By Phil Hecken, with “The Jeff” Provo
Last weekend, I took a look back at color versus color in the NFL, from an historical perspective. That focused mostly on the more recent pairings of color versus color games. This past Thanksgiving, the Patriots and Lions engaged in another color against color matchup (a rematch of their 2002 Thanksgiving Game).
We’ve discussed color versus color in the NFL occasionally on Uni Watch, and with regard to its application in the game today, we seem to be divided into two or three different camps: those who feel all games should be white versus color, mostly because “that’s the way it’s always been” (a riff on “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”); those who feel that we’ve progressed far enough in our technology that broadcasting a game in color versus color will no longer pose a problem for the home viewer (I’d venture to guess very few of us, if any at all, still have a black and white set), and many people now own gigantic HDTV’s; the third group, which represents the Madden generation, thinks all games should be color versus color simply because “you can play them that way on X-Box” (or similar arguments).
In researching this topic, I was surprised to find that many of us (myself included) believed there was an actual rule mandating that one team must wear white in an NFL game. Last week, we found out that’s not the case. There is no rule requiring one team wear white — although the Commissioner of the NFL must approve any proposed “color vs. color” game to ensure there is sufficient “contrast” between the two teams. Fair enough.
I don’t want to bore you with a history of NFL uniforms, but I do want to point out two incredible pieces of work by Uni Watch historian Timmy Brulia, which are actually found in the menu bar at the top of this page. If you scroll up and click on “Research Projects,” you’ll see White At Home In The NFL and Pro Football Uniform History Project. Take a look through these some time — you might be surprised at what you find.
In a nutshell, you might be surprised that until the mid 1950’s, not only was color versus color common in the NFL, it was actually the norm. Unlike baseball, basketball and hockey (from the 1970s through the mid 2000s), where white is worn at home, pro football has always been a sport where most teams wear their colored jerseys at home. In the early days of the game, many teams only had one jersey — they wore it home and away. As time progressed, many teams added a second jersey they would wear if their colors clashed with an opponents’ (very similar to soccer in this respect).
Before I (finally) move on to the meat of this post, I’d like you to spend a few minutes watching this video. Most of that footage is from the 1940s — several years before CBS would begin broadcasting games over the airwaves. The teams are the Redskins, Bears, Rams, Lions, Packers and Giants. Notice that every game is color versus color. It was the way football always used to be played. And games like the Thanksgiving matchup between the Lions and the Patriots are actually not some “newfangled Madden generation let’s play color-vs-color because we can” notion, but actually, a throwback from the pre-television days.
Now then — we’ve established that not only is color versus color not some newfangled, couch-potato-videogamization of the great game of football, I do realize that for many of us, the notion of color versus color still doesn’t sit well — and to a certain extent, I agree. White-versus-color may be a relic from 1956 when CBS brought football into everyone’s living rooms, but it does make a lot of sense — a white versus color matchup will almost always provide great contrast between the two combatants — which is, when you come down to it, pretty much the most important feature of a game — the ability to tell teams apart.
But unlike the other major sports (and hockey), football has never been a sport where the home team wears white. Or color. In fact, there are some teams (look at Timmy’s “White at Home” history) who have sometimes worn it at home, sometimes not. There are some teams today (several in fact) who will wear white at home some of the time. Even teams who play indoors won’t always be consistent. Therefore, while “white versus color” makes sense from a visual standpoint, to force one team to wear white doesn’t really make much sense from any other standpoint.
But wait, you say — doesn’t every team have a white jersey? So what if they don’t wear it home or away necessarily. This much is true, but the wearing of white in the NFL is by and large a forced tradition — dictated by the need of the networks to broadcast in black and white. Yes, every team that’s entered the league since 1960 has been required to wear a white jersey — so most of us are so used to seeing the white jersey that we accept it as a part of a teams “color scheme” even if it’s not.
At this point, I’d like to introduce the prime advocate for color-versus-color in the NFL, THE Jeff. Hear him out on this one. I’ll be back with my personal thoughts on the applicability of future color versus color games after this:
“Why should the NFL wear color on color? Simple — because a team should wear it’s colors. Take a look at all of the NFL teams that don’t wear white helmets and think about their “team colors”. The Raiders are silver & black. The Packers are gold and green. The Lions are silver and blue. The Bengals are orange and black. The Giants are blue and gray with red trim. Even the Vikings, who have a predominately white helmet logo, are often referred to as purple and gold. White is simply not *really* a team color for most teams. Here on Uni Watch, many people are opposed to BFBS – black for black sake — teams wearing black when it isn’t *really* a team color. I feel that wearing white is the same thing, only the league has been mandating it for the past 50+ years and people are just used to it. That doesn’t mean it should stay that way.
“The sport started as color vs color. The Bears wore navy, the Cardinals wore red, and that’s just how the game was played. It worked just fine. We’ve even seen instances where the Bears and Packers have both worn blue in the same game. White jerseys didn’t start becoming common until the TV era started. Back then it made sense. You can’t tell blue from red when you’re looking at everything in shades of gray. But we’re well beyond that point now. We aren’t watching on 13 inch black & white sets anymore. It’s time that the mindset of the league changed. Contrast must be considered, but why should white be required? Silver, gold, yellow, powder blue, neon green, creamsicle orange… all of these work quite well in place of white. Even without adding a bunch of new jerseys, there’s plenty of matchups that are easily playable as color vs color.
“The Chargers powder blue vs the Raiders or Ravens in black… the Vikings purple vs the Lions honolulu blue… The Bengals orange jerseys vs the black of the Steelers or purple of the Ravens… The Battle Red Texans vs the dark blue of the Colts or light blue of the Titans… why not? Seriously… Why not?”
Good points, THE. I can think of many examples where color versus color would not only not be a problem, but might even look better than white versus color. One game we seem to point to on Uni Watch as the perfect example of color versus color is the annual USC vs. UCLA game which pits cardinal and athletic gold against powder blue and vegas gold…er, this matchup. That works because of the beautiful contrast (and looks much better than this or this).
So, in the NFL, teams that wear some shade of light blue or teal or aqua would probably be the best candidates for color versus color. Hell, if the Titans would ditch the navy blue pants, how great would Tennessee versus Washington look? Reminds me a bit of USC/UCLA, no?
The Thanksgiving matchup of New England versus Detroit worked because you had ample contrast between the two jerseys. But the NFL has featured red versus navy, which seemed to work (I’m not really a fan) as well as navy versus burgundy (of which I’m also not a huge fan), and navy versus orange (involving two different teams in fact). Which leads us to one question: Why the hell are the Cowboys so special? Either that, or what other games might work as color versus color?
Red vs. black, and red vs. navy both “work,” although I’m not necessarily in favor of such a pairing. But orange vs. green or even green vs. burgundy seem to work fine. In fact, the more you play around with combos, you’d find that most of them would “work.”
Finally, while we have established there is ample historical precedent for color versus color, the NFL rules permit it, and it’s pretty obvious that many combinations would provide sufficient contrast — the next question is: if the NFL were to return to more color versus color — why? THE Jeff would love to see every game (or most) in color, while I think it is something worth exploring, but on a very limited basis, at least at first.
Once a year (or twice a year) on Thanksgiving makes it a special occurrence — one we remember for years. Perhaps expanding it a bit to include say, opening weekend, or maybe for special rivalry games? What about the battle of the Bay? When you think 49ers and Raiders, those are the colors you think of, right? Intradivision games, especially for teams with dysfunctional uniforms could be spiced up with color vs. color just the way traditional rivalries would. If the Bears and Lions played each other in those colors in 1945, why not in 2011?
Yeah, some color versus color (especially if CVCFCVCS) would be really stupid. But then again, when the Seahawks can break out neon snot, what’s the problem if the do it against a team wearing a dark jersey as opposed to a white jersey? At least the contrast would have been better.
What say you, Uni Watchers? Is color versus color something the NFL should actively explore moving forward? If so, should it be limited to a few select number of games? Why or why not? The floor is yours.
La Coupe Grey
The Super Bowl of the Great White North, also known as The Grey Cup, takes place today, the 98th such edition of Canada’s big game. This year features a rematch of last year’s great game, with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Montreal Alouttes hooking up once again.
Last year, my buddy Mike Styczen did up a wonderful post script to last year’s game as well as a fantastic history of the game/Cup. It’s well worth the reread.
This year Mike is back for a quick look ahead at today’s game.
“This years game is being played in Edmonton, at Commonwealth Stadium — the Eskimo’s home since 1978, and perhaps more famous to US fans for the 2003 Heritage Classic,” says Mike. “I’ll never get tired of that Jose Theodore picture.”
The halftime show will be Randy Bachman and Fred Turner (of BTO). There’s no prize for predicting what song they’ll close with.
“Also,” notes Mike, “the Canadian college football championship was played yesterday in Quebec City. The Laval University Rouge et Or (red and gold) beat the University of Calgary Dinosaurs 29-2. I know nobody really cares about Canadian college football, but there’s some nice pictures of football being played in the snow. Plus both sets of uniforms are so awful (Nike for Laval, Under Armour for Calgary) I thought Jim Vilk might consider them for the 5+1.”
Mr. Styczen also notes that this was Laval’s sixth Vanier Cup in the last 11 years.
As always, Mike, thanks for the salutations from up north. Now…if I can just figure out how to watch the game on the interwebs…
Have You Seen This Man?
Does this guy look familiar? Study the pic for a second — got it now?
Last Friday, I ran the “Colorize This!” segment and the Rochester Red Wings section really struck a chord with Uni Watch uniform historian Terry Proctor. So much, in fact, it prompted him to write about one of the seminal moments in a boy’s life — the day he attends his first big league game with his dad. Terry wrote me a really nice E-mail he wanted me to share with the readership about that day.
I’ll always remember the first Rochester Red Wings baseball game that my Dad and I ever attended on August 20, 1959.
A few remembrances about that night. I’ll never forget the smell of the grass as we entered Red Wing Stadium that warm late-summer evening. Or how big the players looked, and how great they looked in their Cream-White Cardinal-style flannels. The Amaros that played for Montreal was Sandy Amaros, the defensive hero of the Dodgers victory in the 1955 World Series. The Verdi that played for Rochester was Frank Verdi. On July 26, 1959 Verdi, coaching at third base because the Wings’ manager was ejected earlier, was struck in the head by a stray bullet fired by a drunken Cuban soldier in a game at Havana. July 26 is Cuba’s version of the Fourth of July and Uncle Fidel let all of his soldatos enter the stadium for free and imbibe on free rum. Verdi was saved because he was wearing a hard-plastic cap liner (an alternative to a batting helmet) that deflected the slug after tearing through his cap. Havana shortstop Leonardo “Chico” Cardenas wasn’t so lucky as he was hit in the shoulder. His getting ejected probably saved Rochester manager Cot Deal’s life. He’s now 87-years old.
The Rochester pitcher that night was Bob Keegan, the former White Sox hurler who threw a no-hitter for the Pale Hose in the early 1950s. He was a Rochester native who wanted to finish up his career with his hometown team. He won 17 games in ’59, nine in 1960 and retired. Luke Easter is the former Cleveland slugger from the early 1950s who played and coached for the Wings until 1964 when he was at least 54-years old. He taught Boog Powell how to improve himself defensively at first base and Boog has paid homage to Luke. One player on the Red Wings who didn’t play that night was a 17-year old catcher named James Timothy McCarver. He played the final month of 1959 with Rochester and did a good job. Unfortunately the Wings and Cards divorced after 1960 and Tim ended up playing for the International League Atlanta Crackers in 1962.
There’s nothing like the memories of your first real professional game, majors or minors. And with only 16 MLB teams in ’59 we saw some great players and great baseball. The Wings, like our hockey Amerks, were “major league” to us.
Thanks, Terry. Hopefully we’ll get a few of our readers to colorize those photos of the Red Wings (I’ve already received two from one reader). Glad that brought back fond memories for you.
OH — the guy in the photo above? That’s none other than Tommy Lasorda — one of the many guys Terry saw play in Rochester.
Trackin’ the Ducks
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.
11-0. That’s all you need to know about the 2010 Ducks. Eleven-and-oh with only the Civil War remaining. It’s going to be a blood bath in Corvallis next Saturday as the Ducks cement their invitation to Glendale. And if the Gamecocks can just pull a tiny upset in the Georgia Dome, we just might get Nike’s dream matchup of Oregon and Texas Christian playing for it all. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s Mike:
Looks like the Ducks are saving the best for last, at least I’d say they were when you look to their uniform combos, cuz what they wore on senior night against Arizona was quite nice. Totally dig the dark metallic green lids with all that yellow poppin’ off the jerseys and helmets, and those matte gray pants simply looked fantastic playing off the silver carbon wings. Only downside, not liking the pants over the knee caps, and knee high black tights look. Two neutrals too close.
Just a week before, they had the second best look of the season; white lids, white jersey, and matte green pants. You can’t go wrong with this use of neutral colors and the school’s primary colors here.
Now, where’s the throwback? Last year they wore the throwbacks in week 4, and a throwback hybrid for the Civil War game. So, they’ve got to be planning a throwback for next weekend, right? How about flashback to 1968? Flat green helmets, and white face masks would be pretty slick, maybe they could go hybrid with that? Or, the very legit 1998 Oregon look of yellow lid, white jersey, and green pants?
Here is your 2010 Duck Tracker.
5 & 1
And now, the part of the post you’ve all been waiting for: The 5 & 1.
Unfortunately for me, I spent most of the day in the hospital with my pop. so I didn’t get to watch much football yesterday — but the Mothervilker did — enough for both of us. So, hopefully he’ll have chosen wisely. But I doubt it. Let’s see what he’s got for us this week:
A 5&1 first: a combination honorable/dishonorable mention. Congrats to the Akron Zips for winning their first and only game, but why do you have to wear those awful unis?
Honorable Mention to Calgary/Laval — Laval University, for winning Canada’s Vanier Cup, and the University of Calgary, for looking better than the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders (loved the snow, too).
4. Notre Dame/USC — And a little rain looked good, too.
3. Florida/FSU — Color palette special of the day.
2. Auburn/Alabama — That white really popped on a cloudy day.
1. North Carolina/Duke — The Yankees/Red Sox of college basketball are a refreshing sight on the football field.
And the bad one: West Virginia/Pitt — Cincinnati/UConn fans get a reprieve after these two teams seriously downgraded their unis.
Well, there you have it folks. I didn’t catch the Saturday games, but I did see the Backyard Brawl and the Iron Bowl, and I have to say — I agree with the Mothervilker there. Good work, Jim.
“While perhaps not too PC to say, the NBA’s demographic tends to get shooty a good bit faster than the NHL’s. Especially in the inner part of DC.” — Jeff P.