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Chris has another “What if…” series this time around, and today we’ll get the opening salvo, looking at how the NFL might have evolved had the AFL never begun as a competitive league. I know you’ll enjoy this one!
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What if the AFL Never Existed — Part I by Chris Diamond
Cast your mind back to January 1959. The “Greatest Game Ever Played” between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts has just been played and the 12 teams of the NFL seem poised for a new era of professional football. Two businessmen, Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams, are looking to acquire an NFL franchise. They first try to buy the failing Chicago Cardinals but can’t come to a deal with the Bidwill family. So instead they approach the NFL to try and get one (or two) expansion teams. The NFL has an expansion committee headed by Bears owner George Halas. Halas is pro expansion, but in this time other NFL owners are split on the issue. A quick look at this map of TV coverage in 1960 shows the reason – about half the NFL teams have a huge territory that they consider their own, so are against expansion there. In particular George Preston Marshall’s Washington team relies on fans in the south for their revenue. Hunt is from Dallas and wants a team there and Adams is based in Houston. In reality, the efforts of both men to get a team in the NFL were rebuffed and they went on to create the AFL and the rest is history.
But, what if Hunt and Adams had got NFL franchises and the AFL never existed? What might have happened to the history of pro football going forward? Contemporary documents of the AFL-NFL lawsuit from 1962 give us an insight into what was going on at the time and how expansion was viewed by the NFL. This is the premise of what I will look at here. As we move forward from 1959, things will gradually seem less familiar as the divergence from our reality grows and I’ve imagined the same will apply to team visual identities. So without further ado let’s start back in 1959.
This is what the NFL looked like in 1959 – 12 teams split into two conferences east and west. There is no team in the south and no team west of Chicago until you reach LA and San Francisco on the west coast. Following the failed bid by Hunt and Adams, the Bidwills have finally given up on Chicago and are about to move the Cardinals to St. Louis for 1960. Following intense negotiations, the main anti-expansion blocker Marshall eventually agrees to the new teams in Dallas and Houston on the understanding that no teams further East in the south will be added, protecting his territory. NFL Expansion Committee Meetings of the time identified Dallas, Houston, Buffalo, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Miami as the prime cities for expansion in the 1960s. Hunt wants Dallas and Adams Houston and they are granted franchises to begin play in 1962. (In the real world, with the threat of the AFL, the NFL rushed teams in to Dallas and Minneapolis in 1960 and 1961 but this was really too quick to set them up properly). Both teams are put in the Western Conference and Baltimore is moved to the East (as was wanted in reality by the other Eastern Conference teams, but never happened).
The addition of the Texans and Oilers proves to be a great success, so in 1965 the expansion committee recommends the addition of two more teams in 1968. Because of the agreement with Marshall, the south is off limits so Buffalo and Minneapolis-St.Paul are chosen. I’ve assumed the Buffalo team is the Bills as the name has a lot of “momentum” so any expansion NFL team there was likely to take it. Likewise the Minnesota team are the Vikings as the area’s Scandi heritage means it also has “momentum”. On the addition of two more teams, the NFL splits into four divisions (the same as reality). So by 1968 this alt-reality NFL has 16 teams, the same as the pre-merger NFL of our reality. But unlike our reality, there aren’t another 10 pro teams and huge areas of the country don’t have teams. Despite expanding by four teams in the 60s the NFL once again has no plans to expand further in the 1970s. But like in 1960, pressure is growing to expand beyond its existing frontiers particularly in the south and west. What will happen in the 1970s? Will another league finally rise to compete with the NFL? We will find out in Part 2!
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Thanks, Chris! Another great think piece and looking forward to the forthcoming Part II! Readers? What do you think?
FINALLY! FSU Unveils Updated Uniforms
After close to a decade (a lifetime in College Football) wearing basically the same uniform template, yesterday FSU unveiled “refreshed” uniforms for the 2023 season. Gone are the awful BFBS alternates, which were occasionally worn with alternate garnet pants. For now, Florida State will only have garnet and white jerseys, as well as gold, garnet and white pants, all of which feature the Seminole head logo on both hips.
According to the team, “The uniforms feature an updated design on the jerseys and pants, both of which feature elements previously worn by great FSU teams. On the jerseys, the numbers move from the top of the shoulders down to the sleeve, while the tribal pattern moves from the shoulder cap to the sleeve cuffs and remains on the redesigned collar. The pants will feature FSU’s primary Seminole head logo on both hips.”
“The tribal pattern incorporates meaningful symbolism from the Seminole Tribe’s patchwork patterns into the program’s jerseys. The patchwork decorative technique dates back to the early 1900s among Seminole Tribe women and was adopted by the Tribe as a standard means of embellishing their traditionally vibrant clothing. The pattern on the jerseys is designed using the Seminole symbols for arrow, man on horse and fire from top to bottom in a repeating arrangement.”
The reveal did not show any garnet pants, but the announcement did mention the team will have the option to wear those — combined with the white and gold helmets, this gives the team a possible 12 uniform combos.
For those who care about such things, the Seminoles will join a limited number of schools who have “upgraded” to Nike’s newest chassis, the “Vapor F.U.S.E. uniform that combines lightweight fabric technology with a precision fit to help allow ultimate performance on the field.”
You can see many more photos, including those shown above, below:
And here’s some video:
Introducing our 2023 uniforms, featuring a refreshed look and a brand-new, state-of-the-art Nike Vapor F.U.S.E. design!
These uniforms replace the set introduced back in 2014. You’ll note that the original white jersey featured hard-to-read gold numbers, which were eventually replaced by much easier-to-read garnet numbers. Likewise, the gold numbers on the garnet jersey were recently changed to the more legible white numbers. The new jerseys keep this same color-scheme for the numerals.
Jackie Robinson Day
Yesterday — April 15th — was the annual celebration of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, who broke the modern color barrier in baseball in 1947, the 76th anniversary of that seminal moment in baseball history. As has become tradition in MLB, all players, managers and coaches sported Robinson’s No. 42 for yesterday’s games, with all teams using Dodger blue jersey numbers, regardless of their primary team colors. As you can see above, for the Yankees, the number stands out (both as being out of place AND as a solid reminder of Jackie’s original uni number).
For some teams — like Robinson’s biggest rival, the Giants — the wearing of “42” in Dodger blue lends import to Jackie’s remarkable achievements, both on and off the field.
For some teams, like the New York Mets, who adopted the Dodgers “blue” when they entered the National League as an expansion team in 1962, the “42” looked good. Of course, those same Mets did NOT remove their horrendous ad patch…
…but they did (as did all teams) remove their front uni numbers for the day.
One of the best things about JRR day is it means most games are white vs. gray, but for teams like the Rays, who have eliminated their gray road jersey, it meant they wore the Dodger blue 42 on their alternate jersey.
I know many of you either don’t like or have grown tired of “everyone wearing 42” (JRR day itself dates to 2004, but it wasn’t until 2008 that all players and coaches began wearing 42), but I love it. Seeing all teams (*or most teams) in white/gray and going NNOB is both a great tribute to Robinson, AND an aesthetically pleasing look. Yes, it can get confusing at times, especially when every announced player is “Number 42,” but for one day we can enjoy it. I always thought Allan Huber Selig was a terrible commissioner (exceeded in awfulness only by Rob Manfred and Kennesaw Landis), but the introduction and expansion of Jackie Robinson Day was by far and away his best achievement.
Of course, MiLB teams wore colored tops and had their “42” rendered in team colors and fonts.
Guess the Game from the Uniform
Based on the suggestion of long-time reader/contributor Jimmy Corcoran, we’ve introduced a new “game” on Uni Watch, which is similar to the popular “Guess the Game from the Scoreboard” (GTGFTS), only this one asked readers to identify the game based on the uniforms worn by teams.
Like GTGFTS, readers will be asked to guess the date, location and final score of the game from the clues provided in the photo. Sometimes the game should be somewhat easy to ascertain, while in other instances, it might be quite difficult. There will usually be a visual clue (something odd or unique to one or both of the uniforms) that will make a positive identification of one and only one game possible. Other times, there may be something significant about the game in question, like the last time a particular uniform was ever worn (one of Jimmy’s original suggestions). It’s up to YOU to figure out the game and date.
Today’s GTGFTU comes from Charlie Schick.
Good luck and please post your guess/answer in the comments below.
Too Good for the Ticker
Got an e-mail (forwarded by Paul) yesterday from Eric Fisk, which is simply TGFTT!
Found this amazing vintage baseball jersey while hanging out with my daughter in Sister’s, Oregon. Jersey is for Woodard Lumber Co. From Cottage Grove, Ore. Wilson size 44 tag still attached.
The link to the story of the Woodard Family lumber is here.
Great find, Eric, and thanks for sharing the photos of the jersey, which is drop dead gorgeous!
…that’s all for today, and for me for this weekend! Big thanks (again) to Chris for Part I of his latest “think piece” — looking forward to Part II, which will run very soon.
Everyone have a good Sunday and a better week, and I’ll catch you next Saturday. Some big uni news on tap this week, with the Rangers unveiling their City Connect unis tomorrow, and then the Arizona Cardinals unveiling their new uniforms on Thursday!