40 Years Later - Looking Back at the World Football League

WFL hed

By Phil Hecken, with Aaron Johnson

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This article has literally been over a year in the making, with Aaron Johnson first approaching me last summer to do a World Football League piece. It’s finally coming to fruition today! I’ve always had a great interest in the WFL; in fact, one of my first ever articles on Uni Watch was on the Southern California Sun. It’s a league a vaguely remember (I was 8 and 9 at the time), but it always fascinated me since it was my first experience with a pro league that wasn’t the NFL (I wasn’t really old enough to remember the NFL & AFL as two distinct entities). It was a league fraught with too much difficulty and peril to document here, lasting only one full and one partial season. And while there is a lot of information out there about the WFL, one of the more frustrating things I’ve found over the years are the lack of color photographs of games and uniforms. Compared to today’s hyper-information age, 1974/75 was like the stone age.

That being said, I have attempted to find at least a few color photographs or images of each uniform worn by the teams in the league. I’ll also point you to the wonderful work of the lads at the Gridiron Uniform Database, who’ve put together the World Football League Database, documenting (as best as possible) all the uniforms worn by the teams in the WFL. Each of the “year” designations before each team come from the GUD’s WFL site. Thanks, guys!

All of this will be leading up to A NEW UNIFORM DESIGN CONTEST, but those details will come shortly — so designers — pay close attention, because you’re going to have another opportunity to show your chops on Uni Watch. But first, let me now turn this over to Aaron, who’ll set up the teams and uniforms of the WFL:

40 years ago the World Football League kicked off. Some of you may be familiar with the short-lived league while others may be hearing of it for the first time.

In July of 1974, 12 kicked off the inaugural WFL season and it was the start of a wild ride — two teams moved mid-season, two teams didn’t make it through the season, and due to financial reasons many players weren’t paid! Despite all the turmoil, the league was able to put things together in time to kick off the 1975 season — but ultimately financial reasons forced the league to fold mid-season.

On the field the WFL went with yellow footballs and flashy uniforms. At the time they were very unique; most notably the Southern California Sun and Portland Thunder. The league also wanted to experiment with color-coded pants based on the player’s position but that never took off. Finding color images of each team is a bit challenging, but here’s a look back at each teams uniforms.

Some of the images below can viewed at larger size. Many are full size. Hover your mouse over each picture to determine if a photo can be enlarged.

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Southern California Sun (1974) (1975)

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The Southern California Sun were perhaps the most colorful of the WFL squads, wearing a bright magenta jersey over orange pants at home, and white jersey over orange on the road. Their white helmets had a blazing magenta sun surrounded by orange rays, with a magenta/orange/magenta stripe pattern. Socks were white with alternating orange/white stripes, with magenta tops.

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Detroit Wheels (1974)

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The Detroit Wheels represented the motor city wearing black or white jerseys over yellow pants. Their yellow helmets had a wheel that was in the center of a lowercase “d.” They also alternated between grey or yellow facemasks. Socks were red at the top and white at the bottom. At one point this short lived franchise was even lucky to have uniforms… the team had such financial problems one time they couldn’t afford to get their uniforms back from the cleaners!

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Houston Texans (1974) / Shreveport Steamer (1974 & 1975)

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The Houston Texans played the first half of their season in Houston before they moved to Louisiana and were renamed the Shreveport Steamer. Each wore green or white jerseys with gold pants. In Houston they wore a yellow helmet with the state of Texas with a lower case “h” on the right side of the state… each with a serious green drop shadow. In Shreveport they had two helmets. The first was a green “S” on a yellow helmet, and the other was a boat sailing in the water surrounded by the shape of a football. Socks were white with alternating green/yellow stripes.

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New York Stars (1974) / Charlotte Stars (1974) / Charlotte Hornets (1974 & 1975)

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Charlotte Hornets2

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The Charlotte Hornets franchise started out as the New York Stars and when the team moved they kept the teams colors. In New York the franchise wore yellow or white jerseys over black pants. Their helmet was black with a yellow star with an “NY” in it.

In Charlotte the team started with yellow jerseys over black as well before changing to black or white jerseys over yellow pants. Their helmets were also a work in progress. They started off with a Chicago Bears style “C” over the old NY Stars logo, changed it to a white “C” before finally putting an image of a hornet on it. Socks were white with a single black stripe around the top.

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Memphis Southmen (1974) (1975)

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Memphis Southmen4 Memphis Southmen10

The Memphis Southmen wore burnt orange jerseys over white pants with brown trim at home and white jerseys over white pants on the road. They had a white helmet with a growling bear in front of a sun. Because of the bear on the helmet many fans started to refer to the team as the “Grizzlies.” They wore white socks with alternating burnt orange/brown stripes.

One of the more famous images from the WFL is of Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing their Southmen uniforms. There’s also another memorable image out there of a couple members of the Southmen wearing different color pants. This was an experiment by the WFL to use color-coded pants by position so fans could always see where a certain player at a certain position was on the field. Needless to say… this plan never took off.

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Birmingham Americans (1974)

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The Birmingham Americans wore red, white and blue of course! The jerseys were blue or white with white pants (each had red trim). The white helmet had an “A” on it with a star in the middle of it with a blue and red stripe pattern. Their socks were white with a blue stripe and red stripe pattern as well. The Americans won the one and only “World Bowl”… but when they returned to the locker room they were not greeted with champagne. Rather, the sheriffs department was waiting for them to confiscate all their uniforms and equipment to make up for the team’s financial difficulties.

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Birmingham Vulcans (1975)

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In 1975, under new ownership the WFL returned to Birmingham, this time dubbed the Vulcans. The Vulcans went with very similar uniforms with the same blue or white jersey over white pants. The white helmet had a blue “V” with a football shape inside of it and a red flame coming out of the top. The socks remained red, white and blue with more blue near the top.

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Jacksonville Sharks (1974)

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The Jacksonville Sharks wore a black jersey with white and silver numbers over silver pants. Their helmet was silver with a black shark. Socks were white with black stripes at the top. It is said the Jacksonville Sharks based their color scheme off the Oakland Raiders.

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Jacksonville Express (1975)

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Despite the Sharks franchise being removed from the league in 1974, the Jacksonville Express joined the WFL in 1975. The team wore black jerseys over gold pants. Their helmet had a train with the word “Express” in place of the wheels on the gold helmet. Socks were white with thin alternating red/black/red stripes near the top.

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Chicago Fire (1974)

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The Chicago Fire wore red jerseys with white and black numbers/stripes around their sleeves over white pants with red and black stripes down the side. For their helmets they put a red flame outlined with black and white stripes over a red helmet. The socks were white with red and black stripes at the top.

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Chicago Winds (1975)

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When the WFL returned in 1975 Chicago got a new team… and what better name for the “Windy City” than the Chicago Winds! At home the Winds donned green jerseys with white pants and on the road white jerseys over white pants. The helmets were white with a simple green “W” on them. Socks were also white with a single green stripe hear the top. Fans didn’t have long to see this team in action as the WFL kicked the team out of the league after five regular season games.

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The Hawaiians (1974) (1975)

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The Hawaiians played in Honolulu but left their “location” out of the official team name. The team’s colors were red, gold and brown. They wore a brown jersey over white pants. Their helmet was gold with a person wearing a helmet on it. Socks were brown near the top and white at the bottom.

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Philadelphia Bell (1974) (1975)

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The Philadelphia Bell, much like the original Philadelphia Eagles, wore blue and gold. hey wore blue jerseys over gold pants at home and white jerseys over gold pants at home. The helmet was yellow with a blue image of the Liberty Bell on it. They wore white socks with the upper portion of them blue.

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Portland Storm (1974)

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You couldn’t miss the Portland Storm on the field! They wore a lime green jerseys over blue pants. Their white helmets had the blue and lime green in the shape of a football with an “S” carved out in the middle. Socks were white with a lime green stripe near the top. Their colors were very similar to the current Seattle Seahawks colors.

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Portland Thunder (1975)

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The following season Portland was able to secure another franchise with new ownership. The team was named the “Thunder” and they darkened their colors to green and navy. The Thunder wore green jerseys over navy pants. They kept the concept of having a football on the side of their helmet but put a “T” in the middle of it shaped as a lightning bolt. Socks were white.

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Florida Blazers (1974)

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<Florida Blazers6 Florida Blazers10

The Florida Blazers were the runners up in the one and only “World Bowl.” They wore red jerseys over navy pants. Their helmet was navy blue with Perhaps their logo could best be described as a comet’s tail. Their socks were plain white.

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San Antonio Wings (1975)

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For the 1975 season the Florida Blazers were purchased and moved to San Antonio and re-named the “Wings.” The Wings wore Blue jerseys over silver pants at home and white jerseys over silver pants on the road. Their helmet had blue wings over the front/sides of their helmets. They went with plain white socks.

. . . . .

OK, and *whew*. If that’s not enough photos for you, you can check out my WFL album here. Big thanks to Aaron for the writeups for all those teams.

Hard to believe it’s been 40 years since this league was founded.

Now, everyone — if you’re still with us — pay attention to all of the teams just listed and shown above, because on Thursday, we’ll be announcing a WFL Uniform Design Contest. You might be able to figure out where we’re about to go with this, but we’ll hold off on the official rules and announcement until then. Until then, especially those of you who weren’t alive when the WFL played, what are your thoughts on the unis and helmets?

Special thanks go out to the following for some of the photos used in this article: Richie Franklin, Greg Allred, and Chris Gmyrek!

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ASU Releases “Desert Fuel”

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Click Any Images To Enlarge

Yesterday, the Arizona State University Sun Devils released (another) alternate uniform, this one named “Desert Fuel.”

ASU will wear a the above helmet with an “all-anthracite uniform.” According to the school, the copper will be worn “to honor the state’s heritage as a top copper producer.”

The date and opponent, according to the team, are as yet unknown, but it’s believed to be for the November 8 matchup against Notre Dame.

Here’s a quick look at the uniforms, then the requisite hype video, finally followed by a slideshow.

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OK. As a uniform (completely disregarding actual school colors and tradition), I actually like this quite a bit — it’s “anthracite” (which is better than black), I don’t mind the gradient numbers (since they are legible), and that helmet is actually pretty sweet. On Paul’s “Good or Stupid” scale, as a straight uniform — it’s “Good.” But it’s one of like 4 or 5 different uniforms the Devils already have, none of it is in school colors, and it’s unnecessary. Viewed from that perspective, it’s Stupid. Let’s call it Stupid and move on.

“But I thought gradient numbers were banned?” you might say. We’ve seen several teams now introduce uniforms with gradient numbers, and as near as I can tell, the gradients are banned only if they are in the same color(s) as the uniform. Since this uniform is dark gray, and the numbers go from white to copper, it would appear these are acceptable. Hopefully gradient numbers will soon go the way of matte and metallic helmets — which is (hopefully) out of football soon. But for now, they’re here to stay, and they are officially a thing.

OK, below is the hype video There seem to be issues with the hype video, so we’ll just have the slideshow. Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.


If you can’t see the slideshow, click here to see the album.

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CCCollector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

Still have somewhat of a Robin Williams malaise- this might be because although his talent belonged to the entire world, here in the Bay Area we knew him as a local guy. I never saw him around here — we’re a 43 minute BART ride outside The City — but you could regularly read about him popping up here and there, just a normal guy.

Here’s a well-done portrait for sale on Etsy — the seller says a portion of the proceeds will go to the Depression Alliance.

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• Look at these 1950s high-tops from Keds. Still look like they’re in pretty good shape!

• Check out this 1961 Rawlings football ad!

• Figured that some of the 49ers season ticket swag would make it to eBay, and I was right. The whole deal is here, or you can go for just the bag.

• Nice looking 1960s Kansas City Chiefs copper wall plaque.

• Couldn’t the Bucs go back to their 1970s Creamsicle look (as shown on this Mobil promo glass.) Please?

• Staying with glassware for a moment, we’ve got a pair of Packers single-bar milk glasses, and a 1950s-1960s Cleveland Barons (AHL) drinking glass.

• The way the SF Giants have played, you won’t be seeing them in the Fall Classic, but maybe the A’s will be there, as they both were in 1989- depicted on this 1989 Battle Of The Bay mug.

• Check out this 1989 MLB magnetic standings board- must have been aimed at Cubs fans, given the prominence of their logo.

• Staying with the Cubbies, this jacket from 1990 has a fairly busy design, am I right?

• Note on this early 1970s Miami Dolphins pennant, they were the “World Champions,” not “Super Bowl Champions.”

• We’ve featured these before on CC: take a look at this 1970 Dick Butkus mini-poster. No logo showing, though.

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Click to enlarge

What Paul and Phil did last night yesterday: Paul here. It was a lovely afternoon for a ballgame yesterday, so Phil and I checked out the Mets/Cubs matinee. The Mets can’t hit their way out of a soggy paper bag these days, plus they were wearing their godawful G.I. Joe costumes, but we didn’t mind because, as you can see above, we were partaking of a very special treat that recently became available at the House of Wilpon: bacon on a stick.

They start with this thick-cut bacon, similar to what’s served at a high-end NYC steakhouse. They thread it onto a skewer, bake it, griddle it, and then coat it with a maple/Sriracha glaze. You can see the process (sort of in reverse sequence, sorry) in this video I shot:

Gotta be honest: It was good but not special, and certainly not life-altering. More of a fun novelty than a delicacy. But hey, I’m all for fun novelties (especially when Phil’s buying). And at least it gave me a good excuse to wear the Meats shirt to the ballpark.

As long as I have you here:

• Remember when I showed you some Vikings prototypes last month? As I said at the time, there’s more where that came from, and I’ll be sharing all of it with you in this week’s ESPN column, which should be running on Thursday.

• Speaking of ESPN, my annual college football season preview will be running next Monday, with the NFL preview running two days after that. Block out some time now!

• This is the part where I remind you to order a Uni Watch 15th-anniversary patch already.

• Finally, unless you follow the news of the media world, you may have missed the revelation that Sports Illustrated grades its writers on, among other things, whether they “produce content that [is] beneficial to advertiser reltationship.” Not altogether surprising, perhaps, but still pretty scummy.

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Today’s Ticker was mostly compiled and written by Garrett McGrath

Baseball News: Former President and Nationals Presidents Race participant Teddy Roosevelt showed off a picture of the Nats workout room with opposing players’ framed home jerseys (from Ben Hendel). … Great historic photo of Hank Aaron when he worked as a hitting coach in Korea for the Samsung Lions (from Jonathan Daniel). … Adam Wainwright played a good prank on his former minor-league teammate/buddy Blaine Boyer, now with the Padres, Sunday [8/17/14]. Submitter Elena Elms notes “He got Boyer’s dress shirt for getaway day and had a Cardinals clubhouse attendant fix it up with Wainwright’s own NOB, even the “50” on the front. Boyer was a good sport and modeled it.” … A guy who goes by D.J. Chicken Skratch (but signed his e-mail as “Phil” — definitely not me), writes, “The “whole missing patch on the sleeve” got me all worked up! I did some research and found this article on the Braves page that says they put the patch on AFTER they won the WS against the Philadelphia Athletics. So I guess the throwback is accurate, in that regard, after all.” Mystery not quite solved, however, as moments after that e-mail, a second reply came in: “Darn, I may have read the article wording wrong. It states that there WAS an Indian head on the sleeve added. After the WS, it was added on BOTH home and road–and so that suggests that the road pinstripe uniform did not have the Indian head, while the home one already did. Great, now I’m back to being irritated at the inaccuracy of this throwback.” … Last night, the Pirates mowed a “21” in the outfield honoring what would have been Roberto Clemente’s 80th birthday. … Ferguson, MO is probably one of the least likely spots you’d find a Mets jersey, but there we are. Of course it’s the ugly, drop-shadow version.

NFL News: Frank Gore wore really, really short pants in his preseason game on Sunday (from Lendel Martin). … Phil Rivers looks very stylish in his cut-off tee, shorts, and Crocs with socks combination (from Brady Phelps). … Here is a look at the 1951 Green Bay Packers media guide cover (thanks, Phil). … Washington football quarterback Kirk Cousins was wearing a repurposed jersey last night against the Cleveland Manziels (h/t Chris F). Here’s another look (via Coach Nims). … Jabaal Sheard of the Browns was wearing a sailors hat on the sidelines during Monday Night Football last night (from Daniel Monroe). … Also spotted during last evening’s game was Johnny Manziel showing his QB rating. So I thought it might be funny if someone updated the Manzielf. Nick Pants obliged. And then Rob Ullman did him one better. … A few of you have sent in CFL news — don’t worry, we’re on top of it — stay tuned for a full post on the new third unis tomorrow!

College Football/CFL News: It seems the USF Bulls won’t be going traditional NOB this year, instead wearing “THE TEAM”, as the “work on changing the culture” of the program. … The Nicholls Colonels have a new helmet (thanks to Chris Mycoskie). … Not sure what this OSU Buckeyes tweet is all about. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. … That post led to this frightening response (I can’t imagine OSU would go BFBS, but you never, never know).

Soccer News: Andre Ayew, a Ghana star on the French Olympique Marseille team, had to leave his season opener because a head wound caused him to bleed all over his two sets of kits, destroying the only two unis his team had with his number 10 on them. Due to the rule that you have to finish the match with the same number as you started, Ayew had to be pulled (from Matt Solly). … UNC Men’s soccer honored their former captain in a game with Carolina Railhawks. Check out the number on the jerseys (from James Gilbert).

NBA News: The Memphis Grizzlies President of Business Operations, Jason Wexler, confirmed that the team is considering a new alternate uniform starting in the 2015-2016 season.

Grab Bag: In light of what is happening in Missouri, The Atlantic has posted a history of police uniforms and their psychological effects on citizens (from Laurence Holland).

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OK, that’ll do it for this fine Tuesday. No trolling today — you guys had your fun yesterday, but the party is over today. K? Thanks.

Big thanks to Aaron for his WFL writeups, Brinke for the CC, and Paul for the great day at Shea. Everyone have a great day today.

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.

Peace.

.. … ..

“Tampa’s (Buccaneers) new number font isn’t great, but it is not that bad either. Ravens and Broncos are worse..jus saying.”

–Rydell

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105 comments to 40 Years Later – Looking Back at the World Football League

  • The Jeff | August 19, 2014 at 7:38 am |

    If I recall correctly, the Charlotte Stars didn’t just have a Chicago Bears-like C, they used actual Bears decals.

    • KT | August 19, 2014 at 12:04 pm |

      Because the story was that they were in Chicago when the “switch” happened, and they rang up the Bears’ equipment guy, who supplied them with some extra Cs.

      For a price.

      I believe this is recounted in Herb Gluck’s While the Gettin’s Good. (http://www.amazon.co...) Real expensive now, apparently. I have one.

  • Gene sanny | August 19, 2014 at 7:55 am |

    Cool…. love the WFL unis so it was great to see an article…. and then I see 3 of my paintings made it into the article…. great way to start a day :)

    • Terry Proctor | August 19, 2014 at 10:08 am |

      Sand-Knit made the Technicolor uniforms for the Sun and the Storm. Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston/Shreveport and Florida also wore Sand which was then the Nike of the day with wacky designs and colors. I’ve got a ’75 Sand-Knit catalog. Magenta was called “Bright Red.” Lime Green was named “Bright Green.” Base team price for a Sandaire Warp-Knit Pro-Mesh jersey before decoration was $14.65. That’s around $65.50 today.

      Russell Athletic had a couple of teams with Birmingham (no surprise) and the Sharks. Wilson outfitted the hometown Chicago Fire.

      One observation on the whole WFL uniform look was that even though some teams used wild color schemes the designs were pretty basic stuff. As one who lived and worked through that era I miss those days when teams still looked like football teams.

      • Cort | August 19, 2014 at 3:36 pm |

        Well said, Terry.

        My first thought, looking at those WFL photos, was “Gee, they look like football players, not spandexed nightmares!”

  • Lose Rem | August 19, 2014 at 7:59 am |

    First OSU link has an extra letter in it.

    WFL article was great. Looking forward to the USFL one!

    • Phil Hecken | August 19, 2014 at 8:15 am |

      Got it. Thanks. Now fixed.

  • Chris Holder | August 19, 2014 at 8:07 am |

    Really fun story today. The WFL had some great uniforms, no doubt. I love the variety of colors. If I had to pick a favorite, I think I’d go with Philadelphia. Those unis remind me of when the Pitt Panthers wore the royal blue/mustard combo. That’s a great color scheme that needs to be brought back.

    • walter | August 19, 2014 at 9:34 am |

      Big ups to the Hawaiians for 1. combining nickname and locale into one word, and 2. rocking the brown, orange & yellow eight years before the Padres picked up on those evocative colors. Pass the tacos!

      • Jim Vilk | August 19, 2014 at 12:05 pm |

        And for 3) possibly inspiring the colors on TC’s chopper.

        Si, pass the tacos!

  • ScottyM | August 19, 2014 at 8:13 am |

    Oh man, what a post. Let me be the first to nominate today’s entry for the “Post of the Year” award. :) Super job. Love WFL lore.

    • Connie DC | August 19, 2014 at 8:41 am |

      Great work, Phil.

    • walter | August 19, 2014 at 9:31 am |

      Extinct sports leagues are my bread and butter! The Internet was made for minutiae like this, and Uni Watch delivers every time. I anxiously anticipate the inevitable World League of American Football article to come in ten or fifteen years.

    • Vee63 | August 19, 2014 at 10:47 am |

      Gotta agree, absolutely spectacular piece today Phil and Aaron.

    • Chris Cruz | August 19, 2014 at 12:03 pm |

      +1. Really, really nice job by Phil and Aaron.

  • Chris Holmes | August 19, 2014 at 8:24 am |

    Wow! Nice writeup and gallery, Phil! I don’t have much to add to the work you did, other than to shamelessly plug my ever-growing collection of WFL programs and media guides: http://www.grayflann...

    But just to show I’m not in it for personal glory, there are some GREAT WFL stories and images on Andy Crossley’s wonderful Fun While It Lasted blog: http://www.funwhilei...

    Oh, and I like the ASU uniforms. It’s a style that the Buccaneers should have emulated but totally failed to.

  • Brendan Burke | August 19, 2014 at 8:38 am |

    Re: Gradient numbers

    The NCAA rule clearly states that numbers must be one solid color, banning both gradients and Pro Combat-style patterned numbers, and I fully expect an official ruling on the matter prior to Saturday.

    It wouldn’t be unprecedented to make an emergency rule patch on this kind of stuff, as the NCAA already had to patch the rules midseason a few years back when USC chose to go color-on-color against UCLA.

    • Aaron Newman | August 19, 2014 at 2:22 pm |

      That was indeed the case last year, but the 2013-14 rule book now reads: “Clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals on one jersey at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, of a color(s) in distinct contrast with the jersey.”

      • Aaron Newman | August 19, 2014 at 3:47 pm |

        The previous post should actually have read as follows: “jersey must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring
        at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively. The number must be of a color that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey,
        irrespective of any border around the number.”

        The point remains that the language of the rule no longer includes the word “solid”.

  • Padday | August 19, 2014 at 8:50 am |

    Apparently the concept of the sharpie hasn’t yet made its way to France yet. http://cf.broadsheet...

  • James Gregg | August 19, 2014 at 8:53 am |

    I attended several Memphis Southmen games. Usually good crowds of ~20-25,000 at the games. Definitely a colorful league. The Southmen were originally to be in Toronto and called the Northmen. However, then PM Trudeau said no US football team would be allowed in Canada to compete with the CFL and the team ended up in Memphis and nickname changed to Southmen. Interesting there were 20 games in 74 and 13 in 75. I guess financially they couldn’t support a 20 game season.

    • walter | August 19, 2014 at 9:26 am |

      It didn’t escape my attention that the NBA team was the second club to go by the name of the Memphis Grizzlies. Both of the donor teams were Canadian transplants. I only later discovered the WFL Grizzlies was a nick-nickname, such as the Bronx Bombers.

    • KT | August 19, 2014 at 12:05 pm |

      Well, the league itself folded halfway through the second season, which was not only planned for 20 games, but to have two “halves.”

  • Mike | August 19, 2014 at 8:55 am |

    The Hawaiians had a QB named Sixkiller. Damn.

    • traxel | August 19, 2014 at 10:01 am |

      Was gonna say the same thing. He wasn’t listed in the team photo.

      Fun post. Someone please do the same for the ABA and WHA.

      • DenverGregg | August 19, 2014 at 11:16 am |

        I’ll see your WHA and raise you an IVA(International Volleyball Ass’n).

        I actually went to several IVA Denver Comets games and was quite disappointed when the league folded in the summer of ’80.

    • Lance Smith | August 19, 2014 at 10:05 am |

      Sonny Sixkiller. He was a star at the University of Washington. Made the cover of Sports Illustrated AND Boys’ Life. He’s a member of the Cherokee nation.

    • scottrj | August 19, 2014 at 10:20 am |

      Links to (1) Sixkiller’s SI cover, and (2) a bio. Not even the best Native American QB in his conference at the time.
      http://dailyaxe.com/...
      http://www.fofweb.co...

    • timdub70 | August 20, 2014 at 1:00 am |

      For the Hawaiians, in one picture he was #6 and in another he was #11.

  • MEANS | August 19, 2014 at 9:01 am |

    That Chicago Fire helmet logo sure would work well for a NY Fire, kinda creates a nice NY in the flames.

    • Mike Monaghan | August 19, 2014 at 10:21 am |

      I thought the exact same thing. As a matter of fact when I looked at the helmet I figured it was NY before seeing that they were Chicago. Good catch.

    • DenverGregg | August 19, 2014 at 10:42 am |

      I always thought that the Fire logo would have worked better against a black helmet rather than red. Hadn’t noticed the “NY”, but once you mentioned it . . .

    • Jim Vilk | August 19, 2014 at 12:10 pm |

      Ah, I’m not the only one! When I was a kid I used to have a Pro Quarterback magazine with one of those Chicago photos, and before I read the caption I was thinking, Cool NY helmets! Who are they…oh, never mind, it’s a flame.

    • The Jeff | August 19, 2014 at 12:14 pm |

      I must be weird, because I don’t see an NY at all.

      • MEANS | August 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm |

        Look on the left side, the flame goes up then down, then back up (this creates the N) then from that point it goes back down then up again to create the Y. Or you are just weird.

    • DKHardee | August 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm |

      First thing I noticed was the fire/flame design was kind of a NY.

  • Jonathan Sluss | August 19, 2014 at 9:03 am |

    Kirk Cousins switched his number from 12 to 8 this year, that looks like his jersey from last year with his new number.

  • Connie DC | August 19, 2014 at 9:21 am |

    ” Look at these 1950s high-tops from Keds. Still look like they’re in pretty good shape!”

    I wore ‘em. Not for everyday use, of course, because they needed to look extra sharp on game days when St Augustine’s would play other parochial schools in the cutthroat 7th-8th grade basketball league.

  • Shane | August 19, 2014 at 9:26 am |

    I’d never seen most of these since the WFL was 12-13 years before my time, but DANG that Charlotte Hornets helmet is great.

  • KC | August 19, 2014 at 9:34 am |

    “a boat sailing in the water”

    I guess technically that would be a boat steaming in the water.

    Those Portland colors are my fave of the WFL. Similar to the Atlanta Hawks early uni colors.

    • KC | August 19, 2014 at 9:35 am |

      I forgot to add after the second line:

      /possibly incorrect pedant

  • Newton | August 19, 2014 at 9:43 am |

    Two WFL franchises mascot names made it to the NBA

    Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis had a team called the Southmen but according to wikipedia they were called the Grizzlies informally because of the grizzly decal on their helmets.

  • Johnny O | August 19, 2014 at 9:44 am |

    Last night on Jimmy Fallon, Tiger and Rory debuted Nike’s new irons called “Vapor”. They come complete with Volt colored accents, and that is no accident. Evidently there is a new marketing team at Nike, and they are trying to focus on the younger demographic. Here is a really good article about the irons (and the marketing) from My Golf Spy:

    http://www.mygolfspy...

  • Steve B. | August 19, 2014 at 9:55 am |

    Great WFL article today. Love it! I really, really love the Charlotte Hornots helmet. That logo is an all-time favorite of mine.

  • Rob S | August 19, 2014 at 9:58 am |

    Department of Redundancy Department: the ASU item in the ticker covers the same exact uniform covered in today’s main post. Might want to at least update the ticker entry’s text along the lines of, “Here’s another take on the new ASU ‘Desert Fuel’ uniforms”.

    • Phil Hecken | August 19, 2014 at 10:20 am |

      Shit.

      I thought I removed that from the ticker last night. My bad. Now removed from the ticker.

      • Rob S | August 19, 2014 at 10:36 am |

        I’ll just chalk it up to “Mets camo hangover” – a temporary derangement caused by having to experience those ugly-ass uniforms in person. ;)

        All in all, an outstanding job today. It was particularly interesting for me to read about the Detroit Wheels (who were gone by the time I was born). For one thing, I didn’t know Mike Ilitch was one of the many investors.

  • Mike | August 19, 2014 at 9:58 am |

    The picture of Frank Gore is not from this preseason. The helmet bumper is wrong (it’s the Niners logo not wordmark this year) and for the three plays that he was in on Sunday the Niners sideline was to his left not right.

  • Lance Smith | August 19, 2014 at 10:08 am |

    Looking forward to the article on the proposed World Baseball League. All I can remember was that they were going to play with orange baseballs.

  • Al | August 19, 2014 at 10:20 am |

    The New York Stars played in Downings stadium on Randels Island and the first ever game there was a night game on (WOR ch 9). And the lighting for the game was just bad

  • Rod Richards | August 19, 2014 at 10:31 am |

    Mountain View High School in Vancouver, WA is the Thunder and uses the T from the Portland Thunder. as seen in this link https://www.google.c...(Washington)&ei=nl3zU_yuJcK0iwKvr4GwAw&bvm=bv.73231344,d.cGE&psig=AFQjCNE9W5QbU5RYy-3LFNxuNEW0aGDwYg&ust=1408544525071195

  • DenverGregg | August 19, 2014 at 10:38 am |

    Surprised that ASU is using copper and gradient numbers. Didn’t anybody say ‘You know, we kind of look like we’re copying our rival down the road that did those things in the past couple years”?

    Pleasantly surprised to see how many folks like that Charlotte Hornets helmet. I very much like the Storm logo too.

    • KW | August 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm |

      ASU has had copper planned since they unveiled the new pitchfork uniforms a few years ago, well before the school down south. Same with gradient numbers, which are still a part of ASU’s black jerseys since 2011 I beleive, again, before uofa. So, they’re not copying, if anything it is the other way around. That said, I don’t like gradient numbers at all.

  • BvK1126 | August 19, 2014 at 10:57 am |

    Great WFL piece, Phil and Aaron! Thanks for all the legwork this project must have taken. What a great reminder of how many memorable uniforms there were from that league.

    I vacillate between admiring the Southern California Sun’s uniforms for their boldness and originality and going through an entire bottle of Visine after looking at them for too long. I’m looking forward to seeing what the upcoming design contest will entail.

  • Ferdinand Cesarano | August 19, 2014 at 10:59 am |

    Thanks for the great comprehensive post about the WFL!

    The only thing I can add is that the odd nickname “Southmen” came about because the team’s Canadian owner, John Bassett, intended it to be the Toronto Northmen. But the Canadian government threatened legislation to block any non-CFL team in a Canadian city. Because of the the possibility of this law (which was in fact never actually passed), Bassett decided at a late date to move the team to Memphis, and simply changed “Northmen” to “Southmen”.

    Bassett later owned the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL.

    Here is the radio broadcast of a game from Week 6 of the 1974 season between the Philadelphia Bell and the Chicago Fire. It took place at Soldier Field on Wednesday, August 14 (most of the league’s games were played midweek). It’s over Chicago station WJJD-FM; the play-by-play announcer is Eddie Doucette, with analyst Mike Pyle.

    https://archive.org/...

    • Ferdinand Cesarano | August 19, 2014 at 11:04 am |

      Oops! I see that James Gregg had already noted the history of the Toronto Northmen’s move to Memphis. Sorry to have missed that comment.

    • BirminghamProSports.com | August 19, 2014 at 2:11 pm |

      Bassett also owned the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association, which was another Gary Davidson creation.

      • Cort | August 19, 2014 at 3:38 pm |

        Which came first, the Birmingham Bulls or the Toronto Toros? I can’t remember if they followed the Northmen flight path, or moved from south to north.

        • BirminghamProSports.com | August 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm |

          Actually, the Toronto Torros were the WHA’s Ottawa Nationals in 1972-73 and played in the first WHA game ever. In 1973, Bassett bought the team and moved them to Toronto where they played until they left for Birmingham in 1976.

  • KerryP | August 19, 2014 at 11:06 am |

    Wow, I have to say that I’m surprised to see my alma mater mentioned today. But, the school is actually “Nicholls State”…I don’t care how much the AD there wants to try and drop the “State” from the name.

    In case anyone didn’t know what Nicholls State wore in the past: http://binaryapi.ap....
    It’s a silver shell with metallic specks, a gray facemask and older version of the logo with 3D beveling. Then they changed to a flat version of the logo sometime during the season last year. Then tweeted this pic showing the new shell, red facemask and old logo: http://uniformcritic...
    Looks like they FINALLY have the correct logo in place for the season.

  • Douggo | August 19, 2014 at 11:11 am |

    I don’t often delve into the comments section, so apologies if this has been discussed before, but am I the only one who generally finds the helmets cool and the rest terrible in all these new and alternate college football unis? I mean, apart from the departure from school colors, which sucks, I think most of the helmets look pretty awesome, from the matte to the chrome. And then the jerseys and pants make me want to throw up.

  • Gene sanny | August 19, 2014 at 11:13 am |

    The WFL logos were all designed to have a similar “corporate” feel. The uniforms were all laid out the same too, but Birmingham used a different company so they designed their own striping from what I understood. The coolest thing to me was the helmet striping…. way wide center stripe flanked by thinner stripes. And they put the WFL logo on the backs of the helmets. That was way before the NFL did…. the NFL also took the the WFL idea of having the goal posts back and out of the endzone. I remember reading about a team showing up to play Florida, and they were still cementing the goal posts in :)

    • BirminghamProSports.com | August 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm |

      Hey, Gene. You are correct. The WFL had a “cookie cutter” approach to their uniforms. As you mentioned about the center helmet stripe, most of the jerseys had one large arm stripe, the pants had one large stripe down the sides and the socks had one large stripe at the top. I really liked that look and wish the Americans and Vulcans had stayed with the rest of the league on that.

  • scottrj | August 19, 2014 at 11:15 am |

    Odd to me that the Chicago Winds’ media guide depicted a helmet with the squiggly “W” – which looks pretty cool – while in reality the helmet featured a simple (boring) block letter. Allegedly, though, they did wear the squiggly “W” helmet in the fifth (and last) game the franchise played before it folded, at least if this link is to be believed:
    http://www.myteamspi...

  • Mike Cline Jr. | August 19, 2014 at 11:18 am |

    I remember those NFL glasses that mobile gave out. They actually discontinued them because the paint had lead in it. I remember my whole family stopped using them, except for my cousins, which explains a lot with them.

  • tehuti | August 19, 2014 at 11:50 am |

    Oddly enough I only remembered the NY Stars, Philadelphia Bell and Jacksonville Sharks from the WFL. I don’t recall any of the other teams. Maybe those were the only ones that we got on TV in NYC. It was fun seeing a new pro football league. Even though the Stars played in that awful Downing Stadium.

  • Anthony | August 19, 2014 at 11:51 am |

    Bill Bergey was drafted by the Cincy Bengals in 1969. He then signed a contract with the WFL which was described as a “futures contract,” which basically stated that once his NFL contract was up, he could make the move to the WFL.

    The Bengals sued Bergey, claiming that signing the future contract would hurt his motivation to perform under the current contract and asked the court in Ohio to cancel his contract. The court refused, stating that a contract taking place in the future had no effect on a contract currently in force.

    (Ok, not uniform related, but seeing the post reminded me of that case, which I had to study in sports law.)

    • Gusto4044 | August 19, 2014 at 12:04 pm |

      A number of NFL stars signed futures contracts with the WFL, including L.C. Greenwood and Kenny Stabler. Had the WFL survived, these stars would have helped the league obtain a major network deal.

      • Anthony | August 19, 2014 at 12:33 pm |

        Yes, but only Bergey was sued by his own team/employer.

        (Of course, the WFL folded before the contracts could begin.)

  • KT | August 19, 2014 at 12:02 pm |

    Virgil Carter’s red Chicago Fire jersey used to (and may still, for all I know, it’s been seven years since I was there) hang in the Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria in downtown Naperville, Illinois. If you’re ever there, check it out.

  • Lee | August 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm |

    Thanks for the coverage of the WFL. While I don’t remember the league while they were in actual existence, Pro Football Magazine did a little retrospective on them in about 1976 or so, and the article included all of the teams logos (rendered in black & white of course).
    Anyways, that spurred my imagination, and while I was already into logos and uniforms, it just further reinforced my love for them.

    It’s important to note that in 1974, the home WFL team wore white in almost all cases. I believe there were just 2 games where this was not the case.

    Thanks again.

    Lee

    • BirminghamProSports.com | August 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm |

      True, and that used to drive me CRAZY as a kid! When I went to Americans/Vulcans games I wanted to see MY team’s colors!

    • Richie Franklin | August 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm |

      I am not sure right off hand how many times this happened in 1974, but during the 1975 WFL season…the “Home” team wore their color “Road” jersey for the first “Home” game and then they went back to wearing their “Home” white the rest of the season.

    • timmy b | August 19, 2014 at 5:29 pm |

      Do you recall what two games these were? I’m pretty sure one was a Week one game where the NY Stars wore their yellows at Florida, who wore their reds at home. What game would the other one have been?

      • Lee | August 19, 2014 at 9:40 pm |

        Detroit at Chicago in Week 7 (1974). The Fire wore red, Detroit wore white.

        http://wfl.charlotte...

        By the way, that is by far the best website with WFL information in existence.

        Lee

  • hugh c. mcbride | August 19, 2014 at 12:35 pm |

    Will USF be the first squad to sport DAOB (Definite Article on Back)?

    More importantly, is this just a blatant move by the university to entice The Jeff to become a Bulls fan?

  • Greg | August 19, 2014 at 1:03 pm |

    Great article, very concise. Would have been nice to get an acknowledgement or mention since several of the photos are mine or came from my site, but you can’t always get it that way, I understand…Happy 40th to the WFL!

    • Richie Franklin | August 19, 2014 at 3:23 pm |

      Aaron you did do a great job! Thanks for “Keeping the Spirit Alive!” Many of the photos came from my WFL sites as well. Thanks for giving Greg, Chris and I credit. I am posting this story on the WFL Facebook and WFL Club Yahoo! pages.

  • bobby | August 19, 2014 at 1:15 pm |

    The Charlotte Hornets helmet is just fantastic.

  • Casey Hart | August 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm |

    Was just scrolling through the last few days of entries and saw a reference to “The EPL Handbook.” One can use whatever nonsensical abbreviations one wants, but to change the name of an actual publication, implying that it includes a nonsensical abbreviation that is not ever used by the organization responsible for the publication, is incorrect and ridiculous.

  • Todd C | August 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm |

    Pretty sure USF actually can’t wear that. Isn’t there a new rule stating only names?

    • Marcus | August 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm |

      For civilian schools, yes. That’s why you won’t see “THE TEAM” on USF’s jerseys. In fact, they’ll be NNOB.

      http://www.tampabay....

  • Johnny Carroll | August 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm |

    Great piece today guys! Don’t forget UA released the Notre Dame unis today!

    • DenverGregg | August 19, 2014 at 5:52 pm |

      . . . and Darren Rovell’s intern made a pretty funny goof: “The home blue jersey for the game features gold shoulders and an angled gold stripe above the knees.” Must be a rather long jersey. here

  • Matthew G | August 19, 2014 at 1:33 pm |

    As an ASU student and Arizona native, I have pretty mixed feelings about the new uniform. On the one hand, I think the helmet is awesome, and I don’t hate the grey, but wish that the pants were white. Also, that the number was a solid copper, not a gradient.
    As for the whole color issue, I’ve been expecting this since they unveiled their new pitchfork helmets a few years ago, so that has softened the blow for me, so it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, as long as they only where it once. I don’t want it to be a regular rotation uniform.
    Also, for what it’s worth, this is way better than the flame helmets from last season.

  • BvK1126 | August 19, 2014 at 2:38 pm |

    Is it just me, or does the new Arizona State uniform look like a Maserati seat cover?

  • Mike Chamernik | August 19, 2014 at 3:04 pm |

    Really cool post, Phil and Aaron. Excellent work.

    I’m more than fine with the black-red-gold color scheme making a return. The Detroit Wheels and Jacksonville Express both looked really good.

  • Ricko | August 19, 2014 at 3:06 pm |

    Nice job on the WFL, Phil.

    Not uni related, but an equipment story from the USFL.
    Shreveport wideout Phil Eber, playing in damn near a monsoon (pretty sure it was IN Shreveport), taped thumbtacks to all ten of his fingertips.

    Was catching everything he touched. Game officials decided to take a close look and discovered his digital chicanery.

    • Richie Franklin | August 19, 2014 at 3:17 pm |

      Rick Eber played for the Shreveport Steamer in the world Football League. It was played in Philadelphia in 1974 against the Bell before 750 fans…yes 750 in 90,000 seat JFK Stadium.

      • Ricko | August 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm |

        Thanks, Richie.

        Just didn’t remember for certain where the game was played.

        And I’m sure the Bell claimed it was the storm that kept 89,750 fans away (I say that because they pretty much led the WFL in attendance-padding).

        • Ricko | August 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm |

          Oops, 89,250 stayed away.

  • Ricko | August 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm |

    Also, the WFL’s first Sports Illustrated cover was to be a posed photo of WFL President Gary Davidson with Calvin Hill and Ted Kwalick, both of whom had signed future contracts with the league (such signings were mentioned earlier today).

    But the cover got bumped when Henry Aaron hit #715.

  • David | August 19, 2014 at 3:23 pm |

    That bacon on a stick looks far more appetizing than the chocolate covered bacon a stick we sell at the ipigs stadium….Ours like a skewered poop run over with a bicycle tire.

    • Phil Hecken | August 19, 2014 at 3:56 pm |

      Like Paul said, it was good (I mean great, simply because it was bacon…but everything with bacon is “relative”). Was it awesome? Well, it was bacon, so yes, but was it the best thing ever? No.

      Very good, tasty, with a tiny bite of spice, but nothing overwhelming.

      I’d have it again, but it wasn’t as good as I was hoping or expecting.

      Kinda like everything the Mets touch.

  • Phil Hecken | August 19, 2014 at 3:51 pm |

    Hey everyone,

    Just wanted to say “Thanks” for all the kind words about today’s post.

    Aaron was the man behind all of the writeups, and I found the photos and links to a lot of what he wrote about — I knew much of the WFL, but not like he did and I’m glad this post FINALLY happened (told you it was over a year in the making!). It was a monumental task trying to gather photos, and apologies (but also great thanks) to the three guys (now credited at the end of the article) from whom I “borrowed” (all through a google search!) photos:

    Richie Franklin
    Greg Allred
    Chris Gmyrek

    You guys are aces!

    Had a lot of fun (despite easily 10 hours of photo searching and then another 3-4 just to code the post) doing this, and am very glad so many enjoyed it so much.

    But total tip of the cap to Aaron for his continued interest and pushing this to fruition!!!

    Now, don’t forget to check back on Thursday for the announcement of the contest!!!

    • BirminghamProSports.com | August 19, 2014 at 4:20 pm |

      I’m glad you gave proper credit to those guys. They’ve spent a lot of time and money on finding those photos through the years.

  • Eduardo | August 19, 2014 at 4:13 pm |

    That WFL item really brings back memories. I recall watching televised games with Merle Harmon as the broadcaster. Anyone besides me remember the “dickerod” the league used that replaced the first down chains?

  • Oakville Endive | August 19, 2014 at 4:25 pm |

    Great post today.

    The Jacksonville Sharks look like Gretzky era Kings jerseys.

    Love the San Antonio Wings helmet.

    As a kid, I found the New York Stars jersey very appealing.

  • Bruce Richards | August 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm |

    Love the WFL piece. Very comprehensive, and great photos.

    I had read that one reason the Chicago Winds went with the Green and White color combo was that they were trying to get Joe Namath to sign, and felt he would be comfortable transitioning to the same colors of his first team, the New York Jets.

  • Little Blue Bicycle | August 19, 2014 at 5:41 pm |

    We joked in high school that if the WFL lasted one more year, we’d see the Chicago Earth.

  • James Burke | August 19, 2014 at 11:23 pm |

    Mike Ditka on Redskins nickname:
    http://ftw.usatoday....

    (Spoiler alert: He’s pro-Redskins.)

  • Fran Fried | August 20, 2014 at 9:57 pm |

    Hi Phil. The teenage uni geek of my teens (I was 13 when the WFL started) is SO glad you devoted a column to the WFL. There’s been so little in one place for so long, though that seems to be changing. It’s defnitely the most WFL photos I’ve ever seen in one place, and of all the teams. (Favorite unis: the Storm and the Fire, neck-and-neck, and the Sharks a close third.)

    I watched Wiffle Ball (as it was sometimes derisively called) that first season, as Hughes, I believe, carried a game of the week on a local channel. (I remember the intro with the cartoon stork delivering a baby to the voiceover: “It’s the new kid in town!” and have occasionally searched for it in vain on YouTube.) I remember seeing the opener, a win by the Sharks in Jacksonville (a month later, the family drove from Connecticut on vacation, and we passed the Gator Bowl, with the sign on the press box saying “WELCOME TO THE GATOR BOWL” and beneath, another sign: “HOME OF THE SHARKS”). Also remember seeing one Stars game on TV from Randall’s Island, and the lighting was godawful. I also remember, I think a Blazers game, that was interrupted so that they could cut away to Nixon’s resignation speech.

    Back in the summer of 1983, I wandered into a long-gone sporting goods store in North Haven, Ct., and saw four unusual jerseys on the pegs in my size (which was medium then — fat chance now, and I do mean that literally). They were $15 a pop. Within a week, I had all four. Four WFL replica jerseys, all by Medalist Sand-Knit, that I pegged back to 1975, since one of them was the Wings (except that, unlike the photos of actual game jerseys, this one was more of a vivid purple-to-lavender; the silver-on-white numbers were spot-on, though). I picked up the Wings, the Bell (in equally vivid blue), the Storm/Thunder (in that wonderful green) and the Stars/Hornets (in yellow). The main difference between the replicas and the game jerseys is the lack of TV numbers; there’s a league patch on one sleeve, and the striping is the same for all four, and the screening on both the numbers and stripes is extremely thick. (And still pliable after all these decades.) I make feeble attempts to sell them on eBay occasionally, but no luck.

    ESPN’s 30 for 30 has shown the USFL documentary occasionally in recent months, and yeah, like the USFL, the WFL has won the battle with the NFL, only it’s not around to see it. More vivid unis (I don’t mind the Seahawks’ snot green trim — a shot of light in the gray darkness of Seattle in the fall), Thursday-night games, no preseason (I think we’ll see a move from 16 to 18 games, with two fewer exhibitions, at some point), a move away from the PAT kick (will the Action Point come to the NFL at some point?) … All that’s missing is the Dickerod (the WFL’s unique first-down marker that did away with chains).

    But seriously, guys, a great look back!

  • AJ | August 20, 2014 at 11:51 pm |

    So did the team from “Any Given Sunday” give any credence to the WFL Jacksonville Sharks they blatantly used?