I thought I had to be more like the Suns. Now, obviously, I wasn’t tall. And I wasn’t athletically gifted. So I couldn’t emulate my heroes in those senses. But could I dress like them? You bet.
Was that a good idea? You bet it wasn’t.
Keep in mind, in those days in Phoenix, cool clothes for kids meant surfer gear. Long-sleeve t-shirts bearing the emblem of “Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax.” Van’s slip-on sneakers without any socks. Corduroy Ocean Pacific, or long Bermuda shorts. That’s what you wore if you wanted to hang with the cool kids.
Unfortunately, that kind of gear wasn’t in vogue in the NBA around that time. No, that was the era of the short-shorts. Much scorned now, and rightfully so. Some time ago, I bought on eBay a pair of game-worn Suns shorts from that period (since washed, don’t worry). They belonged to a small forward, meaning a guy maybe six-foot six or so. On a lark, I tried them on. I am five-foot-nine. The shorts weren’t just small on me, they were embarrassingly, don’t-cross-your-legs-or-you’ll-get-arrested small.
Of course, I can recognize these clothing inadequacies now, at a riper age, with more of a sense of fashion and a couple decades of reading Esquire Magazine. When I was eleven, however? I thought surf clothes were for knuckleheads. The Suns were the best, therefore I should do everything in my power to resemble them.
Mike Bratz wore wristbands, I wore wristbands (everywhere). Johnny High wore short-shorts, I wore short-shorts (everywhere). Alvin Scott wore his white socks up to his kneecaps, I did the same. Don Buse had floppy hair, I grew mine out until it flopped just so. Garfield Heard wore a headband, I wore a headband – but only briefly. Even I recognized I couldn’t pull that one off.
And so I strutted around, trying my best to look like an athletic young millionaire, completely unaware, or rather, unconcerned, that I looked like a stringbean with arms wearing socks up to his neck. Unfortunately, my peers didn’t appreciate my maverick sense of fashion. I don’t mind saying it. I was mocked. And you know what? I didn’t care. Yes, looking back I can be embarrassed – especially by the photographic evidence (which you’ll notice I’m not including here), but at the time, my fondness for the Suns was so pure and complete, the pressures of my peers didn’t matter. I was waving my Suns flag high, and I was proud of it. It’s the same pride I feel when I go to a Lakers game today wearing the same Suns jacket I’ve had for twenty years. I don’t hear the jeers, I don’t see the looks, and I don’t hide. I don’t care if the Suns are fashionable.
I’m a Suns fan.
However, looking back, I can say I’m glad I didn’t grow up in the era of tattoos and shaved heads, otherwise my mother probably would have had me committed.