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Project Runway: Sports Edition

Presenting the pyramid of sports attire – from Classic Uniforms to Attention Whores.

@BreakTheHuddle (e-mail: BreakTheHuddle@gmail.com)

Not all uniforms were created equal – that much is clear. Some were destined to come to mind when thinking about the sports we love – the maize and blue of the Michigan Wolverines, the Yankee pinstripes, the Golden Dome of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Others were meant to provoke us, to annoy us, maybe even to blind us.[i]

I’ve constructed a handy outline of the sports aesthetics pyramid (all homage given to the master of this craft, Paul Lukas, who blogs over at Uni-Watch[ii]).

Top of the Pyramid – Classic

These are the uniforms which merit the highest levels of respect and ought to never be messed with, save minor variations. They represent the most iconic franchises in each sport and are as recognizable as they are ubiquitous, and as stately as they are aesthetically pleasing.

Pittsburgh Steelers[iii], Oakland Raiders[iv], Green Bay Packers[v] (NFL); Boston Celtics[vi], New York Knicks[vii], Los Angeles Lakers[viii] (NBA); New York Yankees[ix], Los Angeles Dodgers[x], Chicago Cubs[xi] (MLB); Notre Dame Fighting Irish[xii], Michigan Wolverines[xiii] (NCAA Football)

Look, I know I’m not jumping out on any limbs here – these were relatively predictable teams to put at the top of the pyramid. Sure, there could be some debate about missing teams (the Chicago Bulls[xiv] nearly made the cut, as did the USC Trojans[xv]. The Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Cardinals, two teams usually mentioned in this conversation, were omitted because they sicken your humble author).[xvi]  The point is, the uniforms listed above are iconic. Not only do those franchises win titles (well, maybe not the Cubs, or the Fighting Irish any more), but they also look great doing it.

Near the top – New(ish) uniforms that corrected colossal mistakes.

The people in charge of the following franchises deserve a lot of credit – instead of clinging to the hideous rags they’d adopted in search of a “modern” look, they took a page out of history and brought it to the present with new designs.

Toronto Blue Jays (MLB), Buffalo Bills (NFL), Golden State Warriors (NBA)

I couldn’t be much more excited about the Blue Jays change – gone are the hideous steel grey[xvii], white and blue mish-mash of blahness, and in comes uniforms inspired by the good ol’ days of Blue Jay baseball, the early 90s – piped numbers, lettering and all.[xviii] The Bills ditched their “modern” looks[xix] before last season as well, bringing back an AFL-inspired design that was much, much better.

And as for the Golden State Warriors – well, let’s just say the “random bald dude holding a lightning bolt” wasn’t really doing it for anyone.[xx] So they went with a classic design as well, with a simple gold and blue color scheme[xxi] that is a world of improvement.

Towards the middle – dull.

Where else would the dull teams be? At least they avoided choosing jerseys which harmed our eyes, but they certainly do anything too inspired.

San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays (MLB), Cleveland Browns (NFL), Penn State Nittany Lions (NCAA Football)

The Padres incorporate beige into their color scheme, which should tell you everything you need to know about them.[xxii] The Rays have more or less the exact same jerseys, only with white instead of beige.[xxiii] I decided that Cleveland has suffered enough, so instead of lumping them in with the uglies, I decided to merely call them dull.[xxiv] The dullest of the all are the Penn State Nittany Lions, who have what is actually kind of a cool logo[xxv], but refuse to use it anywhere, at all, on their uniforms[xxvi] or on their field[xxvii]. Odd. Dull, and odd.[xxviii]

Just below the middle – Why on earth did you change them?

In the name of modernity they came out with something new, just so their fan bases could show up to most games in the throwback jerseys, because those were way cooler.

Denver Broncos (NFL), Milwaukee Brewers (MLB)

Look, I know the “orange crush” uniforms weren’t popular with everyone, but the orange jerseys coupled with the blue helmets[xxix] made for a pretty cool look… certainly better than vague dark blue and a possessed horse[xxx] on the side of the helmet. As far as the Brewers are concerned – what were they thinking? The “m.b.” symbol in the old hats[xxxi] was one of the best insignias in all of sports, yet they tossed it aside to incorporate wheat[xxxii] into the symbol? To please the Miller Brewing Company, or something? A travesty. At least they brought back the older kicks for all Sunday home games, but a full reversal is what’s really in order for them.[xxxiii]

Getting closer to the bottom – I wouldn’t dress my least favorite child in those ugly rags.

Thought the plain, old ugly uniforms would be at the very bottom of the pyramid, did you? Well, you’re wrong. Sometimes, the folks in charge make poor decisions on the aesthetics of the teams they put on the field. But hey – if they didn’t make their players put on these awful costumes, would we truly be able to appreciate the good ones? I think not.

Washington Wizards (NBA), Seattle Seahawks (NFL), Wyoming Cowboys (NCAA Football)

When the Wizards announced they were ditching the ill-conceived train wreck of gold-black-turquoise and white uniforms[xxxiv] in order to return to a “Bullets”-themed color scheme, I was very excited. For years, they were the worst dressed team in pro sports. But when they unveiled the new uniforms, it left a lot to be desired. Something about horizontal stripes[xxxv] just doesn’t do it for me.

The Seahawks – where to begin. The city’s weather is dark and depressing, but that doesn’t mean the uniforms have to be.[xxxvi] It’s even worse when they spice things up with bright neon green.[xxxvii]

And I know the Wyoming Cowboys might be a bit obscure for you, but here’s a point of reference – do you remember the hideous Broncos throwbacks[xxxviii] of a few seasons ago? That’s what Wyoming wears[xxxix] on a weekly basis (minus the pinstripe socks). Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Just above the basement – The racists.

I don’t care how long you’ve had the uniform, the nickname or the logo. Change it.

Washington Redskins (NFL), Cleveland Indians (MLB)

The use of Native American names for team names is a touchy subject that is better handled by a professional writer who can give it the time, skill and perspective it deserves. I’m not one to say that all schools ought to be rid of Native American-themed mascots – in some cases, they can be used as an instructional tool. But these two – the Redskins logo[xl] is fine (I guess), but the name (as I’ve stated before on this blog) has got to go. The Indians have the opposite problem – the name’s generic enough, but that logo… oh, the logo’s got to go.[xli]

The bottom of the pyramid – Attention whores.

There are good uniforms, dull uniforms, and bad uniforms, all to various degrees. At the bottom of the scrap heap are the following abominations. It is my firm belief they exist to a) distract the opposition during play and b) harm the eyes of all viewers.

Miami Marlins (MLB), Oregon Ducks, Maryland Terrapins (NCAA Football)

The Miami Marlins have no excuse – no excuse whatsoever – to explain the recent changes their uniforms have undergone. I’m almost catatonic just looking at these things.[xlii] And take a look at what will be the centerpiece of the outfield in their new ballpark – as if the uniforms weren’t loud enough, now the entire backdrop[xliii] is going to be appalling.

The Oregon Ducks practically wrote the book on ugly uniforms.[xliv] Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the endless combinations that bother me – if a team wants to keep its dress in a constant state of flux, all the more power to them. Some of them cross the line into attention whorish – exhibit A can be found here.[xlv] The Terrapins are merely following in the Oregon footsteps. I wish they could just admit it – but instead they maintain their blather about “honoring the state of Maryland by incorporating the flag[xlvi] into the uniform.” Who’s buying that?

In conclusion…

In conclusion, I put too many footnotes on this article, but try to enjoy them anyway.

[ii] If you’ve ever wanted to read an insanely detailed blog about sports uniforms, go here: http://www.uni-watch.com/

[xvi] It’s my column. I do what I want.

[xxviii] I cannot BELIEVE I made it through that without any Jerry Sandusky jokes. Whew.

[xxxiii] No Ryan Braun jokes! I am being kind and respectful today!

[xli] Cleveland Indians logo – Racist enough, for you? http://logoinspirations.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Cleveland-Indians.jpg

[xliii] Miami’s new stadium backdrop is in this week’s Sports Illustrated, but I couldn’t find a decent link to see the pictures online. You’ll just have to trust me – it’s gaudy.


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