In their first game after the All-Star break, the Golden State Warriors busted out some fancy new duds in celebration of Chinese New Year. The sleek slate uniforms feature red and gold trim, the word for “Warrior” in Chinese characters, and an octagonal sleeve patch with a prancing goat, the new year’s presiding animal sign. These special jerseys make their fourth and final appearance of the season tomorrow night, when the team holds official festivities at Oracle Arena while taking on the Milwaukee Bucks.
How are fans reacting to these uniforms? Let’s explore a sampling of hypothetical perspectives.
The Pure Fan
“I don’t care what the team wears, so long as they win.”
That’s valid, but also kind of boring. There’s a cliché that we’re all just rooting for laundry — so why not take a closer look at the uniforms?
The Superstitious Fan
“If they win in those jerseys, they should keep wearing them.”
Total nonsense, of course. But if you’re superstitious, allow me to direct your attention to a couple alarming details. The Warriors logo highlights the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, a $6.5 billion architectural marvel that opened less than two years ago — and whose various pieces have been cracking, corroding, and leaking ever since. If that symbolism worries you, consider one of the team’s taglines, “Warriors Ground,” which usually gets depicted with a web of fissures running within or underneath the font, as if portending the Bay Area’s next catastrophic earthquake, or Steph Curry’s next catastrophic ankle injury. Golden State’s marketing department has an obvious karmic death wish.
The Old-School Fan
“I prefer the classic look.”
You mean the one without sleeves? I’m with you on that! People in the Bay Area pride themselves on game-changing innovation, but whoever came up with the idea of putting sleeves on a basketball jersey, well, they chucked up a big fat airball. But aside from the issue of shoulder exposure, you won’t find me clamoring to bring back any jerseys of yesteryear. Most of the old motifs — much like the words “Golden State” — disguise the fact that the Warriors play in Oakland. There’s that one logo with a star covering a sizable chunk of Northern California; that might be a more appropriate image for the Sacramento Kings, since they’re actually in the state capital. And then you have the popular throwback trolley car jerseys; those remind us that the team used to play in San Francisco, and that ownership plans to yank them back over there again soon. What about Thunder, you ask? You can forget him — Russell Westbrook buried his body somewhere out in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
The Vera Wang Fan
“The Warriors are so hot right now.”
Vera Wang is an important designer, right? When it comes to fashion, I have no clue; “Project Runway” could be a show about airplane landings for all I know. I’m essentially stealing the above quote from Jacobim Mugatu, the evil fashion mogul from the movie “Zoolander,” my primary point of reference for the world of couture. It was either that quote or “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” — a good Mugatu line to use if you think the jerseys are wack. I could honestly go either way.
The Houston Rockets Fan
“Hey, we have Chinese New Year uniforms too!”
You know what, Rockets fans? Your main guy said the Dubs aren’t that good. So how did that season series sweep taste? Like Yao Ming’s wine? No, because Yao Ming makes his wine in the Bay Area. I think the flavor on your tongue is four games’ worth of bitter disappointment. Go back to the suburbs.
The Los Angeles Lakers Fan
“We should have gotten those Chinese New Year uniforms — we have a huge Asian fan base.”
Guess what else you have? Last place in the Pacific Division. With the unflattering way head coach Byron Scott has been talking about Jeremy Lin this season, you should probably stay away from the phrase “year of the goat.”
The Goat Fan
“Goats are awesome!”
Okay, I don’t think these people really exist, except maybe on farms. I just included this to make two halfway-related points:
1) I’m getting mixed messages on whether “goat” is really the preferred nomenclature in this instance. Signs around Oakland Chinatown have told me to celebrate the year of the sheep. My Wells Fargo ATM has been pushing “ram” at me. Discussions with my friends have not clarified the matter.
2) I’m a dragon. My animal sign will barbecue your animal sign and eat it for lunch.
The Ignorant Fan
“What’s up with the Korean jerseys?”
Look, I’m not going to judge these kinds of missteps too harshly, so long as they come from a place of respect and curiosity. My hope is that, when I hear someone say something uninformed or even offensive, I have the poise and presence of mind to politely broaden their worldview. Besides, I know I’ve said some dumb things in the past, and will certainly say some dumb things in the future. I’ve probably said some dumb things in this very post. No one’s perfect, and folks gotta learn somehow, right?
The Racist Fan
“Why are they honoring those [insert slur here]?”
I realize that ignorance and racism overlap, but I think it’s worth differentiating between the two when malicious intent is involved. It’s a lot harder to engage with hatred, or to shrug it off. All I can really say is, I’m just glad it’s not the year of the dog, if you know what I mean. That’s going to save us some grief.
The Cultural Nationalist Fan
“It’s disgusting to see our culture co-opted like this!”
I could have pulled on my Frank Chin cranky pants and written a whole post from this perspective, but what good would that do? Fire up the already fiery rabble-rousers? Prove my Asian American studies bona fides? Give me constipation? Sure, we should vigilantly resist appropriation and exploitation, especially by corporate conglomerates like the National Basketball Association. But in this instance, I’m more sympathetic to the perspective of…
The Community-Minded Fan
“It’s great to see the Dubs recognize Asian Americans.”
Say what you will about pandering and tokenism, but I dig that the Warriors stepped up like this. Although I’m upset that the organization, the league, and pro sports overall have been gradually shutting out the common fan, I would like to enjoy this gesture, and take it as one of good will. Sometimes, it feels nice to let go of your cynicism and enjoy the show.
The Marxist Fan
“Ugh — capitalism.”
Other times, it feels right to hold tight to your cynicism, clutching it close to your chest like a copy of the “Communist Manifesto” while you watch the show between epic eye rolls of contempt. It’s true, teams know they can make a quick buck by switching up their jerseys for special occasions. They don’t even need to find a holiday to celebrate — a basic color scheme change will coax in streams of cash. Just ask that lady in the pink Red Sox hat.
The Global Fan
“Basketball has truly become an international game.”
Learn to stop worrying and love this new reality. Chairman Mao is dead and gone; Stephon Marbury took his place. At this very moment, Harrison Barnes is brushing up on his Mandarin. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will one day rule the world. So get in his good graces now and go buy yourself some merchandise.
Alec MacDonald is a writer and editor who lives in Oakland, California.