Uniforms I miss
The Philadelphia Eagles “throwback” uniforms worn last week may have been the most talked about fashion faux pas to hit professional football since the Denver Broncos wore socks with vertical stripes in the early 1960’s. To paraphrase a line delivered by William H. Macy in the hilarious movie State and Main, “Who designed these uniforms? It looks like Edith Head puked and that puke designed these uniforms!”
What’s sad is that Eagles modern uniforms aren’t all that much better. The wings on the helmet went from looking sleek to looking like someone with chronic muscle spasms got hold of an Etch-a-Sketch.
Seeing how badly the Eagles were dressed led me to think how lucky followers of the Buccaneers are. The 1990’s saw a massive re-working of uniforms across the NFL. In my opinion most of those re-workings have led to some cruddy duds. I know how many of you feel about Bucco Bruce and I’ll always respectfully disagree. I like the current Buccaneer uniforms more, but not because I live in fear of orange.
The Buccaneers are one of a very small number of teams that have actually improved their look by changing uniform designs. I feel the Jets made the right choice in permanently going back to the Joe Namath era look, the Giants look sharp in their retro 60’s Big Blue design and that Tampa Bay bringing pewter to football was an inspired choice. But that’s it.
The rest of the teams that have changed uniforms really should have their NFL licensing income diverted to Goodwill as penance for the sins against fashion they have committed. Not all the uniforms are truly awful; some of them are sterile and repetitive. So many teams now incorporate black, teal and other color fads that there is a boring sameness. Look at a TV when Carolina plays New England or Atlanta takes on Pittsburgh and there isn’t a whole lot of difference. The NFL is in danger of being focus-grouped out of originality.
The colors used to be flashier and teams could be easily identified by the color. The Bucs may have worn a lot of orange, but remember how much red the Falcons used to sport? I liked those fire-engine red helmets and jerseys. Can you recall the Houston Oilers with the powder-blue jerseys and great oil-derrick logo? I know the Oilers are gone forever, but those were some cool unis. They are infinitely better than the bizarre design of the Tennessee Titans the Oilers became.
The San Diego Chargers powder blue jerseys were great too. The Chargers got it halfway right this year when they switched to their old white helmets, but they should really go all the way and bring back the powder blue/lightning bolt jerseys. The league desperately needs the color the Chargers could provide. The uniform numbers on the side of the Chargers helmet was great also, bring that back too.
Speaking of uniform numbers, remember when the Cowboys had the players numbers printed on the hips of their pants? That was in the 80’s and as I recall the Green Bay Packers copied them for a short time. I think the Cowboys should bring that back.
This is not to say I am completely averse to change. Just give me color differences between the teams. When the ball is fumbled and a pile of players dive on it, I want to be able to tell who is who. I think the reason it always takes officials a long time to determine who has recovered the ball is because everyone is wearing the same thing! This is not to say that having a lot of color is always a good thing. While I would like to see more color in the league, the following teams went a little bit overboard.
The Buffalo Bills: What in the heck is going on here? Red piping from calf to shoulder? The nameplate across the back done in dark blue on white jerseys? The charging bulls on the helmet are nice, but please bring back the simpler Joe Ferguson-era unis. What you’re wearing now makes even Elton John wince.
The Denver Broncos: The classic orange and blue of the 1970’s and 1980’s was one of my favorite uniforms and the bronco bursting through a D on the helmet was one of the most intricate designs in football. The uniform colors now are hideous and the bronco on the helmet looks as though it was drawn by Picasso on a bender.
The New England Patriots: Am I only the one who misses the minuteman in the three point stance affectionately known as Pete the Patriot? The red, white and blue uniforms they used to have made you think New England. Between Bucco Bruce, the Broncos old helmet, and the Oakland Raiders, the Patriots were in the top tier when it came to helmet design. Their colors are still nice, but the Japanimation style minuteman on the helmet looks like a cross of the departed New Hampshire “Old Man of the Mountains” and Optimus Prime of Transformers fame.
Let me just close by saying that I am not trying to put down modern football or argue that the 1970’s and 1980’s were better. There was good and bad then, there is good and bad now. Besides, on August 8, 1981 in the pre-season opener for the Buccaneers, the opponent broke out a uniform design that was worse than anything seen before or sense.
That was the unveiling of the Cincinnati Bengals tiger-stripe helmets, tiger-stripe jerseys and tiger-stripe pants. Even the most ardent Bucco Bruce hater would have to admit the Bucs were the better-dressed team that night, even though the home team lost 24-17. To this day that is the ugliest uniform in all of professional sports and it came during the era that I love so much. Also, the Bengals have kept it for over a quarter century now. So what do I know?
Denis Crawford, October 2007