By Phil Hecken
Earlier this week I had the great pleasure of being treated to a fine evening of food and drink by none other than today’s guest author. That’s him, second from the left, seated between yours truly, UW stalwart Chance Michaels, and Paul. That man is Mr. Conn Nugent, who is not just a Harvard alum (we began our evening in the Harvard Club, moving on to Ipanema, a Brazilian restaurant where that photo was taken). Obviously, Conn, or “Connie” or the former “Broadway Connie” as he is known to you fine readers, was merely using this to butter me up for what is to follow.
But it turns out that Conn isn’t just a mere Crimson, he’s one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met, and one of the most gracious hosts I’ve ever had the occasion to be entertained by. Then of course, there’s that whole rapier wit which was on fine display all evening. (It was my first time meeting both Chance and Conn, two remarkably interesting characters whose love of uniforms brought us together, but whose gregarious nature and charming conversation on a myriad of subjects made for a splendid night on the town). To tell of Conn’s exploits in this universe would take more space than this column allows–even the highlights would be too much. But enough of my blowing smoke you know where, lets just say it isn’t every day you meet a Nobel Prize winner. We’ll save that for another time. Here’s Conn to give us a rundown on what is simply known as “The Game.”
By Conn Nugent
At nine o’clock in the morning on Saturday (19 November) I will board a train at New York Penn Station. Ninety-six minutes later, or so, I will disembark in New Haven, Connecticut and walk a couple of miles to the Yale Bowl, where Yale and Harvard will play a football game for the 128th time. The Bowl is a symmetrical 61,400-seat amphitheater built in 1913 (when it sat 70,900). It is a beautiful structure, and remains the best big place I know to watch a football game.
In a field near the Bowl I will rendez-vous with my classmate Don Chiofaro, linebacker, captain of Harvard in 1967, and — according to Calvin Hill — one of the hardest hitters of the era. The Chief will introduce me (re-introduce me, usually, since name retention gets a little wobbly at our age) to the loyal corps of recidivists who try never to miss a Harvard-Yale game. There will be picnic fare and drinks and heavy slagging. Shameful moments of early adulthood will be trotted out as ID markers. If I may use the word without seeming ironic, it will all be jolly.
That’s it for anything approaching social commentary. I’ve noticed that the default position for writers on Harvard-Yale games is to feed not in the rich meadow of football information but in the deep silage of cultural stereotype. “The Game” and all that. Class privilege, snobbery, fustian traditionalism, ubiquitous smarty-pants-isms, snotty halftime shows by bands dressed to signify superior distancing from State U, adorable chants along the lines of “You’ll Work For Us!” et cetera.
Shoot me. Nobody in that parking lot refers to “The Game.” And plutocrats are in disguise these days: New Haven tailgaters look like Ann Arbor tailgaters or Bloomington tailgaters. No one under 60 says “Hah-vud” (though the drink’s on me if you do). There are, indeed, tons of class and rank and income issues swirling ’round the Yale Bowl — and they’d be fun to talk about sometime — but they’re complicated. Today we keep it simple, and concentrate on the big things that really matter: uniforms, school colors, mascots.
Because Harvard and Yale — and their dapper common enemy, Princeton — were among the first American colleges to play football, the gear they were wearing in the late-19th/early-20th centuries, when football first gained a mass following, provided the template that everybody else used as their uni Square One. The basic look was vest and plus-fours in a neutral color, usually tan or gray, with some or all of the sleeves and stockings in a bold color chosen to signify the particular college. Next stop in uni evolution: school-colored jerseys, in solid or striped patterns. Then colored pants, then stripes down the pants, then colored helmets, then logos on helmets, then logos everywhere. Neither Yale nor Harvard wielded much sartorial influence after 1920. They followed trends rather than set them.
With some modest adjustments, the uniforms that Harvard and Yale will wear today are based on their garb of the mid-1960s. Harvard has lost the pants stripes, but added black outlining of numbers, a Harvard VE-RI-TAS shield on the tops of the shoulders (where they are barely glimpsed), and a block H on the sides of the helmet where TV numbers used to go. Both the Harvard helmet and the Yale helmet sport the 1960s triple-stripe motif that has proved so durable in the NFL. [Check out the Ivy League section of the invaluable Helmet Project.] Yale has kept the pants stripes, even widened them, but basically this era’s players look like the demigods of 1968. Today Yale will be wearing home blue-and-white, a classy outfit, most seem to agree. Harvard won’t be wearing their distinctive crimson jerseys, alas, but the white shirts are pretty good. [Lots more H-Y images on my Flickr page.]
A small but annoying exception to the Yale rule of sage uni conservatism is the regrettable introduction of a stylized-bulldog-on-a-Y logo, which has crept from the DofA website up on to the upper-sleeve of the football jersey. Move away from the laptops, Eli design consultants, and keep your hands way above the PhotoShop mouse, right where I can see ‘em. Leave the Y alone!
[May I just say a few words about today's football game? You know, as a contest? By beating Pennsylvania last week, Harvard clinched the 2011 Ivy League championship. They are 6-0 in the Ivies, 8-1 overall. They score lots of points and are fun to watch, thanks largely to a quarterback -- Collier Winters -- who's a terrific double threat. Things have been less bright for the Elis. They haven't won an Ivy title since forever, and Harvard has beaten them nine times out of the last ten. Still, they're above .500 this year, have a pretty good quarterback (Patrick Witt), and their seniors are dying to beat Harvard just once before they leave. Two years ago, Chiofaro and I watched an underdog Yale beat the Crimson like a drum for more than three quarters, only to have a resurgent Harvard pass attack and a dubious call from the Yale bench conspire to produce yet another heatbreaking loss for the home team. This year may be different. If you pay attention to the online gambling savants, you'll take Yale with the points.]
So. Would it please the Court to stipulate that Petitioner has this day demonstrated a sufficient grasp of contemporary information? That he has adequately refuted the imputations of antiquarianism, nostalgia, and the kind of unmoored babblings like you got from the grandfather-poet character in The Night of the Iguana? Are we not up-to-date?
Good. Now I can tell you that the old Harvard-Yale stuff — especially when considered through the lens of the obsessive study of athletic aesthetics — is really much better than the new. This is true for uniforms, I think, but much more dramatically in the realm of illustration and graphic design. Look no further than the chronology of Harvard program covers and Yale program covers put together by the wonderful people at Historic Football Posters. Look how great they were until Chiofaro and I got to Cambridge in 1964. Look how bad programs have become. Look at the designs of today’s Harvard and Yale sports websites: uninspired, charmless. The 1940s websites were dynamite.
There are all sorts of explanations for the decline of football graphics all around the country as they went from witty cartoons to banal photographs, from hand-lettering to mechanical, and then electronic, fonts. But in the Harvard-Yale case, there’s a clear line that marks when everything went to hell: the departure of the great Boston Herald illustrator Vic Johnson from his side job as an Ivy League cartoonist. Look here, here, and here. When Vic Johnson left, Harvard-Yale lost its graphic wit and flair.
To Vic Johnson we also owe the revival of a 17th Century puritan male as the cartoon symbol of Harvard football. Johnson’s Ur-Yankee was a skinny tall guy, dressed in crimson, always topped off with a high hat. His lanky build, thin face, prominent teeth, and ready smile were based, Johnson said, on Leverett Saltonstall, the much-loved, much-parodied Massachusetts Governor and US Senator back when there were liberal Republicans. I miss him!
We all understand that the drop-off in the quality of intercollegiate sports imagery was a general phenomenon, not limited by any means to the Ivies. It’s just that Harvard, Yale, and Princeton produced the first batch of beautiful athletic graphics in this country, and I would argue that through the 1950s they stayed among the best. You don’t have to be in thrall to snooty early-20th Century Anglo-Saxon notions of superiority and refinement to argue that football graphics were best when serious fans had to consider Yale and Harvard the same way that serious fans today have to consider LSU and Ohio State. A debatable proposition, to be sure, but debatable propositions R us.
Thank you Conn! It’s not often I’m left both speechless and reaching for the online dictionary, but today was one of those times. Enjoy the game, sir. And remember, if the score is tied at 29, well, obviously, you win.
The Toronto Blue Jays completed what might be considered the most perfect week in uniform unveilings yesterday, what with the Marlins (B+ — full writeup here), Orioles (A- — full writeup here) and Mets (A — full writeup here) building up to yesterday’s crescendo of awesomeness…and I do mean awesomeness.
Before we look at the uniforms individually, lets whet your whistle with a video:
Pretty sweet so far, right? It is. So lets look at the unis:
Logo: Doesn’t quite throwback to the original, but it’s a great update. A quick side-by-side shows a sleek, modern upgrade, harking back to the original, but adding a
black dark navy beak and collar, which much more fairly resembles the bird for which the team is named. Also eliminated is the original outline “TORONTO,” which has been replaced by a much cleaner, slightly serifed block print. The “BLUE JAYS” returns to the original outline, but is also in a sharper, slightly-serifed font. Fantastic update.
Home Uniform: Another uniform which harkens back to the original, but with several noticeable differences. The original was a pullover with sansabelt, in the original font, with the blue jay logo centered in the middle of the jersey. The new uniform features almost identical (but belted) pants, with the arched logo on a button down shirt, and the new blue jay logo over the left chest. Original 1977 jerseys were NNOB, while the current uniform has slightly larger outlined numbers, with NOB. Original cap featured a white crown, while the new cap is solid blue. I have no quibbles with this fauxback, save for the slightly awkward placement of the wordmark due to the jersey placket. But that is a very, very minor quibble.
Road Uniform: Unlike the homes, these do not fauxback to the original 1977 uniform, which was powder blue. The Jays would move to a gray road uniform in 1989, and the new roads much more closely resemble that uniform. Here’s a side-by-side. 1989 also marked the first year the Blue Jays would wear a button down jersey, and the new jersey bears an uncanny resemblance. Only the new font and blue jay logo (also off-set) are different. The 1989’s would have NOBs as well, just like the 2012s. Another fantastic update.
Alternate Blue Jersey: Designed to be worn with the home or road pants, this jersey is pretty much a mirror image of the home jersey, swapping out the white for the blue. I’m not a fan of alternates, but as alternates go, and especially considering what it replaced, this is also a major upgrade.
Just an outstanding job by the Jays with this one! And, coming on the heels of the Marlins B+, the Orioles A-, the Mets A … this one tops them all (and that’s saying a LOT), and scores an A+. Now, this is not to say it’s the best looking uniform in the bigs, but considering from whence they came, this is the best upgrade we’ve seen in a loooooonnnng time.
Still haven’t seen enough? Then enjoy this slideshow Paul put together for me of the unveiling:
Readers? Your turn…
Notre Dame auction update: The auction for the Notre Dame promo box is continuing. No bids were submitted yesterday, so the high bid is still $4301 and the minimum bid for today is now $4501. If nobody bids today, the minimum bid will increase to $4601 tomorrow.
Full details on how to bid, and everything else regarding the auction, can be found here.
50 Years Ago…This Weekend
Back again with Rick Pearson who is here to bring us his look at the featured ABC television college football matchup from 50 years ago. As always, Rick documented the game via his “kid cards”. Here’s Rick to tell us about it.
Nov. 18, 1961…Illinois at Wisconsin
Only one game a week on TV, and in my neck of the woods, we saw Wisconsin beat up on Illinois, 55-7. …This Wisconsin uni with the big ol’ “W” on the helmet, front and back, was discussed a couple weeks ago. …So let’s talk about the Fighting Illini. …Home had no white, with pants that were pretty much Athletic Gold, rather than orange. …Here’s Dick Butkus in the uni a few years later after white stripes had been added to the helmet. …And in the roads. …Yet another example of stripes (or something) added to the whites to give them a bit more color. …The wide navy stripe is the sleeve end, same as Wisconsin’s white sleeve end. …A few years later, the white pants were worn at home, too. …The orange stripe on the socks is the top of the white crew sock worn over solid navy stirrups. …The players? Neither Hearn nor Walker played pro football, though Walker was a 17th round choice of the Packers in ’63.
Nice job, again, Rick. So tell us, what’s the deal with the stars on Butkus’ helmet? Pride stickers? (I have a feeling we’ve covered this before on here.)
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 Eric Davis, who has a nice set of six of the Pac-12, Pro-Combat style:
Long time Uni-Watch reader, and periodic Uni Tweak submitter here.
Decided to start using the Pro Combat template to ‘re-envision’ college football uniforms conference-by-conference. Started with the Pac 12. Here’s the first six. Like a lot of Uni Watch readers, I wasn’t keen on the Pro Combat name, so I created a new Nike brand called “Grid Tech” that would carry forward the Pro Combat theme without the misplaced allusion to actual combat.
Arizona — Let’s call these the Captain America uniforms. A silver lid and a big A (like the side of the mountain) with silver pants and TV numbers.
California — I dubbed these the White Knights because hopefully they’ll glide like Baryshnikov (or Hines) in these white-topped unis. Abstract ‘bear-claws’ decorate the compression sleeves.
USC — A Trojan mish-mash that uses the reverse helmet logo (Not sure why they use the current one … the negative space doesn’t really work.) and some psuedo-Homeric patterns for the neckline and shoulder stripes.
UCLA — Back to a more classic look with extended shoulder stripes and a new-but-old uniform number. Look closely, and you’ll see sublimated rose pattern on the compression sleeves.
Oregon State — Rollerball is alive and well. Originally thought about calling these “jailbreak” unis, but thought that would send the wrong message. Sandpaper-finish helmet (probably not safety feasible) with a raised OS and raised tapered stripes finishes the rugged look.
Colorado — I know they’re gold and black, but man does that copper give them a unique style. Old-school look with a Buffalo-horned helmet design.
I’ll have the second 6 next week.
Next up is Pinchinvahoe Santos, who has a 49ers concept…and a very cool way of showing it:
“fauxback” is a combo of 1955 home red (block shadow numerals, white pants) and 1962 away white (dual red “UCLA”-type shoulder hoops, silver helmet and pants)
Regular unis just slightly improved with non-truncated shoulder stripes, non low-cut collar, thicker pant stripes (not as thick as the 1976-95 ones) and white cleats.
And closing down the show today is Robert Siergiej, with a couple NFL tweaks:
Phil, I’ve come up with a few NFL tweaks based on some past unis.
First up is Philadelphia, with a new home and away set. I’ve decided to go back to the Randall Cunningham era after a fashion. The jerseys restore the full eagle on the sleeves, as well as the lighter green they used to wear. I’ve thrown in some modernization, though, with a multi-striped collar, silver and black trim on the numbers, and additional silver trim on the socks. I’ve also kept the current design of the helmet wings. I also kept a set of white pants as an option.
Second is an Eagles alternate that recalls the late 70s period. This is, for the most part, a straight-up throwback to the style they wore around the time of their first Super Bowl appearance. I also included an optional undershirt (right) that completes the full striping pattern.
Now, on to the New York Giants. The late-70s unis were brought up in one of the comments a while back, so I decided to try my hand at modernizing them, I kept the stripes separated on the blue jerseys to match their white counterparts, and I’ve also added stripes on the collars that follow the pattern. I also tweaked the pants stripes to have a similar pattern as well. I’m going with the GIANTS mark on the helmet, while keeping the “ny” mark on the jersey just below the collar (even though, personally, I don’t see the appeal of a logo that should have never left the 1960s, but whatever).
And now, for some really alternative alternates, I give you: the New York Capitals — err, Americans — err, jerseys based on the mid-1930s Football Giants. And yes, that means backside stripes! The red jersey and helmet are based on the c.1934 design, and the white set is based on a c.1936 version. But, hey, if the Packers can pull out their 1929 Acme Packers unis, why can’t the Giants reference one of their own early titles?
As a bonus, I’ve included a modern version of the 1935-36 Green Bay Packers uni; the 1936 team was the first to win an NFL title wearing green. I’d love to see them use the raglan design (although the nameplate on the back would probably be jacked up, but no more than other screwed-up throwback designs). I did two versions of the helmets and pants; one with a design based on the original painted leather helmets, and one with a plain helmet and color-matched pants (which I kind of prefer – it may not be historically accurate, but I think it looks good).
Whew. Thanks fellas. Back tomorrow with more.
by Rick Pearson
Some things are just plain imponderable…
And, as always, the full size.
And that, folks, is a wrap. Thanks again to Conn for the tremendous H/Y writeup. Everyone have a terrific Saturday and I will see you on the morrow.
“The best compliment you can pay to a uniform – and I’d say this about both the Jays and the Mets – they instantly make you forget that they used to wear something else.” — Mike Styczen