I’ve been saying for many years now that the uni-verse’s client/vendor relationship in way out of whack, especially in college sports. There’s the impression — and, in some cases, the reality — that the vendors are calling the shots and that manufacturers like Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas are more important than the schools they outfit. The manufacturers happily fuel this narrative by using templated designs for the teams and schools in their stable, making it look like a bunch of schools are all playing for Team Nike, or Team Adidas, or whatever. Media outlets make things worse by using headlines like “Commodores Unveil New Nike Alternate Uniform,” as if the fact that Vanderbilt’s new alt uni is made by Nike — just like all of Vandy’s other uniforms — is somehow newsworthy.
Longtime reader R. Scott Rogers succinctly summed up the current state of affairs in a comment he posted on the site yesterday. He was talking about the Nike and the NFL, but his analysis applies just as well to the other outfitters and to college sports: “Nike does not do design. Nike does brand-promotional merchandising (that is, Nike exploits its clients to promote and merchandise the Nike brand).”
A few hours after Scott posted that comment, I saw something I’d never seen before. It came out of Cincinnati, where the Bearcats will be wearing a new uniform design this weekend to commemorate homecoming and the 100th anniversary of Nippert Stadium. We’ve known about this uniform for a month and a half now. But with the game coming up in a few days, there’s a new promotional push, and it includes — well, see for yourself:
It’s amazing what people are capable of when their shame gland has been surgically removed, isn’t it?
It’s common practice, of course, for promotional photos of college jerseys to include placeholder NOBs, because they don’t want to run afoul of NCAA rules about using the players’ names for commercial purposes. The placeholder is usually the name of the school or the name of the team. But I think this is the first time I’ve seen the manufacturer’s name used as the placeholder. It reeks of brazen corporate hubris, and it’s particularly inappropriate in this case, since the uniform is supposedly honoring the school’s homecoming and the stadium’s centennial. Why not use “Homecoming” or “Nippert”? Putting “Under Armour” on there is like baking a cake for someone’s birthday and putting your name on it instead of the friend’s. It’s saying, “HEY EVERYONE, HERE I AM, LOOK AT ME! IT’S ALL ABOUT MEEEEE!!”
Interestingly, an earlier round of photos from last month showed “Cincy” on the back. So the Under Armour folks had to go out of their way to create another promo jersey with the self-aggrandizing NOB. Douchebags.
The placeholder NOB won’t be worn in the game, of course. And some of you may be thinking, “It’s just for display — what’s the big deal?” That’s a good question, but here are some better ones: Why would you want a display uniform that glorifies the outfitter instead of the team? What kind of corporate ego does it take to come up with the idea of putting your company’s name on the jersey to begin with? What kind of people think like that? Is it really so hard to realize that the NOB should be team-related, not outfitter-related? Given that the UA logo already appears on the jersey, pants, and other accessories, isn’t that more than enough? Is there any other industry where a vendor could get away with (or would even consider) touting itself at the expense of the client?
I suppose there’s also the possibility that this jersey was lettered up by the Cincy equipment staff, not the Under Armour staff, which would qualify as a particularly depressing case of Stockholm Syndrome. Either way, though, this episode contributes to the steady drip-drip-drip of developments that have increasingly turned college teams into little more than marketing arms of their outfitters. That state of affairs is utter bullshit and completely unacceptable, and deserves to be called out as such.
Baseball News: Word I’m hearing is that the Angels will drop the “of Anaheim” suffix next season and be known as the Los Angeles Angels, period. Of course, they still play in Anaheim, and their stadium’s name (this week, at least) is Angel Stadium of Anaheim. No word on what the team name change will mean for the stadium name.
NFL News: The Bills play the Jags in London this Sunday. Will they wear these Union Jack socks? Doubt it, but that would be pretty funny (from Blake Moushon). ”¦ Here’s a breakdown of NFL violations and fines. Almost all of the players are multi-millionaires and the fines therefore mean nothing to them, so the fascination with fines eludes me (from Peter Schultz). ”¦ State Farm’s latest commercial featuring Aaron Rodgers has a uni-related twist (from Kary Klismet). ”¦Good critique of the NFL’s Pinktober initiative here (from Andrew Koenig). ”¦ An unsourced report, the veracity of which I’m in no position to assess, claims that the reason the Lions are wearing the William Clay Ford memorial patch for a second season is that Ford’s widow insisted on it (from Christopher Pirrone). ”¦ After a chat with league honchos, Steelers DL Cam Heyward has decided to stop wearing the eye black honoring his late father. Here’s his full statement on the matter (from Jerry Wolper).
College Football News: Texas A&M’s glow-in-the-dark BFBS uniforms won’t be worn in the dark. ”¦ Matte black helmet apparently the works for Memphis. ”¦ Arkansas State pandered to the U! S! A! crowd last night. ”¦ In that same game, Louisiana- Lafayette wore helmets with a giant fleur de lis on one side and a uni number on the other. ”¦ Whiteout helmet for Georgia TechChris Wheeler). ”¦ The Big Ten Network’s website has a recurring uni-centric feature called “Clothes Call,” which includes some basketball coverage but is mostly about B1G college football (from Kary Klismet). ”¦ Nebraska’s miserable black alts will be worn this weekend.
Hockey News: Rangers G Antti Raanta, who’s from Finland, has begun wearing a new mask adorned with Moomin characters. “Moomins are fantasy characters by a Finnish writer and illustrator, Tove Jansson. They first appeared in comic strips in the ’40s but remain highly popular today, mainly in northern Europe but also in Japan,” explains Mira Muikku. ”¦ Love this 1936 shot of NHL goalie Tiny Thompson posing with four pee-wee goalies wearing kid-sized NHL uniforms of that era (nice find by Will Scheibler). ”¦ Star Wars jerseys upcoming for the Cincinnati Cyclones (from @labflyer).
Basketball News: Halifax’s new NBL team will be called the Hurricanes. ”¦ Here’s the Heat’s alternate jersey sked for the upcoming season. It includes references to some alternate designs that haven’t yet been officially unveiled, although we know about them via the torrent of recent leaks (thanks, Phil). … Pink-accented uniforms for Georgetown. ”¦ New uniforms for LaSalle.
Soccer News: The National Women’s Soccer League has added its 10th team, the Orlando Pride, which will begin play next year. The logo design shows the Lake Eola water fountain in downtown Orlando (from @DaveDoop). ”¦ Possible badge change in the works for DC United (from John Muir).
Grab Bag: As I’ve mentioned many times here on the site, I give blood as often as they’ll let me and am a big supporter of blood donation in general. But this thing that’s been going on in Alabama is seriously fucked up.