Go green! Go—uh, what?

14 October 2011
Categories: Rants, Sports

College football uniforms—for that matter, sports uniforms in general—have two simple, immutable requirements, both equal in importance:

  1. Display the school colors. Most schools have two official colors: maize and blue, Chicago maroon and burnt orange, green and white. Use them both.
  2. Make the numbers high-contrast and as legible as possible. A person with normal eyesight, sitting in end-zone seats, should be able to read the number of the player who just scored a touchdown at the other end of the field.

The “Pro Combat Series from Nike” uniforms that the Michigan State Spartans will wear on Saturday in their home-field defense of the Paul Bunyan Trophy fail on both counts. The bronze-on-green numbers, at least in publicity photos, are not particularly visible. And there’s no white anywhere on the uniform.

Beyond that, what irks me is that the use of bronze in the place of white is purported to be for “historic” reasons, the original Spartans having been Bronze Age warriors. Never mind that use of the name “Spartans” for Michigan State’s teams was the concoction of two Lansing sportswriters in the 1920s who (thankfully) took exception to the lame, prosaic name change selected by popular vote: the “Michigan Staters.”

If they really wanted to be historic, they’d call themselves “Aggies” and put a big intertwined M.A.C. logo on their uniforms, like these guys:

1915 Michigan Agricultural College Football Team. Image © Michigan State University Archives.

Maybe they could wear leather helmets, too.

Seriously though, I don’t have a problem with a certain amount of branding per se: Nike and Reebok and Under Armour logos have been plastered all over uniforms for years, and that’s just a part of the biz. But these Pro Combat uniforms go far beyond that, making every player on the team—who of course will receive zero compensation—into a game-long marketing tool.

Also, they’re fugly.

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