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Letter from AFMby: John Gallup
Editor and Publisher
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When the NFL first had players don “throwback” uniforms, in the mid-90’s, to celebrate teams’ histories and (who’s kidding who) to sell more merchandise, we thought it was a novel idea and perfectly reasonable if done on a limited basis. It’s good to educate young fans about the game’s history and it’s interesting to see how the modern designs are, in most cases, superior to those of the past, especially if you’re a Tampa Bay Bucs fan. It was fun, for one or two weekends a year, to watch teams honor the past and, for some of us older fans, recall the league’s pioneers as they must have looked on game days in the 50’s and 60’s.
But with the throwback look appearing ever more frequently, on random Sundays for no particular reason, and sometimes with only one team dressed in retro mode, what was once a novel idea has outlived its novelty.
For many, throwback officially went sour last year when the Broncos paraded out in their 1960 outfits which included hideous brown and mustard vertically striped socks. Did someone in the Broncos’ marketing department seriously think these would be a big seller? Fifty years ago, when the socks were originally worn, they were so despised by players and coaches that they were piled up and publicly burned when they switched to a new design. But, hey, maybe they’re your style. If so, you can pick up a used pair (we assume not from 1960) on ebay for $24.99.
Inevitably, the idea of specially-designed, limited-use uniforms has found its way to the college game. This time, however, the idea is not to honor or celebrate the past (if they had a Notre Dame throwback uniform, how would you know?) but clearly to draw attention to the designs themselves. Just recently, one manufacturer unveiled specialty uniforms that you’ll be seeing on prominent teams in some of their biggest games of the year. Once limited to the Oregon Ducks and their unlimited uniform/helmet combos, we’ll now see teams outfitted in non-traditional colors with gimmicky touches such as reptile scales. Even a program as steeped in tradition as Ohio State is not immune. Against Michigan this year, they’ll be wearing red helmets and red retro jerseys. What would Woody say?
To those teams sporting these new looks, we wish you well. But beware of the risks. In last year’s SEC Championship game, Florida wore, for the first time in recent memory, very un-Gator-like all white uniforms with white helmets. In their flattest performance in years, they were steamrolled by Alabama. Were the uniforms a factor? Probably not, but the Gators were certainly lacking mojo.
Change is inevitable, and indeed most colleges have tinkered with their uniform design over the decades. But tradition in college football means more than any other major sport. We’re already dealing with massive conference realignment, BCS dissatisfaction and changes on so many levels. Please, colleges, some of us take comfort in the continuity of traditional uniforms.
But, if new uniforms in college are the next big trend - generating tons of merchandise sales and big revenue – maybe this could serve as a source for increased stipends for players. But that’s another topic for another time.
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