Sunday, November 07, 2010

Clothes Make the Man If Not the BCS

The University of Oregon football team was on TV yesterday, and I looked at its game, the same thought hit me that has been with me on those infrequent occasions I have watched the Ducks in the past decade.

What do the players FEEL like dressed in those ridiculous duds?

Oregon's home uniform yesterday was black, neon traffic cone lime, and a sort of silvery sparkle for the feather drawing that goes on their jerseys over the shoulder pads. The font for the uniform numbers was a quasi-modern style last seen in the 1970s movies about the grim, soulless 21st century to be. The entire effect was designed to make a casual observer say, "Hey, they finally made a remake of "Tron." The unis were a tribute to video games nobody plays anymore.

As all of college football knows, Oregon's main athletic booster is Phil Knight, the head of Nike, and Knight provides the Ducks with uniforms of Nike's design which makes the team essentially tax-deductable advertising. Rest assured, somewhere out there in America there are PLENTY of high school football coaches and athletic directors just dim enough to think that a new, badass self-image created by weird uniforms is just what they need to turn their teams around.

But do the Oregon players feel badass in their gear? Probably. Kids like clothes that stand out, and besides, dressing in whatever Knight wants is about the only tradition Oregon football has established in a century or so of effort.

But I'd like to think at least some of the Ducks put on their "what is it this week" uniforms with a certain embarrassment, and a slight twinge of wistful longing that they didn't choose a school whose uniforms project, how to put this, a somewhat more self-confident and secure identity.

The game on opposite Oregon's was LSU-Alabama. Each team was dressed in the same uniforms they have worn for over 60 years. Alabama's are particularly old-fashioned, crimson and white with numerals on the side of the helmet. That's what Bear's teams wore, and dadgumit, that's the Tide will wear forever, because of Bear.

I approve. People are always yammering about college football tradition, but you know, they're not always full of it. It is a good thing to be part of an institution larger than oneself, that was around before you got here and will be here after you're gone. Sometimes that helps an individual BE larger than himself on behalf of said institution.

Put it this way. An Alabama kid puts on the same uniform Joe Namath, John Hannah and Ozzie Newsome did. That matters. It matters more than putting on a uniform designed to indicate "hey, I'm a hyper 19-year old with muscles and quick reflexes."

Muscles get tired and reflexes slow in the course of a 60-minute game. What a player can draw on from inside himself to refresh them matters quite a bit.


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