Dressing for success
Last year's New Year's resolution was to avoid writing anything on uniforms, which many, including my wife, regard as a stupid subject compared to Scott Rothstein, employee unions taking over governments and the breeding habits of animals in captivity.
We made it almost all the way through football season. The college game is about over, the pros are winding down. And yet, in just the last few weeks, there have been so many occasions when McCormick's theory of uniforms has been validated, that we have to get in a shot in the hope that it will make the next decade a better place for all who watch football on television.
Take the Dolphins. We had the pleasure of covering the undefeated team before it was the undefeated team. The year was 1971, and Don Shula led his men onto the field on a cold December Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. They looked like champs. Actually, they lost that game to the Patriots, but that's not the point. At no time during that season, or the next great year, or for a number of years, did the Dolphins ever wear those stupid green pants. At home they usually came out in their white uniforms and won, and won and won.
More recently the Dolphins have lost their identity by often wearing the green pants, with often disastrous results. They had that game two weeks ago won against Buffalo until the green pants caused a last quarter blow up. However, this past weekend they came out dressed for success, wearing uniforms virtually unchanged from the picture here displayed, and they pulled off that miracle comeback against the Patriots. The Patriots, by the way, were wearing throwback suits, not bad looking really, but not the uniforms which have brought them success in recent years. Late season is not the time for throwbacks, nostalgia be damned. They should fire their equipment manager. It is not that Dolphins in green pants look bad; rather, it is that in all white they look great, like the legendary teams that first wore those uniforms.
Uniforms count. Look at Texas, Penn State, Notre Dame (well, not this year) USC, Oklahoma, Michigan - to name just the most tradition rich schools with the most traditional looks. They may not be flashy uniforms, but they have won in the past and the players, fans, everybody takes pride in their look. Howard Schnellenberger knows this. He personally designed Florida Atlantic's uniforms.
We might also mention Alabama, and here's the heart of the matter. Alabama beat Florida last weekend wearing the same uniforms Joe Namath wore in the 1960s. Same numbers on the helmets, rather than a logo. None of those slash-and-burn stripes so popular with classless schools. Florida, in contrast, virtually threw the game when they came out with a look none had seen before.
Now, it must be noted that Florida has achieved great success mixing up its look. They have worn all blue, except for the orange helmet, they have worn blue pants with white jerseys, sometimes orange pants, and the only combination that looks good - blue jerseys with white pants and orange helmets. That they achieved such success is virtually without precedent. So for the biggest game of the year they come out in all white, with a big "F" on their helmets instead of "Gators," which they have worn for years. And if the way they played did not look like the Florida team of the last two years - exactly. Aestehetically the uniforms were pleasing, almost Dolphinsesque, compared to Alabama's mundane outfits. But Alabama knew it was Alabama, and played like champions. If Florida players looked in the mirror, they would not have recognized themselves as the team they were supposed to be, and they played like it.
The tragedy of it all is that they did all this on purpose. Check UF's Web site. Nike is promoting that white helmet with the big "F" as part of a new look. It suggests it is all about money. Those who design uniforms need change, in order to sell stuff to high schools and kids leagues who imitate the colleges and the pros. They also sell thousands more shirts to all the silly fans who must buy every baseball hat, football or hockey shirt, and even those stupid green pants, that they see on their favorite teams. New Year's resolution for all sports franchises. Dress for success, not for cash.