Thursday, November 9, 2006
Updated: November 10, 10:29 AM ET
The normal world vs. NikeWorld
By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2
With college hoops getting started this week, Uni Watch thinks it's time to admit that the terms "pro basketball" and "NCAA basketball" have become obsolete.
Instead, let's take an instructive example from the gridiron. When it comes to football, the real distinction isn't pro vs. college. It's the normal world, where you can find most NFL teams, vs. NikeWorld, where more and more NCAA teams feature the same basic template, no matter how stupid it looks. (Of course, there's also Bizarro World, but that's another story.)
This same breakdown -- normal world vs. NikeWorld -- is now shaping up on the basketball court, thanks to those shoulder stripes that started infesting college hoops last year. Uni Watch has nothing against this design concept per se, mind you. But when it's repeated again and again, like a cloning experiment, it's no longer a design concept -- it's just a cookie-cutter branding strategy. And of course that's the idea, because in NikeWorld there are no more team identities, there's just Team Nike.
Want to see where this trend is heading? Check out Ohio State. Last season they shuttled back and forth between the normal world and NikeWorld, but this year they've got a one-way ticket to Beaverton. But here's the scary part: Where do you think those torso stripes end up?
Here, take a look. Hmm, remind you of anything?
So there you have it: a massive eugenics program (or maybe we should call it a Eugene-ics program) designed to make all college football and basketball uniforms conform to the same pointless pattern. Anyone care to take bets on when the wraparound rear bib will start appearing on Nike's baseball and hockey unis?
For now, though, aside from Ohio State, NikeWorld's primary visual signifier on the basketball court is the pair of swoosh-y shoulder stripes. Teams adopting them this season (a few of which briefly wore those silver stripes last year during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge) include the following: George Mason (normal world, NikeWorld, and yes, that's a new yellow alternate uni); Illinois (normal world, NikeWorld, and check out the rickrack on the waistband); Iowa State (normal world [OK, quasi-normal], NikeWorld); Kansas State (normal world, NikeWorld, although this may be a special archipelago or atoll within NikeWorld, since the Wildcats' new look might just qualify for the exalted title of Worst Hoops Unis Ever); Michigan State (normal world, NikeWorld); North Carolina (normal world, NikeWorld); Oregon (which had somehow managed to stay in the normal world -- until now); Penn State (normal world, NikeWorld, and hey, check out those new checkered side panels); and Stanford (normal world, NikeWorld, and don't overlook that idiotic "Cardinal" wordmark running vertically on the shorts).
And then there's Duke. The Blue Devils are going from the normal world to NikeWorld too (additional versions are here and here), but only temporarily. According to this article, which tracks the various ways Nike has tinkered with the school's look over the past decade, the new jerseys "will be worn early in the season, and will function as alternatives throughout the rest of the year. Duke's captains will play the largest role in determining how often the new design is worn." Memo to the Duke captains: Just Don't Do It.
OK, enough with the Evil Empire. There's plenty of other uni-related action on tap for this season. Here's an alphabetical rundown of what you can expect to see (with the usual caveat that a few schools have undoubtedly flown under Uni Watch's radar -- feel free to send additions and corrections here):
• Arizona State is switching from this to this (and no more player names on the back).
• Arkansas-Little Rock, which used to look like this, is going with a more streamlined look.
• Auburn, now being outfitted by Under Armour, is switching from this to this.
• Cincinnati is going from the normal world to a sort of NikeWorld Lite (even though they're outfitted by adidas, which gives you an idea of how pervasive the Swooshkateers' template has become).
• Excellent upgrade at Cleveland State, where the old green motif now has yellow accents.
• DePaul is going seriously retro, switching from this to this (which recalls this). Plus the men's and women's teams will wear jersey patches for former coaches Ray Meyer and Maggie Dixon, respectively. Additional info on the patches is here.
• Another change on tap for Hofstra, which last year switched from this to this, and is now changing to this.
• Nice update at Idaho State, which is going from this and this to this. (A school official tells Uni Watch that the white home version is basically the same thing with the colors reversed, but no photos yet because -- get this -- the new home unis haven't arrived yet.)
• Indiana's jerseys didn't have an American flag last season. But this year they do.
• Slight housekeeping changes at Kansas: The crepe paper-esque side panels, which used to be interrupted by the waistband, are now continuous, and the collar is changing from a scoop-neck to a V-neck.
• Louisville is changing from this to this (note the weird pattern on the shorts) and this.
• LSU's neckline logo is changing from a tiger's head to the Nike "Elite" badge (don't get Uni Watch started on that one
• Memphis apparently wanted to move from the normal world to NikeWorld, but got slightly lost along the way.
• New Mexico will celebrate the Pit's 40th anniversary with a jersey patch, and they'll wear throwback unis for Friday night's game against Abilene Christian. (More details here.)
• Ohio (not Ohio State) is celebrating the school's 100th anniversary with a jersey patch, along with a throwback night and other uni-related promotions (see further info here and here).
• Oklahoma is wearing a jersey patch, a modified version of the state's centennial logo.
• Photographic evidence is spotty, but it appears that Pitt, which used to look like this, has changed its collar and side panels.
• San Diego State is ditching its stylized insignia typography in favor of a much more sedate approach -- too sedate, by Uni Watch's reckoning.
• St. John's has a new logo (more info here and here), which is now featured on their jersey (home, road).
• The typography on Syracuse's chest logo and uni numbers appears to have gotten slightly thicker. Compare last year (here's another view) to this year.
• Several small changes at Tennessee: The side panels have changed from this to this; the collar has changed from this to this; and compare the uni-number typography from last season to now.
• Texas State is changing its collar and side panels from this to this.
• UNLV is changing from this to this. Uni Watch thought the old version looked pretty snappy, but this change is still a net plus, since the back of the old design was straight out of NikeWorld.
OK, that's it for now. Big thanks to everyone who's contributed info over the past few weeks, and also to the sharp-eyed people over at Chris Creamer's message board, who reported a lot of changes that Uni Watch might otherwise have missed.
Yet another positive blow in the war against purple was struck on Wednesday night, as the Diamondbacks unveiled their new home, road, alternate, and second alternate uniforms. (Links for several photo galleries and a video are at the top of this page, and another video is available here.)
While Uni Watch is obviously happy to be rid of the purple and teal, it always seems a bit weird when a team just declares, "OK, yesterday our official team colors were A, B, and C -- but today they're X, Y, and Z." Seems kinda wishy-washy, no? It also reinforces the notion that the old color scheme was based more on flavor-of-the-month marketing trends than on good design. Uni Watch suspects that the same can be said of the new color scheme, especially since this, this, this, and this bear such an obvious similarity to this, this, this and this. All of which means we should get ready for lots of confusion when the Diamondbacks and Astros play each other. (Some observers also see a Nationals connection.)
Other thoughts about the new look:
• Speaking of flavors of the month, Uni Watch realizes that this is the era of the initial-driven nickname (A-Rod, T-Mac, etc.), but come on -- a team's home jersey is no place for a slang nickname like "D-backs." (True story: Ryan Finley of the Arizona Daily Star tells Uni Watch that the paper's official style for the team's nickname has been "D'backs," but now they're changing it to "D-backs," to match the new jersey. There's the power of uniforms for ya.)
• That said, the use of a diamond, instead of a regular hyphen, plays nicely off the team's full name.
• That said, the rest of the typography is a disaster (especially the mix of upper- and lowercase letters on the road jersey). Uni Watch pal Scott M.X. Turner says it looks like "minor league, comic book lettering," and he's right.
• The "a" on the home jersey is split into two halves, and there appears to be a recurring problem with how it doesn't align across the placket. Further details, and lots more photos, are here.
• The rear views -- home, road, alt -- are fine.
• The "db" sleeve patch design is really clever. Unfortunately, so are all the jokes that are already circulating about how the snake's head resembles, um, another type of snake head, if you get Uni Watch's drift.
The net result was captured nicely over on Chris Creamer's message board, where one of the participants summed things up like so:
"Arizona now has the uniform-design equivalent of "The Phantom Menace": Something that had all the ingredients to be spectacular, but that was so thoroughly saddled with sloppy miscues that it wound up being a great disappointment. True, the Diamondbacks don't have Jar Jar Binks, but they do have a mismatched lowercase home script with a randomly shifting outline. Given a choice between the two, I might actually take Jar Jar."
Moon Over San Francisco
OK, it's official: Someone needs to teach Antonio Bryant how to wear a belt.
That's Uni Watch's conclusion after seeing this photo from Sunday's Niners/Vikings game. It's tempting to write this off as a freak accident, or just an extreme case of pass interference, except for one thing: Bryant has a bit of a history in this area. Check out these pics from last year's Browns/Bears game -- yikes!
Bryant now becomes the first recipient of Uni Watch's favorite new term: recidivist exhibitionist.
Letter Number Day
As noted last week in Uni Watch's NBA season preview column, the Celtics are wearing a memorial patch for Red Auerbach. Several readers have asked why the patch doesn't include the number "2," since the team has retired that number for Auerbach -- an odd move, since he never actually wore a number. A fuller treatment of that issue is available here (where you can also find great pics of Charlie Bell's recent wardrobe malfunction).
Paul Lukas is anxiously awaiting his Christmas card from Phil Knight. His Uni Watch blog, which is updated daily, is here, his answers to Frequently Asked Questions are here, and archives of his 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.