By Phil Hecken
Tonight, at 7:15 (Eastern), the Alabama Crimson Tide will be playing host to the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Bryant-Denny Stadium. For a team as steeped in tradition as the Tide is, they may look a bit different than you’re used to. You see, tonight Roll Tide will be ready for combat.
had a shitload of Nike cash thrown its way has decided to honor tradition by breaking with tradition by wearing an “alternate” uniform in this evening’s matchup. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’re well aware of Nike’s 2010 Pro Combat line of football apparel. Each one of the uniforms is “special,” and the wearers are apparently granted some kind of magical powers upon putting one on. Each year (or at least this year and last — but we can probably expect it every year) Nike selects 10 of its prized schools for the “honor” of donning the “Pro Combat” line. This year, Alabama caved was one of the chosen ten.
Now, before you start writing death threats in the comments, I want to explain that by and large, I happen to actually like the Pro Combat uniforms. In some cases, I wish the teams who’ll be wearing them would actually switch to them. And I don’t really have a problem with “one-offs” (although it now seems as if you don’t have an alternate or one off, the recruits will be turned off). That being said, however, I detest the way Nike is promoting these uniforms.
Before I do that, lets look at the uni the Tide will sport today. Taken solely as a uniform, it’s not too bad. From the front, it looks pretty much like the standard ‘bama gear. The helmet appears normal, and from the back, it looks fine (and NNOB, which is nice). I don’t like the vented and truncated pants stripes, but even that isn’t too bad. From the stands or a long shot on the TV camera, most people probably won’t even notice much difference between this and the standard Alabama uniform. Ah, but the devil is both in the details and the attitude Nike has taken towards this entire uniform promotion.
Lets take a look at how Nike themselves are promoting this:
Tradition is no small thing at the University of Alabama. With 13 national championships and 22 Southeastern Conference titles, there’s no question that the perennially dominant Crimson Tide is one of the most decorated and respected college football programs in the country. This year, the defending national champion will suit up against Mississippi State on Nov. 13 in the innovative Nike Pro Combat System of Dress, a uniform that respects Alabama’s heritage and speaks to success yet to come.
OK, that’s not too bad. National championships, tradition, heritage. There’s also Discipline, Commitment, Toughness, Effort and Pride. Shockingly, humility is not one of the qualities listed. What else does Nike have to say about the uniform?
The balance between the classic and the contemporary shows up in subtle design details throughout the uniform. Oversized jersey numbers remain, but they are coded with a Cool Grey-and-White houndstooth check. It is a tribute to legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who could always be found on the sidelines in his signature houndstooth hat. A replica American flag is sewn on the right shoulder of the jersey to honor service members, as the uniform will be worn two days after Veterans Day. In accordance with U.S. Army regulation, the flag appears with the star field facing forward.
Ah, yes. The houndstooth. So subtle you probably won’t even see it, but it’s there — on the jersey numbers and on the helmet stripe. In a way, it’s kind of cool — but it’s also completely unnecessary and unless you’re standing next to the players (which you won’t be), you won’t even see it. To use Paul’s “good or stupid” test, you can probably figure out where this one falls. As far as the flag on the shoulder, I’m not opposed to it per se — but I do question why it’s on there. Is it because the game is being played “two days after Veterans’ Day”? And to “honor service members”? That’s fine and noble, but why bring the military into this?
OH, right…because it’s a Pro Combat uniform, and nothing appeals more to the baser instincts of the kids Nike is hoping to hook on this concept than equating football to war. They’re not putting the flag on the uniform to honor America or anything. It’s to honor service members. If that’s the case (and it is a noble thing to do so), why aren’t all Nike uniforms adorned with a US flag at all times? Are the troops only important two days after Veterans Day?
Lets see what else is special about this uniform:
The jersey is rendered in Team Crimson, a color strongly associated with the team since a 1907 game against in-state rival Auburn. Coined by a sportswriter of the time, the Crimson Tide moniker is derived from the red clay mud found in the south. White pants are defined by a truncated Team Crimson doublestripe on the side of both legs, with the school’s “A” logo at the hip. A wide stripe with houndstooth pattern bisects the Team Crimson helmet. Gloves have an all-over houndstooth pattern with a script “A” on each palm. The fingers are imprinted with values instilled by Coach Nick Saban, reading from pinkie to thumb: Discipline, Commitment, Toughness, Effort and Pride. “Roll Tide” is printed on the inside cuff. Footwear in corresponding team colors completes the commanding ensemble.
And a partridge in a pear tree. I’ll reserve judgment on the uniform until I see it on the field. Honestly, though? I kind of like it. But for a team as steeped in tradition and with a uniform that has remained pretty much unchanged for decades, isn’t this pretty much AFAS (alternate for alternate’s sake)? I don’t know if I’m more upset that this uniform is so close to what they currently wear, or that it isn’t even more outrageous. I mean, if you’re going to push this whole Pro Combat on your schools, shouldn’t the uniform really SCREAM “toughness”?
You know what really bugs the though? The way that the Nike design team makes these uniforms out to be so much better than anything out there. The lightweight jersey is “23% lighter than current designs. Less weight equals more speed.” (insert eyeroll) The “Vapor Jet Glove” — there we go with the military allusions again — is also lightweight and has some space-age technology that will obviously enable mere mortals to catch rockets. The pants are actually “49% lighter” than what they currently wear. If this uniform is so good, shouldn’t they be wearing it for every game?
But here’s the best part — or the worst. Take a look at and a listen to this hype machine. Sounds great right? Like all opponents will simply bow before the “tidal wave that bleeds crimson.” We find “our Alabama player at the foot of an oncoming mountain of water.” Nice.
Perhaps the guys who came up with that mental image don’t remember Hurricane Ivan, just a tiny storm that only had a tiny impact on the Alabama coast in 2004. A thirty-foot storm surge and 25 foot wave heights caused massage damage and death in Alabama. So what better way to get your uniform design across than to depict a tsunami-sized wave of destruction in your graphic.
Really? C’mon Nike — death, war and destruction may sell, but this one is really taking it too far. You already had to scrap your West Virginia ad campaign because some found it offensive. I’d certainly say this falls into a similar category. It’s insensitive at best, and repulsive at worst. After all who died in Katrina and the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, you’d think Nike would consciously or unconsciously try to avoid that type of imagery.
Image is everything, after all.
Blue Shirts New Shirts
Yesterday evening the Rangers debuted their new 2010-11 third sweater. Uni Watch’s resident AFL fan, Tod Hess (aka “aflfan”) posted a bunch of photos in the comments section, so I asked Tod if he’d like to review them. He graciously agreed.
The New York Rangers introduced their third uniform on Friday night at the NHL store in New York. The NHL posted several pictures of the uniforms on Facebook.
• The first picture is of the 85th anniversary patch. I like the patch on the shoulder (not that they had much choice with the diagonal New York).
• The next picture I saw was the inside of the collar with the “Established 1926” printed on it. To me this is useless as no fans will see this.
• The third picture is of the Rangers retired jersey numbers on the tail of the jersey. This is my favorite part of the uniform; a nice touch that I don’t think has been done before.
• Ryan Callahan shows of the full uniform from the side. I like the whole look, the darker blue than normal, the diagonal New York, the laces, the red pants to break up the blue, for Reebok it is a great job.
Overall, I think it is a great job of a third jersey (and we all know Reebok has some clunkers out there) and give it an A.
Thanks Tod. Even though it’s the Rangers … I have to admit, this is a pretty sharp jersey. Not so sure about the retired numbers on the hem, but I’d need to see it in action before passing judgment. Unlike their Liberty sweater, which I thought had too much red and appeared almost “midnight blue,” this new jersey strikes a better balance, and, from the photos, doesn’t appear as dark. Good job by the
Rags Broadway Blueshirts.
Here’s a graphic of the new jersey.
Occasionally, I will be featuring wonderful, high-quality black and white photographs that are just begging to be colorized.
Last weekend, we had a special request from Uni Watch historian Terry Proctor for a bit of assistance in colorizing three photos for the Rochester Amerks Booster Club web site. Terry has written the team’s uniform history for the first 25 years, and along with local collector Dave Parlet, has almost completed the project. Dave has provided pictures of his sweaters plus other vintage AHL sweaters for the page. Between them, they have compiled just about every era of Rochester uniforms, except the first two versions of the striped sweater.
So Terry provided me with pictures of Stan Smrke, Mike Nykoluk and Tommy Williams. I opened the “floor” up to our colorizers, and five of you took up the challenge. As expected, the results are terrific. Lets take a look at their efforts:
George Chilvers took on the challenge of colorizing Mike Nykoluk.
Daniel Schmeidler did a bang-up job with Stan Smrke.
Ian Carr also found Stan Smrke to his liking. And
Great job by everyone. I’m sure Terry will be extremely appreciative of the efforts and whichever ones are eventually chosen will be a wonderful addition to the website. Thanks to all!
For this weekend, a bit of a challenge for anyone who is up for it. This past week, Paul ran two sets of wire service photos, one yesterday, and another one on Wednesday specifically targeted to sweaters. Two photos from those batches really stood out for attempts at colorization.
The first one was this full panoramic shot of the 1918 Chicago Cubs. Paul showed that along with Marc Okkonen’s rendering of that uniform. Now, if you look at the photograph and then at the sketch, clearly those socks aren’t correctly depicted. I’m pretty sure the “CUBS” wordmark rendered in blue with a red outline is correct, as is the blue bill on the cap. But there is no way the striping on the stirrups is blue-white-red on a white stirrup. The question is — is the majority of the stirrup red or blue? And are the stripes blue-white-blue (on a red field) or red-white-red (on a blue field)? My money is on red-white-red on a blue field.
Here’s this week’s challenge #1: colorize the full panoramic photo or this smaller section. Use any combination of colors you’d like — I’m not sure of the actual pattern — and let’s see how what looks “best.” Might even be interesting to use different patterns on the same photo, just for giggles.
Paul also showed some incredibly amazing “sweater weather” photos on Wednesday. One of which really struck me: Doc Crandall of the St. Louis Terriers. The Terriers were a Federal League team that only existed two seasons (1914 & 1915). According to Okkonen, their colors were navy and white, so we might safely assume the sweater’s main color is navy. As to the placket, collar, sleeve and waist stripes — looks like white or off white. The patch is probably red, white and blue.
So give it a shot, colorizers. Pick one or both photos and see what you can come up with. When you’re done, send them to me and I’ll feature everyone’s efforts next weekend. OK? OK!
Catching up with the tweaks, but they keep coming in (which is good), so lots to get to today. If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
You guys have been pretty great keeping to the ~50 word limit per team tweak, and it’s greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Now, on to today’s tweaks:
Starting off the show is Andrew Lobeck, who has some NFL submissions:
Vikings: I took the old school uniform and made three uniforms out of it. The Home purple is darker on the jersey and I also added a yellow alternate jersey.
Giants: I changed the pants colors to white for all three jerseys. I also added more blue to the away jersey and changed the collar colors on the Home and alternate jerseys.
Titans/Oilers: I went back to the Oiler logo and old jerseys but I added a red alternate jersey.
Next up is Andrew Levitt, who has taken on the Ducks. Yes, the Ducks:
I’m not a big fan of the Oregon Ducks mix-n-match style. I believe changing the uniform weekly detracts from their team identity. I attempted to take their school colors and current unis and tweak them in to a standard home/away/alt triptych.
And our third tweak today comes from Alex Zeese, who (obviously) submitted this prior to the Nats unveil earlier this week. Too bad the Nats didn’t see this:
so with word that my hometown Nationals are going to be fixing their uniforms I thought I would submit a simple but elegant idea I have for what they should go with.
Closing down the show today is the one and only Jim MotherVilker, who has a set of Astros that only he would wear:
When you think of the Astros, what’s the first thing that comes to mind — trains? Cursive jersey fonts? Pinstripes? I didn’t think so. You probably think of astronauts, as I do. So, let’s give the Astros an astronaut concept. We’ll keep the black, but swap out the brick red for the old orange.
Orange alts inspired by Shuttle program: Zipper or velcro jerseys. No stirrups (they’re on my template, but I couldn’t color over them well enough). With this concept, I didn’t think they’d be appropriate. Don’t hate them just because of that, Phil…
No mix ‘n match here. I also envisioned using the old Astros logo,
but putting the Earth or Moon where the Astrodome is. It looks like a mission patch, which would be good for these unis. The Astros should make a different “mission patch” each year, and wear it from liftoff on opening day until touchdown at the end of the season.
Thanks to all who submitted this week. Back tomorrow with more.
That will do it for today, folks. Enjoy the rising tide of crimson this evening. Just one announcement from Paul:
Teevee news: About half a year ago I was interviewed for an NFL Films segment on the “10 Greatest Uniforms Ever,” or something like that (I honestly don’t recall all the details). I’ve just been told that the segment is about to start airing on the NFL Network, as follows (all times eastern): Today at 12:30pm, and Tuesday at 1pm.
Of course, neither Paul nor I have the NFL Network, so hopefully one of you enterprising Uni Watchers can DVR the segment and then find a way to post it to You Tube? Possibly? That would be swell.
Will there ever come a time that a new generation looks at images of NBA World Champion Michael Jordan and makes fun of his “short shorts”? — Jim Walaitis