Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Being a Browns Fan Means Never Having to Apologize for the Uniforms

These are trying times for the National Football League. There's the fallout from Michael Vick's dog fighting indictment, PacMan Jones's Death Row Records lifestyle, and the criminal conduct of every person on the Cincinnati Bengals roster except the field goal kicker and the team chaplain. Then there's the contribution that Tom Brady and Matt Leinart have made to a disturbing rise in the illegitimacy rate among the "Caucasians earning more than $10 million per year" demographic.

While Roger Goodell is stressing out over these issues, I think that, in the end, all of these troubles are nothing that can't be fixed by a few well placed NFL-United Way ads. I wish the same could be said for an issue that's been bugging me for quite some time, and that's the ongoing uglification of NFL team uniforms. I'm not exactly sure which team started the trend, but there have been several uniform innovations over the past couple of decades that were godawful enough for everyone to take notice, and these seem to have become more frequent-- and more offensive-- in recent years.

The first change that really stands out in my mind was back in 1981, when the Bengals shed the blatant Browns rip-offs they used to wear in favor of a new look that was apparently designed by Tony the Tiger. Things went downhill from there, with carpetbagger teams like the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens raising the bar for ugliness, and established teams like the New England Patriots abandoning old school uniforms for the downright bizarre (goodbye Pat the Patriot, hello Flying Elvis). The ugliness trend reached its zenith a few years back when the Buffalo Bills unveiled their, ahem, distinctive design.

When I see uniforms like those worn by the Bills and Titans, I have the same reaction that I do when I walk into somebody's house and notice that they've got foil wallpaper in the bathroom. "Gee, they had a choice, and they actually chose this?" Honestly, those teams' two-tone jerseys appear to have jumped straight out of the pages of the 1973 Sears Catalog.

One of the unfortunate things about the NFL is that other teams frequently take their cues from what they see on the field on Sunday afternoons, and the uniform ugliness trend is no exception. The most notable example of this is the University of Oregon Ducks, whose horrific uniforms look like what James Caan wore in Rollerball.

If there's a silver lining in the dark cloud of uniform ugliness, it's that the Cleveland Browns have had nothing to do with it. There have been some bad ideas incorporated into the Browns' uniforms over the years, such as the orange jerseys that made them look like Creamsicles, and the brown socks, which have got to go, but the Browns wear basically the same uniform that they wore in 1952, when they went to the orange helmet full time (it was worn at night beginning in 1950).

Sure, the Browns uniforms are a little boring, and they don't make for real interesting throwback uniform days, but they definitely aren't aggressively ugly. Given what other teams have done with their uniforms, that's saying a lot.


chocolate starfish said...

Rollerball is very solid .... I've always thought that it should be made into a legit sport ... I would buy season tix.

Erik said...

My pick for worst NFL unis is a strange one: The Bills.

I hated when they decided to shoehorn dark blue into their red/white/medium blue color scheme. Now they have dark blue, medium blue, red, white and gray all packed together. It's an ugly, mutant version of the Jim Kelly unis, which I actually liked.

The Bengals unis were surely beaten with an ugly stick, but those unis were always kind of ugly. The Bills corrupted a good uniform. For that, they shall be flogged like Kevin Bacon in "Animal House."

chris said...

Amen brother. My least favorite is the Titans' two-tone jersey. I thought the two tone look might have died down by now like the big cartoon jerseys did in the late 90s in the NBA...but alas...no such trend change seems to be on the horizon.

I can't understand the love affair with the two tone look. If teams like the Titans would get rid of that, their helmets might look OK.

Hornless Rhino said...

Erik and Chris,

I've got to give the nod to Erik on this one. I grew up in Western New York, and still have a soft spot for the Bills. But as for their uniforms -- dear God, make it stop!

The Bills original uniform was excellent and never should have been changed. Every modification that the team has made has been for the worse, starting with the substitution of the blue charging buffalo for the beloved red static buffalo. After that came the red helmet in the late 1980s, and that was followed most recently by the two-tone train wreck.

Go back to where you started from Buffalo.