By Phil Hecken
While not THE Game, or the “Civil War” or even the “Red River Rivalry,” today two teams will be battling for Paul Bunyan’s
Ax trophy (officially known as the “Paul Bunyan Trophy”) — that’s right, Michigan (ranked 11) and Michigan State (23) will do battle for the Governor’s Trophy. It’s a storied trophy that dates to 1953, when Michigan State officially entered the B1G, although Michigan vs. MSU have battled far longer — today marks the 103rd time the teams will meet, with the Wolverines holding a 67-31-5 overall lead, and a 34-22-2 Bunyan Trophy lead. Sparty enters the game as a three point favorite, playing at home, and has won the last three times the teams have met. You’d think a game like this wouldn’t need any additional hype. But you’d be wrong. Because Nike has created a special costume for the Spartans to wear just for today … because the pro combat is on.
Building upon the *success* of their pro combat line from the past two seasons, Nike describes this years uni thusly:
Echoing the cry of King Leonidas, the back of the collar is inscribed with the words “Molon Labe,” the Spartans’ defiant challenge to the competition to “come and get them!” Gloves complete the traditional Spartan headdress look. Armed with intensity and determination, MSU will fight on the battlefield until the last team is standing.
Oh for Zeus’ sake.
The Spartans’ website continued the hyperbole:
The uniform design incorporates bronze colorways in honor of the armor of their historic namesake, and a carbon fiber plate symbolically mirrors that of the Spartan shield, which is emblazoned on the right of the base layer.
OK, OK, I get — we ALL get — that Nike is very skilled at marketing shiny objects to seventeen-year-olds, and in true warrior fashion, those who don the uniform will undoubtedly become as invincible as King Leonidas when he proclaimed tonight, we dine in hell. Or something. Good thing the game starts at noon.
But hey, Uni Watch isn’t about political statements or judgments about the disgusting marketing and corporate practices of uniform manufacturers or anything, it’s about uniforms, right? So, let’s dismiss with all that macho shit posturing and really take a look at what Sparty will be taking the field in today. And, for the moment, lets also forget that Michigan State’s official colors are green and white and that their normal uniforms look like this. Just imagine a world where history and school colors don’t matter and you’re free to wear whatever your uniform supplier deems. And make sure it’s cool.
And it is pretty cool. Let’s start with the helmet. While it looks “gold” (no, not athletic gold, but good old fashioned old gold), I believe Nike is calling this “bronze.” OK, well, if you can make up a uniform that’s not in school colors, you can make up color names too. But that is a pretty good looking lid, I have to say. Nice matte
gold bronze, with a green spartan head graphic.
The helmet has a green stripe (to mimic a plume), with a deep green jersey, black raglan sleeves, bronze numerals, and black pants. The wordmark reads simply “SPARTANS.” I’m not personally a fan of that font (though both numbers and letters mimic the font face of the current uniforms). It’s fairly well done, and certainly not over-the-top like some previous pro combat unis. I do love the gold, er…bronze and green, but the black, being quite close to green in colorscale and intensity, doesn’t really work (in my opinion). But we all know the kids LOVE black uniforms, since it makes them tougher.
The back of the jersey is similarly plain (spartan-like, much like the ancient Greeks, particularly Spartans), with a black “SPARTANS” NOB which should be impossible to read from a distance of more than one foot. The black trou have a standard Nike tramp-stamp. And of course, the inside of the collar and the helmet stripe and nose bumper contain the phrase “molon labe,” which loosely translated means something like “come and get ‘em.” Oh, they’re ready for war all right.
It’s not a bad looking uniform, all things considered. I’d even venture to say it’s a lot better than two out of the three uniforms they currently wear. Heaven forbid these are in school colors however. Still, I give it a solid B+ (based purely on the uniform as a uniform — if you toss in school colors and tradition…and the fact that this was designed for a Grecian soldier…the grade drops precipitously).
Ah, but what if Nike did want to give a nod to history? They could have looked to these these 1947 green and white beauties, with the famous “winged” helmet. Yeah, we know Michigan has and still wears that style, but what better way for Nike to say “eff you” to the adidas-clad Wolverines? And, since black is such a “hot” color, they could have simply taken this black and gold classic for inspiration. Yes, that uniform was worn between 1934 and 1946 and yes, it was black and gold (despite how that may look on your monitor, it was black and gold). But that might be a bit too close to the current Michigan uni (even with the *maize* pants).
Interested in more Spartan uni history? Be sure to check here, here, here (that has a great history of the winged helmet, including that worn by MSU), and, for a great uni history from 1947-present, here.
Enjoy the game today. And just remember, when we look back at this one in 50 years, you may be saying “who the hell was playing Michigan and what have they done with the Spartans. But they did look pretty good.”
50 Years Ago…This Weekend
Last weekend Ricko helped me out with a tremendous article detailing the ABC’s College Football Game of the Week, in which he painstakingly documented the uniforms of the two combatants featured on his “kid cards.” I liked it so much, for the remainder of the NCAA Football season, I’ve asked Rick to share one of his “kid cards,” with a writeup, of that game of the week. Oh what fun it must have been to be a Uni Watcher in 1961, before there was a Uni Watch (or even before there was a Paul Lukas). Here’s Rick:
Oct. 14, 1961…Michigan State at Michigan: Bet this one would have made Vilk’s 5&1, if there’d been such a thing in 1961. Hell, there wasn’t even a Vilk in 1961, though, was there….Anyway, a few notes. Numbers on the Wolverines helmets may actually have been maize…Here’s Bob Timberlake, who first played for them in ’62…Was the era when Michigan’s outer helmet stripes were shorter and met at the center stripe in the back, shown in a 1960 photo…Also, by ’61 most everyone had gone to white shoelaces, but there were a few holdouts that still preferred black. Michigan, Purdue, Oregon State, Browns (although they went to white in ’62) and Redskins are four that come quickly to mind. Maybe Iowa State, too…Dave Raimey went on to a quality career with Toronto and Winnipeg in the CFL.
Thanks Ricko! Those Sparty unis look just a bit different than they will today. Who knows, in 50 years when we look back at the game played today, will we say “wow, those unis were fresh” or “what the hell were they thinking”? Only time will tell.
We have another new set of tweaks today.
If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Remember, if possible, try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per tweak. You guys have been great at keeping to that, and it’s much appreciated!
And so, lets begin:
We start with Brian Skowski, who has a pretty long description, but it’s worth it:
I’ve read the blog for years now, have submitted a few things, but I’ve mostly been a hands-off reader. I’ve never really been too into the concept design thing, because I stink at using Photoshop. I love seeing others’ designs, but most of mine usually just stay in my head. But after playing NHL 12, An idea popped into my head and I thought I’d share…
I’ll start by saying that I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person outside of Nashville that likes the Preds’ new uniforms. But, I love them. They’re right up there with Minnesota’s thirds as the best in the league, in my opinion. I know, I know, I can’t decide if I like new or old school styles! Anyway, I was playing NHL 12 and thought, wow, that Preds template could make a real sweet Penguins’ third jersey. So, I started using my extremely limited Photoshop skills to come up with a concept. I threw a few ideas from the Preds, some things that are important to us in Pittsburgh, and some concepts from around the league into a blender and here’s how it turned out. Obviously, I changed the Preds’ blue to black, and changed the gold to a slightly different shade, to match the Pens’ uniforms of the 80s/90s. I really like how Nashville incorporated the guitar strings into their number font, so I adapted their idea to fit Pittsburgh and the Pens. I used the Classic 60s font in white (NOT trendy off-white) and black for the numbers, and put three lines through the middle (instead of Nashville’s six) to represent Pittsburgh’s three rivers, as well as the three Stanley Cup championships that the Pens have won. I used the 2-color name/captain’s font from the ’08 Winter Classic jerseys, with black replacing blue. As for the shoulder patches, I used the Badger Bob Johnson patch, worn in the ’91-’92 season on the left shoulder. I thought this patch fit well, because the colors match the look I was going for, and it is a shout out to our first Cup team and its legendary coach. (I was thinking the Bears’ continued use of the GSH sleeve patch here….) For the right shoulder, I really like how the Flames use the Alberta flag to represent their region, so I put the Pittsburgh coat of arms found on the city’s flag on as a shoulder patch. You may recognize it from the front of the Steelers’ ’94 throwbacks. To finish the patches, I used the Penguins’ current wordmark on the top of the back of the collar. Since there are so many throwback elements in my concept (besides the template) I put the current mark in to help modernize the look. Again, I love the placement of the team/city name there on the Preds’ jerseys. It’s just a shame that it has to look so stupid with the giant Reebok logo/word creep between “Nashville” and the player name.
Anyway, sorry for the long rant. I just thought I’d share a concept with you and hopefully the rest of the blog readers! Keep up the awesome work!
Next up is Matt Moon, who has a Seabirds concept — alas, he submitted this after the contest deadline, but it’s still a tweak:
I realized tonight that I never turned in my Seattle cleanups after seeing everyone elses. So I thought I’d try sending it in now. You may notice that I have white at home. If you notice on the city flag of Seattle, the white really sticks out. I thought I’d try converting that over to the jersey. Just an idea. Anyways, accept it or not, I honestly don’t care. Because I’m Matt Moon. And that’s a fact.
Matthew Garry Moon (@matthewgarryfox)
And we close today with Leo Strawn, who has a couple of Bucs logos:
I created a jolly roger logo for the Pittsburgh Pirates…sent it off to them to consider as an alternate logo…two versions, black/yellow, and one with red stitches (they use red as an accent color, occasionally)…
This one is a variation of the previous designs I emailed…(space between the skull and bats)…
What do you think…?
That’s all for today. Back with more tomorrow.
by Rick Pearson
Nice to know SOMEONE has his priorities in order…
And, of course, your full-size.
Mark Your Calendars
That’s right, the annual Brooklyn Gathering of Uni Watchers will be taking place at Sheep Station on Saturday, November 12 at 2:00 pm. Hoping all NYC-area UWers can stop by and say “hello” to Paul, moi, and the myriad other characters who share Paul’s obsessive study of athletic aesthetics. Especially hoping to meet some of you locals (I’m looking at you Chance and Conn) who never seem to be in town at the same time as the uni-obsessed are. Mark your calendars now. As an added bonus, we’ve just been assured that this guy will be there. Trust me, that’s worth the price of admission (which is free, btw) right there.
See you then.
And that’s all for today, folks. Everyone have a great Saturday, and enjoy the battle for Paul Bunyon’s ax…and all the other games, including what could be the final game of the ALCS. Molon Labe, baby.
In his later years, Phil Jackson spent most of the game riding the pine; I only began following basketball in 1977 and he became my favorite player. I remember remarking his jersey looked like it still had the hanger in it. — Walter Helfer