By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

Let's put it this way: It could have been worse.

The Bengals could've put together a Super Bowl run, for example. Or the Bills could've returned to AFC prominence. Or a fleet of star cruisers from another galaxy could've come along and blasted our planet into smithereens.

Failing that, though, it's hard to imagine a more miserable situation than having to watch the Seattle Seahawks and their XFL-esque scuba suits this Sunday, an outfit that will instantly go down as the worst uniform in Super Bowl history.

But everyone else's loss is the Steelers' gain. Because as Uni Watch has documented before, the better-dressed team usually wins the Super Bowl. That's been the case 25 out of 39 times on Super Sunday -- nearly a two-to-one ratio. Yes, there has been the occasional miscarriage of sartorial justice. But two times out of three, haberdashery is destiny.

This was no doubt on Bill Cowher's mind last week, when he announced that the Steelers would wear white jerseys in the big game. As the home team this year (a designation that alternates between the two conferences each season), the Steelers were expected to wear their black jerseys, and Seattle, therefore, would've dressed like this. That would have given Pittsburgh a fairly comfortable aesthetic edge, but Cowher wasn't taking any chances. By choosing white and forcing the Seahawks into their monochromatic outfits, he served notice that he's going for the kill.

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The thing is, there was once a time when the Seahawks would have posed a formidable uni challenge to the Steelers, but not anymore. Breaking down such an obvious mismatch almost seems like an afterthought, but protocol demands it. So here is Uni Watch's annual element-by-element comparison of Super Bowl combatants, which each uni component weighted to reflect its relative importance:

Helmet (4 points): Seattle's helmet isn't bad, but it can't compete with Pittsburgh's, what with the front uni numbers (an excellent detail used by no other NFL team except the Giants) and the logo on only one side (an endearing idiosyncracy whose full story is told here). The Seahawks' logo's excessively badass facial countenance also rankles -- a textbook case of trying too hard (compare the brow and the mouth to the team's much preferable original logo). And Uni Watch has yet to hear a coherent explanation for why the white of the bird's eye is green. Like, does he have an infection or what? Advantage: Steelers.

Jersey (4 points): Some readers still haven't forgiven the Steelers for their 1997 shift from classic block numerals to their current sleek italics. But Uni Watch views this as one of the better updates of the past decade -- modern, but not overly trendy. In fact, Uni Watch's only gripe with the Steelers jerseys is that the wide sleeve stripes, which used to look great back when NFL players actually wore sleeves, look increasingly ridiculous now that sleeves have disappeared. Still, that's better than Seattle's sleeves, which are extra-dark blue for no apparent reason (it's not enough of a contrast with the rest of the jersey to make any sense), plus the team logo is so small that it's almost overshadowed by the Reebok logo. Advantage: Steelers.

Pants (3 points): Uni Watch usually prefers narrow piping over wide. But not this time, because that neon-green stripe just doesn't work with the rest of Seattle's color scheme. More important -- ahem -- they're wearing the wrong pants! Nobody remembers this anymore, but when Seattle unveiled its current uni design in 2002, the blue jersey was supposed to be paired with white pants, not blue. Uni Watch has heard some folks claim that the solid-color look is appropriate because it evokes Seattle's gray, rainy weather, but that's one of the all-time weak rationalizations. It's like telling your girlfriend, "Why yes, those pants do make your butt look fat, but hey, it was fat to begin with, so you may as well accentuate it." Advantage: Steelers, plus the Seahawks are penalized a point for the monochromatic look.

Hosiery (2 points): No striped hose in either team's sock drawer, unfortunately. Uni Watch has always liked Pittsburgh's extra-textured sock ribbing, but lately this ribbing has shown up on the Seahawks' shins as well. Advantage: Even.

Footwear (1 point): Uni Watch has long held the Steelers partially responsible for the demise of the black-shod NFL look. Not only was it one of the first teams to switch to white shoes -- which they still wear today -- but L.C. Greenwood hastened the move away from black by wearing those gold spikes. The Seahawks, meanwhile, wear old-school black. Advantage: Seahawks.

Patch Compatibility (1 point): The first Super Bowl jersey patches devoted to the game itself (as opposed to the AFL 10th-anniversary patch worn on the Chiefs' shoulders in SB IV, the bicentennial patch worn by both teams in SB X, and the Spider Lockhart memorial patch worn by the Giants in SB XXI) appeared in 1991 -- and they weren't exactly subtle. After a seven-year break, they reappeared at a reduced size, and have stayed relatively manageable since then, although the logo creep on wristbands, towels, balls, coaching attire, and just about anything else you can imagine has gotten totally out of hand.

Anyway, the big problem with Super Bowl jersey patches nowadays is that the logo is designed about a year before the game, so the colors sometimes end up clashing with a team's chromatic scheme. This year's logo initially looks like a plus for the Steelers, since the red and the blue will match up nicely with Pittsburgh's team logo chest patch. Except that means Pittsburgh will be wearing two jersey patches -- which is, let's face it, totally bogus. Advantage: Seahawks.

Coaches (1 point): Mike Holmgren is a dead ringer for Martin Mull -- nothing to brag about, until you realize Bill Cowher is a dead ringer for one of those dogs with a congenital underbite. Advantage: Seahawks.

Our final tally: Steelers 12, Seahawks 3. Uni Watch expects the game score to be similarly lopsided.

Super History
Here's an additional bit of Super Bowl uni trivia: Several readers have asked why the Cowboys, who were the home team in Super Bowl V, wore blue, when everyone knows they choose white whenever they have the option.

The answer: Back in those days, the NFL mandated that the home Super Bowl team wear its colored jersey. So from a uni standpoint, Dallas was actually penalized by the home designation that year. The rule was changed soon thereafter, and the Cowboys were able to choose white in Super Bowls XIII and XXVII. They also wore white in Super Bowls VI, X, XII, XXVIII, and XXX, but they were the visiting team in each of those games.

The only other home team to choose white for the title game: the Redskins, in Super Bowl XVII.

Creepiest Logo Creep Ever
Joseph Maggard, Jason Shin and Christopher M. Pitoscia all checked in a few days ago with an extremely urgent Logo Creep Alert involving North Carolina women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. Check out her jacket lapel -- jeez!

A bit of Uni Watch photo research reveals that the swoosh lapel pin is standard equipment for Hatchell, as can be seen here, here, here, here, here and here. She even wears it when posing for publicity head shots (some of which feature a bit of bonus logo creep, courtesy of the basketball).

Is there a silver lining here? Only this: Some of Hatchell's outfits are so ridiculous that the lapel pin is the least of her problems.

Uni Watch News Ticker
More Super Bowl hype: A Pittsburgh newspaper has idiotically suggested that the Steelers might look better in black pants. Full depressing details here. … The University of Wisconsin hockey team, which usually looks like this, will wear alternate jerseys, complete with a chest patch, for the Frozen Tundra Classic, to be played outdoors at Lambeau Field on Feb. 11. The jerseys will then be auctioned off. … The Mighty Ducks will just be the Ducks next season, and may also end up with new logos and unis as part of the makeover. … Pedro Martinez will be wearing a special shoe for his chronically sore right foot this season. … Logo Creep Alert: In a truly disturbing development, the Denver Crush of the Arena Football League are wearing the Fox Sports Net logo on the back of their helmets. Full details here (with thanks to Jay Rambo). … More logo creep: Check out the matching "Fly Emirates" messages on the ref's sleeve and the player's jersey in this British soccer photo (with thanks to Aam Hale) … Logo Anti-Creep Alert: Chris Chaussee notes that Sacramento's Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, and Bonzi Wells have all been wearing their headbands inside-out this year, so the NBA logo doesn't show. Or maybe, Chaussee speculates, they're not wearing NBA headbands to begin with: "I was watching a game a few nights ago and noticed a slight outline of the Air Jordan logo on Mike Bibby's headband. It was barely visible, but it was there." … Uni Watch's recent mention of the rickrack striping on the Texas Longhorn Band's pants prompted this message from band member John Leake: "The band directors decided that the pants' striping (also referred to as an "Aztec stripe") was not visible from the press box during halftime, so we updated for 2005 with thinner striping on the pants. The Daily Texan ran a story about the update here. The best part is the J.R. Ewing-like bolo tie." … The Hurricanes retired Ron Francis' number on Jan. 28, and wore two separate jersey patches for the occasion: one on their chests and another on their left sleeves. … Mark Kunz wants to know why Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios wears a "3" decal on his helmet. And after a quick call to Detroit, Uni Watch answers: It's in honor of deceased former teammate Steve Chiasson. The thing is, Chiasson died in 1999, but Chelios hasn't been wearing the decal for the entire time. He's definitely worn it this season, and also in 2004 (including during his stint in the World Cup of Hockey), but he doesn't appear to have worn it in earlier years. Red Wings HQ was unable to explain this anomaly, nor could they say why Chelios is the only Detroit player to wear the decal. Anyone know the inside scoop? … Speaking of the Red Wings, Uni Watch has always liked Robert Lang's habit of cutting slits in his shorts, a style that dates back to his days with the Penguins and Capitals (but apparently not all the way back to his early-1990s tenure with the Kings). … Uni Watch wouldn't be caught dead watching the Senior Bowl. Fortunately, however, Tyler Eck has no such qualms, so he's able to share this insight: "I noticed that Washington State RB Jerome Harrison was wearing a helmet I've never seen before. It was like WSU's silver home helmet, but instead of the usual crimson logo, the logo was white [here's another view]." That means Harrison wore four different helmets this season: silver with red logo, silver with white logo, WSU's red road helmet, and the throwback "Cougars" helmet WSU often wears against Washington (which is also what Harrison wore during Senior Bowl practices). … Gotta like the way LeBron James matches up his Livestrong-ish bracelets with the colors of the Cavs' assorted uniforms. Check it out: home, road, and alternate. … Also nice: Al Jefferson's green bracelets. … Trenchant observation from Woody Chipman, who writes: "All the trouble Louisville's having this year has got to stem from the hideous butt stripe on their shorts." … LSU will have new baseball unis this season. … Interesting historical footnote from Paul Bridge: "I was surfing through the various Web sites of international baseball teams and came across some photos of Italy vs. Russia in the XXXV Baseball World Cup in Cuba in 2003. The Russian batter in this photograph is clearly wearing a pony tail-style batting helmet, usually seen only on girls' softball teams. Given the nascence of baseball in Russia, I wonder if they even knew why the hole was there. And how did that player acquire that particular helmet?" … Speaking of helmets: Uni Watch has often extolled the virtues of Helmet Hut, and many uni-obsessed football fans are also aware of Charles Arey's essential site, The Helmet Project. Less well known, but very informative, is the Virtual Helmet Museum, which includes esoterica like high school helmets, restaurants with helmet displays, helmets from TV commercials, and a lot more. The site is password-protected, but membership is free for the asking. Check it out here. … Senators backup goalie and boxing fan Ray Emery, who has previously displayed illustrations of Jack Johnson and Marvin Hagler on his mask, wore a Mike Tyson mask on Jan. 30. But he won't be wearing it again, because team management had some qualms about Emery glorifying a convicted rapist (thanks to Andrew Edelson for the tip). … Yum Brands -- the corporate parent of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC -- has signed on to sponsor the Kentucky Derby, which means their really stupid logo will be appearing on the jackets of the pony riders who escort the horses during the post parade (and that the race itself will now officially be called the Kentucky Derby, presented by Yum Brands -- ugh). … Ron Artest had to wear his old Pacers sneakers, hand-painted black, during his Kings debut on Jan. 27. And according to wire reports, Wally Szczerbiak -- who was making his Celtics debut in that same game -- "arrived at the arena just before the game and wasn't expected to play; he had the wrong color shoes and only put on a uniform, basketball boss Danny Ainge said, because he didn't have a suit that would meet the NBA's dress code." … Speaking of Artest, he's wearing uni No. 93 with Sacramento, which means he's now changed numbers six times since entering the NBA, going from 15 to 13 to 15 again to 23 to 91 to 15 yet again to 93.

Deja Uni
Some quick follow-ups on recent topics:

• Last week's voting for the best uniforms in movies initially looked like a runaway victory for "Slap Shot" but late returns found "The Natural" closing the gap. As this week's column deadline neared, the two films were virtually neck-and-neck, with "Slap Shot" holding a tiny edge. "Hoosiers" was a distant third, followed closely by "The Bad News Bears", with the rest of the pack far behind. Thanks to everyone who participated in the nominating and voting.

• Uni Watch reported last week that Iowa's Chad Greenway appeared to be showcasing a new pants design during practices for the Senior Bowl. But as dozens of Iowans have helpfully explained, those pants are actually holdovers from Iowa's infamous "banana peel" unis, which were worn back in 1995. The team continues to wear these pants during practices, so there was nothing new or unusual about Greenway's Senior Bowl practice togs. Big thanks to everyone who helped set the record straight (and especially to Al Gruwell, who provided an excellent tutorial on Iowa uni history).

• In Uni Watch's ongoing quest to identify the first NFL player to wear a helmet visor, we now have photographic proof of Mark Mullaney wearing a visor in 1984. Our earliest photo of a visor-clad Hugh Green is still from 1985, although strong anecdotal evidence points to him wearing one in '84 as well. So while we now have a bit more evidence, it's not enough to render a final verdict. The visor wars rage on!

• Meanwhile, all this football visor coverage has led several hockey fans to demand equal time. In addition to the standard clear models, you've got yellow visors, as worn by Kyle McLaren and Eric Weinrich. And then there's Alex Ovechkin's smoke-tinted visor, although that's not nearly as cool as the mirrored visor he used to wear in Russia. If anyone has additional examples, or can shed some light on hockey visor history, Uni Watch is all ears.

• In another hockey item, Uni Watch's mention of Donald Brashear's unusual shin-taping habits (the Flyers' sock stripes usually look like this, but Brashear wraps black tape over the white area to make his stripes look like this) brought a response from F.J. Wesner: "Brashear tapes his shin guards that way to accentuate the black in the socks, because he's one of the NHL's few African-American players. For the team's white socks, since he can't tape the entire sock, he covers the orange, so the only color left is black."

• Brashear's tape stylings also got the attention of Karsten Brown: "I'd never given much thought to this topic until I started noticing the way Dainius Zubrus of the Washington Capitals tapes his socks -- at a sharp diagonal angle. His unique taping style, and the way it compares to his teammates', can also be seen here. Mind you, I realize this is probably WAY too trivial, even for Uni Watch." Brown (who obviously hasn't been reading this column for very long) will be interested to learn that Zubrus also used the diagonal style during his days with the Flyers and Canadiens. Anyone know the story behind this?

• Uni Watch's recent discussion of blood jerseys (generic team jerseys with no player name on the back, to be used if a player gets blood all over his uni) prompted this note from Guy Serumgard: "This reminds me of a basketball card in an old NBA Hoops set. Sam Mitchell's card had a shot of Michael Jordan in the foreground wearing No. 12. Apparently someone had stolen Jordan's jersey and he was forced to wear No. 12 for this particular game. The powers that be were so distraught over the idea of Jordan wearing something other than No. 23 that NBA Hoops issued another Sam Mitchell card with a different picture (which is kind of ironic when you think of that time when Jordan wore No. 45)." Uni Watch wasn't aware of this story, but Justin Keller notes that it's referenced in Wikipedia's entry on Jordan, which states: "Jordan wore four jersey numbers in his career: his customary 23, 45 after his return from his first retirement, 9 on the first Dream Team and 12, an 'emergency uniform' worn during a game against the Orlando Magic during the 1990-91 season after his uniforms were stolen from the visitor's locker room. Wearing a jersey with no last name, Jordan scored a game-high 49 points in a victory over the Magic." Keller also points to this photo, although he adds, "It looks Photoshopped to me."

• Last week's critique of Italy's new soccer unis prompted this communiqué from Antonio Fernandez: "You think Italy's unis are bad? My father is Spanish, which means we watch soccer from Spain. The Spanish national team wore this design while qualifying for the World Cup -- classic and stylish, yet modern. Then adidas came out with this atrocity. What's the worst part -- the pinstripes? The baby blue shorts? The four-stripe number? (Isn't adidas all about three stripes?) All we need now is a disco ball in the stadium."

Paul Lukas usually roots for the NFC team on Super Sunday but will definitely be making an exception this year. His answers to Frequently Asked Questions are here, and archives of his "Uni Watch" columns are available here, here, and here. Got feedback for him, or want to be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted? Contact him here. Sound off to Page 2 here.




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