By Phil Hecken, with Jim Vilk
Back again with the Man who never met a uniform he didn’t like, Jim Vilk, with our look at the Eastern Division of the USFL. So, what’s with the header (“Tiny Spuds”)? Well, in case you didn’t know, it’s part of a larger quote from one Donald Trump, who once derisively referred to the USFL as “small potatoes.” In in a serendipitous bit on timing, ESPN (which is running their wonderful 30 for 30 series over the next several weeks and months) is running “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL” this Tuesday … and Wednesday … and Thursday (check here for full listing). While the title promises a hard look at the Donald and others who brought about the USFL’s demise, it will also promise to be a uni-bonanza. Especially since some of the footage has likely never been seen. After watching the other 30 for 30‘s, I say this is gonna be must-see TV.
With that being said, Jim’s back to bring you his look at the Eastern Conference and their unis. Will he find one he doesn’t like? You’ll just have to read below. Here’s Jimmy:
In our last look back at the USFL, we saw quite a bit of uniform change amongst the Western Conference teams in just three seasons. This time, as we look at the Eastern Conference, you will see fewer changes. That’s to be expected, though, when you pretty much nailed your look the first time. In fact, only one eastern team went through a dramatic overhaul. We’ll see them at the end. Oh, and before we begin, I realized I did not talk about any of the teams’ socks in part one. For consistency, I will leave commentary on them out of part two as well. Do yourself a favor, though, as you look at all of the teams’ unis — check out the socks. There are some pretty classic looks for every team in the league. Okay? Let’s resume our trip through the USFL by heading south.
EASTERN CONFERENCE – Southern Division
Birmingham Stallions: One thing you’ll see this time is a lot of red, beginning with the Stallions. They were one of six teams in 1984 that wore red — that’s a third of the league (actually, seven teams had red jerseys in ’84, but Arizona never wore theirs). The Southern Division itself had three of the red teams. Anyway, the Stallions looked good with a red horse logo and a single stripe on an old gold helmet. The red jerseys and gold pants were complemented with some classic Steeler-ish striping. This look remained untouched for all three seasons. On the road, however, there was one change. The normally fantastic and extremely accurate OurSports Central web site says the Stallions’ only road uniform consisted of white jerseys and pants, but that was in ’84 and ’85. In ’83 the road pants were old gold. At first, all I had was my memory, but I finally found a shot of the ’84 media guide showing action from the previous season. The picture at the bottom of the guide confirms the gold pants. I think they made the change to differentiate themselves from another team we’ll see later. Either look, however, was very nice.
Jacksonville Bulls: Real bulls don’t actually see red, but these guys sure did in this division. They didn’t wear any themselves, though, going with a burgundy and silver look with orange and black details added. Alongside the Chicago Blitz and the Michigan Panthers, the Bulls had one of my favorite uniforms. It started with the helmet — an innovation in those days with a bull in motion wrapping around both sides, with the word BULLS on the back of the helmet. The logo was inserted in the silver stripe on both the burgundy and white jerseys as well. The home pants were silver with a burgundy and orange double stripe, while the road pants were burgundy with silver and orange striping. It’s an ’80s look, but I think it stands the test of time. It didn’t change during the Bulls’ two seasons in ’84 and ’85, and if they had survived until now I still wouldn’t change it.
Memphis Showboats: In 1983, Chicago and Tampa Bay came out with silver helmets and pants with red jerseys. The following year, the expansion Showboats piled on with the same color scheme. Yawn. At least they had a simple, cool helmet logo of a paddle wheel cover. Had they gone with their other logo, a mean-looking boat carrying a ball, I wouldn’t have been so easy on them. The red jerseys had silver numbers and double sleeve stripes, and the silver pants had a single red stripe. The white jerseys had red numbers and sleeve stripes. There were no changes in the ’85 season. If Memphis had come along first in the league, I would have said, “Nice job with the unis.” Since they didn’t, I say, “You should have bought a bigger box of crayons.”
Boston/New Orleans/Portland Breakers: Three years, three cities, one FANTASTIC look. I mentioned my other favorite uniforms, but this one is right there with them. It may even be my first pick, if I was forced to make a decision. I like when teams use two shades of blue and I LOVE that helmet. A real case of beauty in simplicity here, with a light blue, silver and dark blue wave wrapping around the white helmet. Okay, I don’t know what shades Ocean Blue and Breaker Blue are, so I’ll call the home jersey royal blue with big white sleeve stripes on top of smaller dark blue and silver stripes. The white numbers are thinly outlined. The white jerseys have big dark blue sleeve stripes on smaller light blue and silver stripes, with royal numbers thinly outlined. The pants were the same for both sets — silver with dark blue, light blue and white stripes. I think this look stands the test of time even more than Jacksonville’s uniform. I wouldn’t alter this uni a bit. Ever.
Tampa Bay Bandits: I’ll bet this is one of Phil’s favorite USFL unis. For three years, the Bandits consistently used a red-in-white-in-black stripe on the silver helmets, both the red and white jerseys, the silver pants and yes, the socks, too. That’s nice, but if you know me, you know the answer to this question: What’s worse than a home uni that looks a little too much like Ohio State? A road uni that looks like a cross between Ohio State and the Raiders. Did Jack Tatum design these? Still, I liked the Bandits, but that was because I liked Steve Spurrier and his Bandit Ball offense. The simple silhouette logo of the bandit on horseback, which was on the sleeves as well as the helmets, redeemed the look for me. I also liked the team for its owner, the late John Bassett, who believed spring football could succeed … unlike some other guy …
EASTERN CONFERENCE – Atlantic Division
New Jersey Generals: And then there is that other guy. No, Donald Trump didn’t single-handedly cause the downfall of the USFL, but if he wouldn’t have gotten involved, I still might be enjoying spring football, small potatoes or not. Looking on the bright side, when Trump bought into the Generals after the 1983 season, at least he didn’t change those beautiful red and white uniforms. Plus, he signed Doug Flutie, so with the USFL’s relaxed numbering system I was able to enjoy a quarterback wearing #22. The Generals were the team I chose to root against, but I couldn’t hate them — not with Flutie, Herschel Walker and the wonderfully simple design of their unis. The white facemask set off the striking red helmet, while the logo of five gold stars and a gold wreath added a touch of class. The red jerseys had white numbers trimmed in royal blue, including big TV numbers on the sleeves that I like, and no other trim. The white pants had a red-in-blue stripe down the side. The white jerseys had red numbers trimmed in blue. The Generals reminded me of a red version of the Giants … except the Giants are much bigger potatoes, of course…
Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars: This is purely coincidence, but we’re ending with my three favorite teams. The Stars were my favorite in 1983, simply because the territorial draft meant they got all the Pitt and Penn State players. Little did I know they would go on to become the class team of the league, appearing in all three championships and winning the last two. The unis were pretty classy as well, although the red and old gold was close to Birmingham’s look. While the striping was similar, the Stars had no helmet stripe, white facemasks instead of red and gold numbers instead of white. The differences were smaller on the road unis as they both had red numbers. I think that’s why the Stallions eventually switched to white pants. The only change the Stars made was to the helmet logo. The name and the star in motion looked cool, but it kind of blended into the helmet in ’83. They fixed that simply enough by adding a white outline to the logo the following year. I’d take this team over the current residents of Philly or Baltimore anyday.
Pittsburgh Maulers: The Stars slipped to second place on my list when Pittsburgh got an expansion team in ’84. The Maulers only lasted one season, though, merging into the Stars in ’85. I wasn’t expecting this team to be so bad … neither was I expecting purple, reddish orange and gray uniforms. They grew on me quickly, though. The Mauler logo suffered from the same problem as the Stars’ logo — it blended in too much. A few games into the season they added some white highlighting. Along with the logo, the purple helmet had a white-in-purple-in-orange stripe, which was identical to the striping on the gray pants. Both the purple jersey with white numbers and the white jersey with purple numbers had a white sleeve stripe between two purple-in-orange stripes. Oh well, I may not see these last two teams in real life anymore, but I can always see them on my electric football field.
Washington Federals/Orlando Renegades: Someday the lowly ’84 Feds will grace my electric football field as well, but I’m not done painting them. They were my third favorite team until they were sold and moved to Orlando. I never went to a Federals game, but one of own readers, “Leon”, did. He has the ticket stub to prove it, and they even gave him a souvenir. “A terrible towel for a terrible team,” I believe is how he put it. The Federals and Renegades didn’t look as bad as they played, for sure. The striping may drive Phil nuts, though. The ’83 Feds had a white helmet with a green-in-white-in-black stripe, while the white pants had a black-in-white-in-green stripe. The sleeves on the white jerseys matched the pants. The green jerseys, however, appeared to have white sleeve stripes with two small black stripes in the middle of them. I liked the black and green eagle with the star on its neck. That helmet logo survived the uniform upgrade in ’84, but the helmet itself, along with the pants, switched to silver. The striping seemed to match better, except on the jerseys. The greens had two white sleeve stripes with a silver star over them, while the whites had two green sleeve stripes with a green star over them. After the move to Orlando, the team overhauled the name, logo and colors. The Renegades went back to a white helmet, but with a gray-in-blue stripe, matching the white pants. The new logo was a feathered tomahawk with the team name written above it. The royal-ish blue jerseys with white numbers had gray-in-blue-in-white sleeve stripes, while the white jerseys with blue numbers had gray-in-white-in-blue sleeve stripes. Despite the inconsistencies, I liked all three unis, but I’m kind of partial to the ’84 version.
I liked a lot of things about 1984, so I also painted the Arizona Wranglers to commemorate the Wranglers/Stars championship game from that year. That’s small potatoes, though, compared to what one guy has done, taking some NFL figures and DIYing them to look like USFL players. Hmm, I wonder if he could make me a Sean Landeta figure someday. He was the last of the USFL players, retiring from the NFL 25 years after the Stars’ first game. If the proposed new USFL really happens in 2010, I’d love to see someone sign him to punt at least once. If they don’t bring him back, I hope they at least bring back these great uniforms.
Thanks, Jim, for the second trip down the USFL memory lane. And to answer your questions, yes, I did (and still do) love the striping (I love how the helmet matches the sleeves which matches the pants, which matches the socks) on the Bandits … the colors — not so much. In fact, my favorite team, color-wise, in this Eastern Division look-back is easily the Feds. I know I’m out of the norm in my enjoyment of black and green (particularly black and hunter), but kelly green as well. I love it on the Fighting Sioux and I love it on the Celtics (and I shouldn’t on the Bostonian team, since theirs is simply BFBS). Also a huge fan of the Generals unis. Those rocked.
I’d like to take a look at other “defunct” football leagues, including, but not limited to the uniforms of the WFL, but also the WLAF and maybe even some arena (and, god help us all, the UFL) — if anyone is interested in assisting with one of those leagues, give me a shout. Thanks again, Jimmy — now you’re thinkin’ with yer dipstick!
Ah…jogging. A time to relax and enjoy nature and be at peace with oneself. Right? I mean — you don’t come to a uniform board expecting to have a political debate break out, do ya? Tsk-tsk. Sometimes…stuff happens. Enjoy your Sunday Benchies.
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: Another Sunday, another football scoreboard. If you’re…well…over 35, you could probably do this one from memory, and if you’re younger than that, you may need to look it up. Kind of a famous game depicted here, but oh was a great game it was. Still love seeing old Marlboro ads in stadia. So…quaint. Anyway, please find a link to this game somewhere and don’t post the answer directly in the comments. Final score and teams are easy, so should the location be. Ready? Guess The Game From The Scoreboard. And if you remember where you were when this … ahem, catch happened … you’re old, dude.
UW #1 Seahawks Fan Michael Princip has been tracking the Oregon Ducks and all of their 2,456 possible uniform combinations this season. He’ll be updating it after each game. Yesterday, the Ducklings were idle (or would that be a “bye week”?), so there is no updating for Mike to do. Big conference game next weekend against the surprising Huskies (2-1 in the Pac 10, 3-3 overall) while the green and yellow look to remain undefeated in conference play. So, although there’s no change to the chart, Here’s Your Updated Ducktracker.
ATTENTION UNI TRACKERS — If you’re on of those insane lunatics, like me, who has kept track of your teams’ uniform combinations for all 162 (or, if you track the Twins, all 163) games this season, think about gathering all of your data, plus a final writeup, for your tracking. While my own tracking of the Mets is complete, the writeup was too long to be included in this post. If, however, you’re interested, here is the final count of the uniforms the Mets wore.
I’d to gather everyone’s tracking and Paul has given me the OK to place them into one big file for inclusion in the archives (thanks Paul!). When you have your stuff ready, send them to me with the subject line “UNI TRACKING – (your team)”. If you made it this far, I thank you for all your efforts. You don’t need to be terribly brief in your write-up, but please don’t compose a novel either. Make sure you list any particular trends or unique factors.
This will be a fairly intensive undertaking, so please try to make sure your records are correct and you send me any and all graphics you have created so far (in jpg or bmp format, if possible). When complete, we will be adding everyone’s tracking into the Uni Watch Research Projects (links appear on the right sidebar of the page — currently we have three: “White At Home,” “Pro Football Uni History” and the Glossary. This would make the fourth). Thanks!
Our man in the street, Jim Vilk brings you his “Top 5” Best and one WORST college football uni matchup from yesterday:
5. St. Francis (PA) vs. Robert Morris: Surprise!
4. Northwestern/Michigan State: Because matchup-wise, it was a slow week.
3. USC/Notre Dame: If the Irish wore green this would have been #1.
2. Iowa/Wisconsin: Doesn’t take a hawk eye to see that this is a nice matchup.
1. OU/Texas: I like Texas’ all-white unis better, but this matchup ain’t too shabby.
And the worst matchup: Louisville/UConn: This matchup would look better during basketball season…but not by much.
And that’s all folks. Don’t forget there’s another legacy game today (Oilers vs. Boston Pats), and in one we can all see (except Jim) tomorrow: Broncos in their ROAD brown and white socks at San Diego. Lets see if some guys try to pull the barber pole with the socks again. Uni Trackers…start sending them in. Next week, results of the Road Uni poll, plus the announcement of our next poll — and it’s gonna be a doozy — one we need your help to create. Stay tuned. Everyone have a great Sunday.