Dear NCAA: Alternate Uniforms are an Affront to All Things Decent In This World
Dear Football-Playing NCAA Institutions,
Imagine my delight when I saw that Nebraska would be playing Wisconsin in the ABC night game last night. The same night game that features no less than 357 camera angles and the presence of Brent Musberger, who even though he’s 110 years old can make a routine 2nd and 4 sound like the end of the world. Imagine my chagrin, then, to see both teams dressed in XFL-quality uniforms. NCAA, can you wield your hammer of power to outlaw alternate uniforms?
Here’s the thing: It’s bad enough that jerseys aren’t really jerseys anymore, rather they’re little pieces of sausage-casing spandex that players are sort of injection-molded into. It’s bad enough that everybody runs the spread option and that every television screen is a horrific pastiche of graphics, statistics, replays, and promotions for other games or shows. It’s bad enough that I’m not only nostalgic for natural grass playing surfaces, I’ve also grown nostalgic for the astroturf carpet that used to cover the floor at Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State and also, everywhere.
It’s bad enough that every team lucky enough to play in the prestigious Wednesday night at 8:30 ESPNU time slot has some sort of gun-metal inspired helmet. But Nebraska? Nebraska, what with their storied tradition and trademark white helmets, should be off limits. I understand why a previously meaningless and historyless program like Oregon started it, and I even sort of admire their pluck and “look at how much money Phil Knight gave us!” glee week after week. But when Maryland, oh Maryland, tried it last year it just struck me as sad – like the year I showed up to middle school in my teal Ocean Pacific t-shirt only to discover that nobody was wearing them anymore. When Michigan State tried it last year they just looked like what would happen if Wayne State and South Florida got drunk, hooked up and conceived. Sad.
I know there are sadder things in the world than the state of college football uniforms. I know that there is world hunger, human trafficking, and those Sarah McLachlan dog-rescue commercials. All of those things are sadder than Nebraska’s alternate uniform. But still, perhaps there are other ways for schools to show that they have such an ungodly amount of money that they don’t know what to do with all of it. I’ve included a few ideas below:
1. Pass out cigars, $100 bills and matches to each fan at your next game, at which point we could all light our stogies in unison and then guffaw at our good fortune.
2. Endow a new English Department faculty position and give it to me (I’ll have my MFA next summer)
Isn’t it instructive, also, that long-time denizens of tastelessness like Florida State and Miami haven’t yet sold what’s left of their souls to the alternate jersey craze? When Free Shoes U is upheld as a bastion of standard and moderation, well, let’s just say I don’t know what to tell my kids. Isn’t it also instructive that after a few weeks-worth of horrific gong-show uniforms, Geno Smith and West Virginia had their historic offensive performance this week in standard, old-school West Virginia colors.
In closing, here are a few things I’d like to see:
1. Sleeves. Let’s all do the right thing and cease and desist with the sausage-casing uniforms post-haste.
2. Only games that happened before 1995. I am now embarking on a modern-college-football fast. I want to see old games. I want to see games on astroturf. I want to see teams wearing the same helmet week after week. I want to see Notre Dame’s old helmets. I want to see fullbacks. I want to see somebody running the wishbone that isn’t a service academy. If you have such games on DVD, please send them to my office and you will be thanked profusely in this space and maybe even in a book.
Please, NCAA member institutions, stop this shameless cash grab. Save retro uniforms, and you will save your souls.