Herald Journal Columns
May 8, 2006, Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch

It’s not how you play, it’s how you look

By Matt Kane

If ZZ Top is right, and every girl is “crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man,” the Mädchens around the Twin Cities musts be spinning their heads after the April 27 after the Minnesota Vikings showed off their new uniforms.

I heard all week that the Vikings promised the new look was nothing drastic and that purple road pants was the only big change. I commend the Vikings because it stuck to its word and didn’t unveil anything that would have made Elton John blush.

Instead, the team kept it simple, changing a few stripes here-and-there and giving the trademark horn on the helmet a 3-D look.

Maybe the change-up will have the same effect it had on the boys of summer who share the same venue as the Vikings. The same year the Twins disrobed from their powder blues and slipped into pinstripes, they won their first World Series title.

When I first saw the Vikings’ uniforms on the local, nightly news, I wasn’t sold, but now I realize the model, 307-pound Pat Williams, may have influenced my first impression. Certain colors may be slimming, but there is a threshold for everything.

The new look doesn’t yet rank up there with my all-time favorite uniforms, but, after a week of looking at the new purple and gold duds, I am sold. Not literally.

I’m still wearing out my purple John Randle and white Randall Cunningham jerseys, so there isn’t any room for additions in my wardrobe. Besides, when could I proudly wear a Adimchinobe Echemandu jersey?

There are, though, several uniforms that I would have no problem showing off.

Sticking with the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers still wear the same uniform the infamous Steel Curtain wore in their heyday. Minus the gold L.C. Greenwood shoes, the current Steelers still provoke a sense of pride and even intimidation when they run onto Heinz Field in their black jerseys. Even today, the uniform is truly unique with the three hypoclycloid logo, created by the U.S. Steel Corp., on only the right side of the helmets.

About three hours east of Pittsburgh, just off RR-22, are the best college football uniforms.

Like the no-flash, no-nonsense style attitude of its coach, the Penn State football team personifies the ultimate team theory with its simple blue and white uniforms.

No logos, no stripes besides the one that splits the helmet down the middle, and most importantly no last names on the backs of the jerseys.

Like a clean, neatly pressed suit, the Nittany Lions’ uniform is pure class.

When talking about class, there are a few that come to mind.

The classic green and white of the Boston Celtics has not lost an ounce of glamour from when Russell and Cousy raced it down the court. The team did, however, slap Bean Town and classic basketball fans in the face this past season when it donned an alternate road jersey with black numbers and black trim on the shorts.

Finding a favorite in the NHL is a little more tough. For one, teams seem to change their look yearly in a league that is doing anything to sell jerseys. Hockey sweaters tend to be the most widely worn jerseys in all of sports, so the NHL marketing department must be doing something right. When I was in high school in the mid 90s, it was the “in” thing to have an NHL jersey with a player’s name and number on the back. That’s why I’m stuck with a road Chicago Blackhawks’ number 27 Jeremy Roenick jersey. He hasn’t played in the Windy City since the 1995-96 season. But, hey, it still fits.

The indian head logo-ed Blackhawks jersey is still one of the classics in all of sports, as are the tops worn by the other five of the original six hockey teams — Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadians and New York Rangers — by my vote for best NHL uniform goes to the Calgary Flames.

I have always been a fan of the flaming-C logo, and the red, black and gold color scheme suits Jerome Iginla well, while still keeping alive memories of Mike Vernon and Lanny McDonald.

NFL, NBA and NHL uniforms are nice for their respective sports, but Major League Baseball has the tradition to steal the prize when it comes to best uniforms.

As far as being classy, the storied pinstripes of the New York Yankees certainly fit the bill. Besides adding numbers to the backs of the jerseys in 1929, the Bronx Bombers of today wear the same getup as the original Murderer’s Row gang of Ruth, Gehrig and Meusel. The Yankees may be the most hated team in baseball and, maybe, all of sports, but nobody can knock George Steinbrenner’s traditional outlook that has kept his players dressed in the same way as Frank Ferrell and Bill Devery had their’s in 1912.

The interlocking N-Y logo, which was originally created in 1877 for a medal to be given by the New York City Police Department to the city’s first officer shot in the line of duty, is a nationally known symbol and should never be changed.

The Yankees’ heated rival Boston Red Sox are right there in the same class when it comes to baseball’s best uniforms, but the team that gets underlooked, in my eyes, is the Detroit Tigers.

Like the Yankees and Red Sox, the Tiger have stuck by its history with simple white uniforms with single, dark blue stripes down each leg and stripes down the front of the jersey.

In the same manner as the N-Y, the script “D” on the team cap and left breast of the home jersey is synonymous with Detroit Tigers baseball.

The Tigers cap — the home version with a white “D” and the away version with an orange “D” — was made popular in the 1980s by Magnum P.I., but before Tom Selleck ever busted a guns dealer on Waikiki Beach, Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline put Detroit on the map in the same uniform later worn by Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris, and now Chris Shelton.

Most uniforms look sharp in their own way — exclude the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Diamondbacks — but the few I mentioned are at the top of my list.

In saying that, we should not forget the uniforms of the past. Remember those brown jerseys of the 1980s San Diego Padres, the green and yellow of the 1970s Oakland Athletics or the rainbow-blazed tops of the Houston Astros? And who could forget the powder blues warn by half the major league teams in the 1980s?

Hey, it was the tail end of disco, so cut them a break.


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