The coveted, but largely under-discussed conversation about a football player’s jersey number is one that is understood only by the biggest and most dedicated sports enthusiasts.
It is safe to say that a non-fan’s reaction to the number that an NFL player is wearing, or is going to wear, would be to ask, “who cares?” Or “that’s stupid,” or, “why does that even matter?”
The true answers to these questions are certainly complex, but I would have to say that a player’s number is so recognizable and important to fans because it is the most directly symbolic element of an athlete.
Symbolism is clearly very popular and easily recognizable in professional sports, and pop-culture itself, when it comes to the wide array of writings or emblems and markings on players’ helmets, jerseys, under-shirts, gloves, wrist bands and even directly stitched onto them in the form of tattoos.
So you can see why the Philadelphia Eagles fresh young rookie QB Matt Barkley may be understandably peeved about having to switch up his highly-recognizable number ’7′ college jersey number immediately upon entering the NFL arena.
The obvious reason is that current Eagles starting QB Michael Vick wears ’7′ right now and he is arguably the most recognizable number ’7′ in professional sports history, let alone the NFL. Barkley was also unable to obtain the number ’5′ that he wore in high school because former Eagles star QB Donovan McNabb sported that numeral, and there is a very good chance that it will be retired shortly. Football players and organizations usually also have too much respect for former franchise-faces to allow a new player to wear their number.
In case you were wondering, the number that Barkley will have embroidered on his brand-new, fresh-cut Eagles get-up in 2013 will be the number ’2′.
I guess K David Akers wasn’t too beloved by Philadelphians after all.
You can follow Joe on Twitter @EaglesRant for all Eagles/NFL insight.