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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Uniforms

Guess who.

PSAYINGS.5S.9-12. So the official college football season has come to a close, and the various polls have picked their top ten teams. There's no point in rehashing the analysis of the conventional football wisdom about how the bowl games will go. Is there anything worth saying? Yes. Readers of InstaPunk will know that we care about little things as well as big things, details as well as life-and-death issues. That's why this is the the only blog we know of that took a position on the disastrous trend in baseball toward slouchy pants with no visible socks. It's not a fashion boo-boo; it's a crime against the national pastime and all it stands for. The truth is, sports uniforms are important. They speak volumes about the values of the teams and institutions they represent. It's even possible that if one picked the best uniforms in a sport, it would be tantamount to picking the best representatives of the sport itself.

That's an experiment we're willing to try. What are the ten best uniforms in college football? And what do those uniforms say? Obviously, any such list will have its detractors, but controversy is the most fun people can have in the blogosphere with their pajamas on. Don't hesitate to snipe and carp and fulminate about Instapunk's list of the Top Ten. The pettier your reasoning, the better.

10 Rutgers

Did we forget to mention we're biased? Well, we are. But we're still right. Rutgers would be higher on the list if they hadn't given in to the current fad of having too many uniforms. If we weren't biased, we'd have dropped them out of the Top Ten for the ultimate no-no of showing up for a game in all black uniforms. But they got shellacked in that game and probably won't wear that particular sartorial atrocity again. The home uniform they wore against Navy was one of the smartest we've seen: scarlet jersey, white pants, black stockings, and the iconically simple scarlet "R" helmet. Perfection.




9 Alabama

Nothing on those Crimson Tide helmets but a number. Simple, understated classic.



8 Ohio State


They'd be higher on the list if it weren't for those damned buckeye leaves they put on their helmets.


Damned buckeye leaves

Otherwise, the uniforms are sensational, both home and away. Scarlet and gray are the colors every school would choose if they were starting all over from scratch. Ohio State grabbed them way back at the beginning. And they haven't changed much over the years, except for putting names on the backs of their jerseys.



7 USC

We're not that biased. Yeah, we've never liked USC and their 'el supremo' mentality. On the other hand, they're in the Pac 10, where most schools seem to think it's best to have a different uniform for every single game (Google 'worst uniforms' and the University of Oregon will leap to the fore, with umpty-thousand combinations of weird get-ups.) But USC doesn't play that game. They stick with their admittedly striking color combination year after year after year. That's worthy of respect. And admit it: their uniforms are handsome.



6 Kentucky

This is a nomination from the distaff side. Ordinarily, we don't like the monochrome jersey-pants combination and usually regard it as a disqualifier. But Kentucky gets the nod because their blue is such a, well, beautiful blue. It is. And the uniforms aren't all junked up with busy helmet graphics, excessive stripes, or fancy fonts for their numbers. And it really is a smashing blue.



5 Navy

It's almost impossible to improve on Navy's navy-blue and gold ultra-simplicity. Almost.



4 Michigan

Ah, those helmets. The graphic nod to the leather helmet construction of the old days. No 'M' for Michigan. The cub scout colors (What are you going to do if scarlet and gray are already taken?) Sorry, George. Michigan wins this time because there aren't any little wolverine prints on the helmets of Woody's infamous "It" team. And no stripes, no frills. Another superb classic.



3 Harvard

These are essentially the same uniforms they were 30 or 40 years ago. Oddly enough, that's not even the rule in the Ivy League. Penn seems to change uniform designs every year, and recently Princeton has apparently been trying to jettison orange for a more (politically correct?) reddish color, not to mention their imitation Michigan helmet graphics. Harvard and Yale have stood shoulder to shoulder in reactionary solidarity, however, in all but one respect. Harvard sneaks into the top three because its uniforms exemplify the ultimate team statement -- no names on the jerseys, only numbers. Every player is simply one of the Crimson. Kind of surprising when you remember it's Harvard we're talking about here.



2 Notre Dame

All things considered, perfect. No helmet insignia, no stripes, no names on the jerseys, yet instantly recognizable and timelessly smart. Why are they Number Two rather than Number One? Because they care enough about uniforms to wear green instead of blue on occasion. Sounds like a scintilla of vanity to us. Which you can't say about Number One.



1 Penn State

The ultimate. One color: blue. No stripes on jersey or pants, no helmet insignia, no names on jerseys, and adamant refusal to mar the purity of white pants. It's so close to completely generic that the only difference between the Nittany Lions and an unbranded supermarket football team is their coach, their history, and their performance on the field. They don't need to dress up like lions because they play like lions. It just doesn't get any better than this.



Now you know what our criteria are. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. Feel free to disagree, but marshall your arguments carefully. Football isn't a dress-up game. It's a team sport in which duds shouldn't obscure character.

And before you ask, the pro nominations are easy: the Bears, the Browns, and the Steelers. Everybody else is a popinjay except the Raiders, whose uniforms are even uglier than they are simple. If you want to fight about it, we're always here.







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