A good friend told me a few years ago he would not allow his kids to wear sports jerseys unless their name was on the back.
His philosophy is simple. You have your own name and you know what it represents.
While it made sense, I still thought his stance was radical, especially considering my friend, Phil Burton, was a sports anchor for WFTV and has a great affection for sports. Coincidentally, he happens to be the son of former Patriots player Ron Burton - the first player the franchise formerly known as the Boston Patriots ever drafted.
Then Aaron Hernandez happened.
Overnight, he transformed from a celebrated Patriots tight end to another disgraced athlete in handcuffs. New England cut ties with Hernandez after he was charged with the murder of his 27-year-old friend Odin Lloyd, and the team is offering fans the opportunity to trade in Hernandez's No. 81 jersey for another player's jersey this weekend with no receipt.
Sounds like a simple enough solution and a brilliant public-relations move. But instead of trading jerseys, maybe it's time to consider turning them in completely.
Whether you purchased a $200-plus football jersey, bought a yellow Livestrong wristband, donated to a cancer charity in the name of a superhero cyclist or just bought the glossy story of a paralympian and his super-model girlfriend living happily ever after, aren't you spent on believing in fairytales?
It's been quite the eye-opening year for sports stars and their reputations. Lance Armstrong admitted to doping. South African sprinter Oscar Pistorious, who made headlines as the courageous "blade runner" in the 2012 London Olympics, is awaiting trial for allegedly murdering his lover. Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson crossed over from likable goof to shameful goon when he head-butted his wife.
On a much less serious note, Serena Williams - despite her loss Monday - is making tennis history for her incredible feats on the court as the oldest No. 1 women's player but even that's been overshadowed by her seemingly reckless mouth.
Athletes aren't gods. They are just flawed human beings with talents that we lift up to unworthy thrones when we glorify their names and identities on things like jerseys.
This isn't a new concept, of course. And yet the crazy cycle of building and destroying stars continue.
Interesting enough, more than a few people are clamoring to buy Hernandez's jersey on eBay. One jersey owner said he originally asked for $50 for his Hernandez jersey but bids reached almost $230 by mid-afternoon Monday, according to ABC News. He originally paid about $250 for the jersey.
I'm not sure what's sillier - the fact that someone out there still wants to pay $200 for Hernandez's jersey or the fact that someone was willing to spend $250 on his jersey in the first place.
There is power in a name, especially the name you choose to own. That is why Burton's father fought so hard to disown his middle-school moniker, "Nothing."
Ron Burton grew up disadvantaged in Springfield, Ohio, and kids teased him about being poor and said he'd never amount to anything. After his last eighth-grade football game, a high school coach approached him and suggested he run seven-and-a-half miles every day during the summer to build his endurance.
He did, and on the first day of high school football practice, he placed first in all the conditioning drills. Nothing was certainly something and went on to become an All-American running back at Northwestern and successful professional football player.
His legacy is honored through the Ron Burton Training Village in Hubbardston, Mass., where more than 4,000 young men and women from impoverished backgrounds are mentored and encouraged while participating in sports in a rural setting.
For five weeks every summer, Phil Burton travels there and wakes up at 4:30 a.m. each morning to run seven-and-a-half miles with campers.
He's teaching them how to believe in themselves, but most importantly how to "wear" their own name with pride.
"I don't look down upon people who do (buy jerseys)," Burton said. "But you have your own name and you know what you stand for and all your values."
You can't put a price tag on that.