By Phil Hecken and Jim Vilk
OK, so I’m back with Jim Vilk, the man who loves ALL uniforms. Or so it seems. And we’re here to take a look back at one of those defunct professional leagues you may remember well —
The UFL The USFL. I’ll be exploring other long gone leagues as the American Football Season progresses, with some other guests, but for today, we’ll take a first look (and this is a two-parter) at the United States Football League. While I’m reticent to ever use Wikipedia as THE authoritative source for anything, if you need a refresher course, want background or just plain don’t know what the USFL was (and may be again?) … check it out. Jim lists some other very good links below as well.
And with that, here’s Jim:
Phil and others probably think I’m the Will Rogers of sports uniforms – that I never met a uni I didn’t like. Although my tastes are all over the place and they’re not easily categorized, I’m actually quite picky. You wouldn’t know it, though, when it came to one of my favorite leagues ever, the USFL.
From 1983 to 1985, the United States Football League came along and captured my youthful imagination. I loved everything about it – the teams, the names, the subtle rule differences, the territorial draft, playing in the spring and summer … and yes, all of the uniforms. I was born and raised an NFL fan, and still am to this day, but it hasn’t been the same in the past quarter of a century — not since my USFL was taken away from me. Who knows…after all these years I may get a chance at a reunion, as there is talk of a new USFL playing in 2010. We’ll see. If you want some history, stats and other details about the original league, check out these very fine informational web sites.
I could go on all day about this league, but for your sakes I’ll stick to talking about the uniforms here. Since this is a two-parter, we’ll divide it by the conferences they had in 1984. That was the year the USFL had 18 teams, the most in league history. All teams will be covered, even those that didn’t play that year. Today we will look at the Western Conference (nope, no East Coast bias here), which includes the Pacific and Central Divisions. Next time we will look at the Southern and Atlantic Divisions of the Eastern Conference. Okay? Here we go.
WESTERN CONFERENCE – Pacific Division
Arizona Wranglers: This town had a real identity crisis in the USFL. Three years, three different teams, three different looks. You’ll see the third look later. Right now we’ll stick to the two teams that were called the Wranglers. The 1983 version sported colorful home uniforms, with copper helmets, blue jerseys, yellow numbers and pants with a little red trim. The road unis had blue numbers on the white jerseys. I like how the team used the colors of the state flag in this version. Then in 1984, the Wranglers traded franchises with the Chicago Blitz. The old Blitz/new Wranglers kept the cool helmet with the branding iron logo, but went with a hotter look with the rest of the uniform. The logo was added to the sleeves, the numbers switched to red on the white jerseys and the pants switched to copper with a flaming trim down the sides. So hot it’s cool, eh? The ’84 Wranglers wore the white jerseys all season long (do you blame them, since they played out at Sun Devil Stadium in the summer?), so they never got to show off their new red jerseys. Too bad some other team didn’t wear white at home so we could have seen them in action.
Denver Gold: I guess they thought a Gold Rush was a nice complement to the Orange Crush. This Denver team came out in ’83 with black and old gold unis, making them look more like the Steelers than the Broncos. They looked the same in ’84, but the following year they switched to white pants and an even more Steeler-ish yellow trim. Being a Stillers fan, of course I love the colors. I also like how the Gold tweaked them just enough to give the unis an identity of their own.
Los Angeles Express: Randy Newman sang “I Love LA.” If I wrote the song it would have gone, “I Love that LA Logo.” It was beauty in simplicity — a few lines added to the letters to signify motion. The rest of the uniform looked a little too much like the Cowboys for me in ’83. They said there was a burgundy trim as well, but I didn’t see it until ’84. In ’85 the burgundy is quite visible, plus they added the LA logo to the sleeves. Hey Jaguars, if you end up in LA, I got your uniforms right here.
Oakland Invaders: They rhymed with the Raiders but they sure didn’t look like them! The light-blue-and-gold-clad Invaders didn’t need to wear black to look tough, not with that great logo of the powerful fist holding the lightning bolt. Oakland was the only team to have alternate white pants for night games. They used those for the first two seasons, then in ’85 they ditched the gold pants altogether and switched to easier-to-read white numbers on the blue jerseys. I never thought I’d like a team from Oakland, but for those three years I did.
WESTERN CONFERENCE – Central Division
Chicago Blitz: Yes, it’s another one of those ’80s singular nicknames, but it’s one of the best, I believe. I love shoulder loops and TV numbers on sleeves, and the Blitz were the only USFL team to utilize both features on its jerseys. The ’83 Blitz had a classic look – almost like the Pat Patriot-era New England Patriots but with silver pants and helmets and a cool name logo. In ’84, the old Wranglers/new Blitz added an upgrade to the unis. If we were engaging in Chicago-style voting, I’d be tempted to cast several votes for this being my favorite USFL uni, because they added my other favorite feature, a different sleeve color from the rest of the jersey. The addition of the logo and sleeve stripe may have been one bumper sticker too many, as Phil says, but it didn’t detract much from this uni’s appeal for me. Alas, the Blitz didn’t live to play the ’85 season. But by then most fans in that town were preoccupied with their other football team shuffling off to glory. I miss the Blitz, though.
Houston Gamblers: “But Jim, you’re not a big fan of black uniforms,” you may say. If I were you, I’d say that too, especially since these look a little like Jerry Glanville’s Falcons (which I did not like). So what gives? The difference is that ingenious logo. Who knew you could fit the whole state of Texas into the letter G? Oh, and the logo is red, so unlike a black falcon on a black helmet, you can really see this one. The red-in-white helmet stripe helps break up the black as well. The Gamblers started in ’84 and didn’t roll the dice with new uniforms in ’85, so we’re done with them.
Michigan Panthers: Royal plum and champagne silver? Sounds like a British cocktail party, not a football uniform. Ah, but add some light blue trim and another cool logo, and wow. This was another team that didn’t change much in its two years of existence. The only change appeared to be the facemask, going from champagne silver in ’83 to royal plum in ’84. In ’85 the Panthers headed west and were absorbed into the Invaders. Just curious — anyone else out there ever wondered what the Carolina Panthers would look like with these colors?
Oklahoma/Arizona Outlaws: “But Jim, you REALLY don’t like all-black uniforms, and you like these?” Another great question. Actually, these are my least favorite USFL unis, but they’re not bad. The big red-in-white pants stripe helps. Plus, they reminded me a little of the Ottawa Rough Riders, whom I liked, and who sported this look for a short while. The Outlaw logo blends into the helmet too much. It bugged me a little in ’84 and it bugged me more in their second season, when they moved west and merged with the Wranglers. I can accept a black helmet, but in Arizona? The Outlaws kept the jersey design of the Wranglers, but used the colors and logo of the Outlaws. Well, they kept the copper pants, at least. This was an improvement from the ’84 Outlaws, but a big step down from the Wranglers.
San Antonio Gunslingers: Finally, we find a logo that didn’t appeal to me that much. It looked like a skeleton from a distance. I wasn’t too crazy about the name, either, but the unis made up for it. Green helmets and blue jerseys with green and white trim? That is one woefully underused combination, and it looked anything but woeful on these guys. Silver pants accompanied this uni, as well as the traveling one with white jerseys and green numbers. This uniform remained unchanged from ’84 to ’85. Hmmm, I wonder what it would look like if they switched to lime green…
That wraps up the Western Conference. Next time we’ll look at a group of teams that were much more stable, at least as far as their uniforms. The west may have been a little wilder, but the east had some good looks as well.
So there you have it. Half the uniforms from the USFL and not a one Jim didn’t like. I’d say “Now that’s thinkin’ with yer dipstick, Jimmy” but really, there’s no point. But what about you? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Wish you could see ’em again?
Thanks, Jim, for the trip down memory lane. It just won’t be the same
when if they bring back the USFL in twenty-ten … what with four point field goals and other gimmicks. At least the unis probably won’t suck as much as the UFL (unless their plan is to merge with the UFL). But that’s a story for another day.
Simply the worst…
Yesterday, we revealed the scores that our top five teams received in the survey to determine how the NFL home uniforms stack up in the eyes of the Uni Watch readers. Today we present to you the other side of the coin, the bottom feeders, if you will.
When it came to determining which is the worst-dressed team in the NFL, it was really no contest. A whopping 34% of you nominated a team for the worst of the worst. We also asked you to rate each team’s uniform from zero to five points. Well, this same team averaged less than one point per response (0.92). The rest of the bottom five was a bit more competitive. The second place team collected an average score of 1.46 (they were mentioned 12% of the time as the worst), #3 averaged 1.49 (8%), 1.60 for #4 (11%) and 1.76 for #5 (7%). Betcha can’t guess who that worst team is … oh wait, since 34% of you already did, you probably know. Feel free to take a guess at it below.
We expect to have a brand new poll next weekend. Again, we really appreciate everyone’s participation. Thank you for helping us bring this to life.
UW #1 Seahawks Fan Michael Princip has been tracking the Oregon Ducks and all of their 2,456 possible uniform combinations this season. He’ll be updating it after each game. Last evening Oregon took WSC behind the woodshed in the first half, dressed in … well, at least ONE of their official colors — just click on the linkie to see the final score and their combo. Thanks for the Ducktrack, Mike!
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: Alright, we’re gonna try something new today. And I don’t know how well it’s going to go over, but well … lets give it a shot. Finding shots of football scoreboards isn’t all that easy, particularly ones with what appear to be enough clues to help you identify the game. But this one should fall into that category. Teams are obvious, as is the location. All that’s left if for you to figure out the score. Ready? Guess The Game. As with the baseball game, you can find the reference answer here. So if you guess the game, use the link to post your answer. Thanks. If there is interest in this game, we can try it again, so let me know what you think. And if you have pics of football scoreboards, drop me a line.
Our man in the street, Jim Vilk brings you his “Top 5” Best and one WORST college football uni matchup from yesterday. Jim apologizes that there is no new photo of him this week. I’m sure we are all heartbroken ;)
And so, the top 5:
5. UCLA/Stanford: California Dreaming…of a classic matchup.
4. USF/Syracuse: My color palette special of the day.
3. New Mexico/Texas Tech: I’m seeing red, but I’m not angry.
2. Tulane/Army: Wave hello to the runners-up for the day.
1. LSU/Georgia: Even if it wasn’t a sunny day in Athens, it would look like it with those unis.
And the worst uniform matchup: East Carolina/Marshall – I like lots of color, but let’s break it up a bit.
Hokie dokie, that’s it for today. Thanks again to Jim for the first look at the USFL. He’ll be back again in a couple weeks when we finish it up. Enjoy the football today — don’t forget it’s breast cancer awareness month. I’m hoping the NFL doesn’t let the opportunity pass to really show how much it cares. No legacy games today, unfortunately, but maybe to make up for it, one or two guys will wear pink shoes. Or maybe more. Surely they won’t turn a worthy cause into a sartorial disaster, right? Right??? It will be understated and classy, as always.
And don’t forget, there’s still a MLB race to be decided. Or maybe not. Twinkies & Tiggers are all knotted up, with one game to play. Two teams, one playoff spot. Have a great Sunday.