Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nostalgia's Not What It Used to Be, Fashion Design Division

The American Football League was founded when I was a little kid. In a bizarre marketing decision, the league had bubble gum cards before it had played an actual game. That's how the Patriots became (for awhile) my favorite AFL team.

It was all Pat Patriot's doing. I LOVED that logo. My 11-year old self thought it was about the rootin'-tootinest emblem a football team ever carried into battle. Or so it looked on the side of a cardboard color reproduction of Larry Garron, anyway.

It is not going too far as to state that without Pat Patriot, I would not have followed the AFL at all. Very few fans, children or adult, did in the Philadelphia area. It was the NFL city with the highest percentage of fans who regarded the new league with contempt and resentment. I believe it was because the AFL offered Eagles fans their only chance to feel superior to other football teams during most of the '60s.

But I became an AFL follower from the jump. To me, a REAL AFL fan is someone who followed the league before the New York Titans became the Jets, and I did. I remember the Dallas Texans. I remember Houston's Jeppesen Stadium. And I followed Pat Patriot and the team he symbolized through thin and thin. I couldn't have been more involved had I been one of the many people to whom the franchise owed money.

So I plan to watch the NFL's commemoration of the AFL's 50th anniversary with extreme interest -- not for nostalgic reasons, but to check for historical accuracy. An AFL celebration that does not recall the fly-by-night oddities of the early '60s is no celebration at all as far as I'm concerned. If it was up to me, the weeks the Pats wear their throwback uniforms this season, the NFL should make the team practice over at the stadium by Logan airport and watch game tapes projected onto a bedsheet.

Which brings me to the crucial issue of the AFL's golden anniversary. If the Denver Broncos wear orange and blue throwbacks, history has been vandalized. I demand brown and gold Broncos -- vertical-striped socks and all.

Anything less would be an insult to the memory of Frank Tripucka.


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