How Not to Dress for Football
We made a New Year’s resolution to not waste this valuable space with anything as banal as critiquing sports uniforms. But that was last year’s resolution, which we proudly kept, and this is a brand-new year and some of the 2018 violations of the uniforms code of athletic duds have been so egregious that we must go on record. This is particularly motivated by the results of recent football bowl games, and the coaching shakeups of the last month, all of which relate to some awful uniform decisions by persons who should know better. Please do not think this is an opaque subject. Check the internet. Sports uniforms rank second in internet searches only to President Trump’s sex life.
Let us start with the bowl games. History will show that Notre Dame got blown out by Clemson on Dec. 29, but the truth is they lost that game on Nov. 17—the day they played Syracuse in Yankee Stadium. They won easily that day, 36-3, but in a larger sense, they lost. For that was the day they decided to honor the New York Yankees by wearing the football equivalent of the Yankees’ classic pinstripes. They may make great baseball suits, but they looked awful in football, especially to the 40 million New York Irish fans who turned out with their families to see the Irish in their traditional unadorned gold helmets and pants.
Those fans were crushed, and so was God, who takes Notre Dame football personally. God was already upset a couple of years ago when Notre Dame came out in bilious, green outfits, looking like praying mantises for a game against somebody or other. God was further annoyed earlier this season when ND wore their novelty green jerseys— except the green was not a vibrant Kelly green, but rather an insipid avocado, made even uglier by dark numbers. God vowed to punish them, and it happened against Clemson. There was no Irish luck on replay calls that day. Had they not sinned in New York, they still might not have beaten a very good Clemson team, but at least they would have covered.
Closer to home, the Dolphins fired their coach after several disastrous seasons of wearing teal, a very feminine color, as opposed to aqua green, which might be considered ladylike, except the original Dolphins studs went undefeated with that shade. The current Dolphins made it worse by wearing teal pants with white jerseys and helmets. No symmetry there. Dark pants (think Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears) are only acceptable with dark helmets and white jerseys.
Even worse was the University of Miami where coach Mark Richt, a classy young talent, had no choice but to resign after losing his mind and letting the Hurricanes wear black uniforms in 2017. One of the most visible logos in sports, the orange and green “U” on the team’s white helmets was totally lost against the black helmets. The team never recovered from that diabolical uniform. Back in Howard Schnellenberger's championship days at Miami, the Hurricanes had a great look. When he started a new program at Florida Atlantic, he patterned the uniforms after UM and took the program big time in a hurry. Alas, in recent years FAU has changed its uniforms so many times you don’t even know what the school colors are. They dressed to lose and did.
There are numerous examples of teams with no sense of tradition, but let us replay to the positive. It was no accident that the four teams in the college playoffs all have a strong sense of their identity—at least on the football field. Alabama has almost never broken from its successful look, even with numbers on their helmets instead of a garish logo. Notre Dame, despite the aforementioned crimes, usually looks like it did back in the era of Johnny Lujack in the 1940s. We have not studied Clemson as much, but they seem to stick to a predictably orangy style although we are not fond of solid orange uniforms, or all any color for that matter. Except for white. Oklahoma looks very much like the uncomplicated uniforms it wore when we saw the Sooners play Texas in the Cotton Bowl in 1959.
Speaking of Texas, they are an iconic pacesetter, either in all white, with a minimum of striping, which looks great, or switching to burnt orange jerseys at home. They have always worn horny helmets. That elegant taste was rewarded as they handled Georgia, who also dresses quite well, in the Sugar Bowl. It was a case of good dressing losing to better.
This is being written with the championship game a few days away. Based on history, we must pick Alabama, especially if they wear their crimson home jerseys. On the other hand, if Clemson wears orange jerseys and white britches, we respect their chances. Especially if they score more points.