By Phil Hecken (with tremendous assistance from Tim Brulia)
During the past week or so, there has been some discussion in the comments section regarding the NFL’s official rules for team colors as they relate to jerseys. After The Jeff’s contribution to last Sunday’s post, the conversation ratcheted up to whether or not color versus color is even acceptable under NFL rules. After all, most of us remember last year’s “Game That Never Was” which took place between the Chiefs (playing as the Texans) and the Cowboys. Obviously, this game was “color vs. color.” But was it even permissible?
I asked Uni Watch Historian Tim Brulia for some clarification on this. He pointed me to the 2010 NFL Rule Book — Rule 5, Section 4, Article 2 –which says that
…playing squads are permitted to wear only (official team) colors or a combination of those colors for helmets, jerseys, pants, and stockings; provided that white is also an available color for jerseys and mandatory color for the lower portion of stockings.
We’re all aware of the rule that NFL teams must have a white jersey (and the above is where that is confirmed), but the rule doesn’t explicitly state that one team “must wear a white jersey.” Curious, I asked Tim for a bit of further explanation.
He provided this, also from the Rule Book:
Before July 1 of each season, the home team is required to inform the NFL their choice of their jersey color (white or color) for their home games of the upcoming season and the away team MUST wear the opposite.
For any game (Pre-regular-post season), the two teams MAY wear jerseys in their official colors (non-white). As long as the Commissioner OK’s that the colors sufficiently contrast.
This confused me a bit, since my interpretation of said rules indicates that teams must indicate “their choice of their jersey color (white or color) for their home games of the upcoming season and the away team MUST wear the opposite” — but, “the two teams MAY wear jerseys in their official colors (non-white).” Also pending Mr. Goodell giving his approval, of course.
So which is it? I asked both Timmy and Scott Rogers for their take on that apparent contradiction.
Tim said, “let’s say the Bears will play the Giants next year and it’s the 70th anniversary of them playing each other in the NFL Championship game. It’s in Chicago. The Bears say they’ll wear navy for the game. Which would normally mean the Giants would have to wear white. BUT, they both agree that the Giants would like to wear red jerseys as part of the ‘celebration,’ b/c that’s what they wore in 1941. They both petition the league office of the color vs color scheme. Mr. Goddell reviews the request, and says to the Bears, as long as you wear the throwbacks from 2010 with the orange numbers, and have no plans to breakout the orange jerseys as your alternate for 2011, we’ll OK the request.”
Scott agreed, with a slightly different take: “No contradiction at all.” No? “The usual rule of interpretation is that the specific trumps the general. So as a general rule, home team chooses white or color by mid-summer and visitors must wear the opposite (if home=color, then white; if home=white, then color). But if the teams involved in a specific game petition the commish for an exception to go color-on-color, the commish can grant the exception provided that he determines adequate color contrast.”
Very well, then, we’ve established that there is no mandate that one team must wear white. This has, while fairly rare, happened a number of times since 1956. If you scroll to the very bottom of this page, (note #3), you’ll see there have been several instances where teams have not worn white jerseys:
The Rams (in 1957) were the only team to wear a colored jersey against an opponent until the 2000s (with the exception of two special 75th Anniversary games in 1994). Beginning in 2001, however, it’s happened quite a few times:
• In 2001, in a special Thanksgiving throwback game, the Cowboys and Broncos squared off wearing blue and orange, respectively.
• In 2002, also on Thanksgiving, the Patriots and Lions (red vs. honolulu blue) and the Redskins and Cowboys (burgundy vs blue) played color vs. color games. Also in that season, the Saints and Vikings squared off in a regular season game, wearing gold and purple.
Other than the Patriots alternate silver, the NFL didn’t sanction (or teams did not request) color vs. color games until last year, when the Cowboys and Chiefs (playing as the Dallas Texans) hooked up.
Color versus color in football is certainly a rare occurrence, but we saw it happen in college four times last year: Chattanooga vs. Oklahoma, Chattanooga (again) vs. FSU, Buffalo vs. Miami, and of course, the most beautiful of all color versus color matchups, USC vs. UCLA (renewing a color vs. color rivalry they resumed in 2008; they had gone white versus color for decades, but in the past used to play color vs. color often). Many colleges years ago used to go color vs. color, often at “neutral site” locations. Sometimes the color combinations were less than ideal
Now, you probably realize why there is an “official/unofficial” white versus color edict for the NFL. Television. Back in the day when the NFL was beginning its ascendency in the 1950s, almost everyone who owned a TV owned a black and white set. So decades of color versus color games with teams that fans in the stands had no problem discerning suddenly became almost impossible for the fans watching at home to figure out. Even though we’ve slowly but surely moved on not just to everyone now having a color tv, a sizeable portion of the nation now owns giant-sized plasma or HDTVs, basically rendering the need for a white jersey mandate obsolete. Yet it remains.
To give you an idea of the historical perspective of this, and to show just how long the networks have called the shots, I asked Tim about the 1957 Rams — and why they were “allowed” to wear color jerseys. The answer is instructive:
You’ll note that the Rams wore yellow for their first three road games in 1957. They were on sucessive weeks in October, first against the 49ers, then the Lions and then the Bears.
While I cannot confirm this, I have a bit of an educated theory as to what happened. For quite a few years up to ’57, the Rams routinely wore yellow jerseys. In fact, the Rams likely wore nothing but yellow jerseys from 1950-1956. The yellows may have been one of the more iconic looks in the NFL at this time. When Bert Bell and the NFL domos decided that for the sake of TV and the fact that CBS had just jumped in big-time to televise NFL games in 1956, there were a number of games that had color vs color. While everyone (unless they were color-blind) in the stadium had no trouble discerning the teams, the fans watching on TV couldn’t tell the teams apart. ALL games were televised in black & white.
It is likely that Bell was working in tandem with Bill MacPhail, the head of CBS Sports, to make the decision. Starting in 1957, ALL NFL games would have the visiting team wear white and the home team wear color. There would be no exceptions. However, the Rams wore yellow for that early season 3 game road swing. While I don’t know this for certain, I would have to think that Bell saw what was going on. Then — in my worldview of the sitch — he dialed into the Rams HQ and said “You know you guys are supposed to wear white on the road.”
The Rams may have said something on the order of, “But Mr. Commissioner, when football fans see the Rams, they think yellow!!” or “But they are light enough that fans can tell us apart from the home team!” Or the Rams might have appealed to Bell’s sense of tradition. Whatever might have been said, it must have been enforced, for the Rams then acquired white jerseys for the rest of the season’s road games (also a three game road swing) against Green Bay, Cleveland and the Baltimore Colts, without a speck of yellow/gold on them.
Whether or not the Rams tried to persuade Bell/MacPhail to allow them to wear yellow at home in lieu of blue is unknown. But if they did, that request would have obviously been shot down.
So there’s the story of the 1957 color vs color games.
Very interesting. What began as a common sense solution to a problem (the inability to tell teams apart on black and white tv’s) basically evolved into a tacit agreement between the networks and the Commissioner to mandate white jerseys, even when they weren’t necessary (the Rams gold jerseys were plenty light enough to “substitute” for white), but that would have established a precedent. The 2010 rules (and the modicum of games played since 2000) allow *special* exemptions for color vs. color. But the white jersey requirement has been around for so long (and obviously, any team entering the league since 1957 has been forced to have a white jersey), we simply accept that all games will be white versus color.
But it doesn’t have to be. As the Saints and Patriots (and the 1994 Rams) showed, light colored jerseys will represent more than enough of a “sufficient contrast” as to be acceptable. And the special Thanksgiving games certainly showed that color versus color can work. Clearly, there are times when it would not.
I’ll end Part I here, but in future parts I and some special guests will look at the “future” of color vs. color in the NFL. That could involve teams introducing suitably light colored jerseys (much like the Patriots and Saints did), or perhaps a throwbackish-nod to teams of yore. Clearly, any of those jerseys would provide sufficient “contrast” to be acceptable.
We’ll also look at legitimate color versus color options, as well as some that probably wouldn’t work. But as The Jeff showed in template form last week, why must some (not all) teams be forced to wear a white jersey when obviously their color scheme doesn’t include white? But that’s for another time. As long as color versus color isn’t prohibited in the NFL, is there any reason it can’t, even if on a very limited basis, be a part of the NFL’s future?
Remember, Nike takes over the clothing contract after next season. It’s never too early to plan.
Occasionally, I will be featuring wonderful, high-quality black and white photographs that are just begging to be colorized.
Today is actually nothing “new” for you to colorize, but I did want to highlight something that was sent to Paul (who forwarded it to me) a short while ago. Many of you have been enjoying the wonderful world of colorization, and of course this hobby/skill isn’t necessarily restricted to the colorizing of old sports uniform photos. You can, if you so, choose, use it to colorize old family photos, or sketches and drawings.
Bruce Genther sent the following note to our fearless leader: “Paul…attached are three before and after illustrations and photographs from famed artist and photographer Robert Riger that I have colorized. Enjoy! More to come when finished.”
And just what did those look like? Robert Riger’s illustrations are famous and beautiful. Bruce took this Packers sketch and turned it into this. He also turned this wonderful drawing of Stan Musial and created this beauty. Finally, he took this shot of Warren Spahn and colorized it like so.
Fantastic job Bruce. The only limit to colorization is your imagination. Looking forward to more from you.
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 Ryan Kantor, who has adapted the Washington State Cougars:
I’m not a Cougars fan but I’m tired of watching this team play poorly and look even worse. Their outdated uni needs an upgrade which I think I have made at the very least a little better. I did this on EA’s TeamBuilder so I have to give them credit for designing most of the templates. I have attached my tweaks for the home and away unis as well as a home uni matched with the gray helmet.
For home I added a white design with gray piping running across the chest and fanning out at the shoulders (replacing the current dull shoulder stripes). The white line with gray piping continues down the sides of the uniform. The cuffs and collars are white (I know they look kinda gray but it looks good either way) with a red WSU logo at the base of the V rather than the current white one. The pants are gray with red and the helmet is the same.
The away has the exact same line scheme as home with red as the primary stripe color again accompanied by gray piping. I also deleted the “Washington State” text on the chest. Pants have the same line scheme has the home grays which is much more interesting than the current bold line. Unlike the current pants the logo is on the left side not the right side so the cougar faces inward.
I think the current gray helmet with the logo (not the “Cougar” script) would also look good matched with the home jersey so I attached that one as well.
Next up is Dylan Anthony who concepted the Phillies using the
city State flag concept:
Texas teams, like the Rangers and Texans, are clearly patriotic about their state. I wanted to see how my hometown Phillies would look with this motif, using the Pennsylvania state flag. I think the navy blue is a sharp look, and it could definitely work as an alternate. I kind of wanted to use the Philadelphia script prototype, but that was just way to daunting of a GIMP task for me.
And closing down the concepts today is Andrew Lobeck, who has tweaks for the Patriots, Vikings and Eagles:
Patriots — I love the look of the Patriots red AFL jersey way more than what they currently wear so I took the retro jersey, and made 3 other uniforms out of it.
Vikings — I HATE the current Vikings uniforms other than there 1970s alternate. So I took that jersey and made a white one for it along with a yellow alternate jersey.
Eagles — I went old school with the Eagles again but also took the 75th anniversary jersey, changed the colors, and made it a retro alternate jersey.
That’s all for this weekend folks. Back next week with more.
5 & 1
And now, the part of the post you’ve all been waiting for: The 5 & 1.
Apparently there were quite a few good games yesterday. Unfortunately, I had some personal business to attend to for most of the day, so I didn’t get to watch too much football. Luckily (I hope), Jim did, for he has forewarned me that it was so good he needed a 10 & 2. Let’s see how he did:
In the short history of the 5&1 lists, this had to be the best-looking weekend ever. With so many potential winners, I couldn’t contain them in a regular list. So, we present to you a special 10&2.
“Honorable” Mention to Boise State: Oh, the uniforms are still ugly, but in orange, a lot less ugly on the blue turf.
A real Honorable Mention to Iowa State – The Cyclones may not be bowl-eligible, but those uniforms are.
10. Virginia Tech/Miami: Note to both teams: Make these your full-time unis.
9. Yale/Harvard: What’s Latin for “I’d wear that”?
8. New Mexico/BYU: Great striping makes the monochrome blue look pretty good.
7. Marshall/SMU: A bigger photo MIGHT have moved them up a spot or two, but probably not.
6. Nebraska/Texas A&M: Love games with all field goals, especially when they look this good.
5. Army/Notre Dame/Yankee Stadium: Ah, if only they played it during the day.
3. Florida Atlantic/Texas – FINALLY got the Owls on the list this season!
2. Ohio/Temple: From earlier in the week, but couldn’t forget to include them.
1. Ole Miss/LSU: To win on a week like this…that’s saying something.
And the bad two:
2. Illinois/Northwestern/Wrigley Field: You’re not in good hands with that wall and those unis.
1. UCLA/Washington: On the plus side, neither team screwed up the helmets…
Boise State and Miama? Really? For a guy who refuses to ever consider Oregon for a Top 5, “because of that font,” I find it rather difficult to believe the pro combat superhero costume could ever find its way into even your expanded Top 5. I expected better from U. I will say this, however, that Miama helmet was just about the most gorgeous helmet I’ve ever seen. Too bad everything from the neck down was excess on steroids.
I’m now accepting applications for a new 5 & 1 guy. No pay, no benefits and a lot of grief await. Colorblindness a must.
I kid, of course, but figuring out the Mothervilker is slightly more difficult than calculating pi to the two-thousandth digit following the decimal point…without a calculator.
That’s going to do it for today. Everyone have a great Sunday and a wonderful Thanksgiving. White meat may be for suckers, but I’m a sucker. See you all on Black Friday for a very special look at the history of the Backyard Brawl featuring Kek & Bernard. And the combat unis.
Oh man, holy … those Terps unis indeed have to be the worst uniform EVER worn in NCAA history. Like they took the BFBS and raped some zubaz. — Micheal Princip