Maryland's Motel Drape Uniforms, and Bad Sportswear Karma

Maryland's Motel Drape Uniforms, and Bad Sportswear Karma
Mother Maryland, please make it stop.

So I guess I’ve been pretty harsh on the University of Maryland’s new football uniforms. Here are some recent tweets of mine:

  • Maryland's football uniforms are so ugly; Baltimore County just seceded to Virginia.
  • Maryland's jerseys are so ugly they've even been rejected as motel drapes
  • Maryland's jerseys are so bad, they make everyone from New Jersey look like supermodels
  • The Terps' football shirt is so bad, the Maryland state flag just set itself on fire.

But 1-and-1 Maryland is not the first victim of an over-zealous sportswear designer taking questionable liberties. Other teams in football, Major League Baseball, and the NBA have been forced to wear shirts that most people wouldn’t be caught dead wearing in public.

In the latter 1980s the Philadelphia 76ers rode through the second half of its Charles Barkley years by ditching the storied dark red, worn by greats like Dr. J, Moses Malone and the 1983 World Champion team. It replaced this classic with an odd panoramic of celestial objects reminiscent of a star-studded game show logo, or maybe even “Star Search”, a TV show starring Ed McMahon that was a cheesy, proto- American Idol.

The Sixers' "Star Search" Jerseys

Later, the Detroit Pistons tossed their flagship “Bad Boys” jersey, the blue & red, in lieu of the horrid teal, yellow and maroon strip they wore in the Grant Hill years of their mediocre 1990s run. It wasn’t until the Pistons brought back the blue & red that their basketball improved.

Then there is the dreadful “ribbed” Pittsburgh Pirates hat of the early 80s that makes an appearance for the sake of nostalgia now and then.

When I think about how Wrigley Field passes out logo-laden Cubs caps sponsored by local banks, then Pittsburgh’s ribbed rim should have rightly been sponsored by Trojan, the condom manufacturer. After all, why can't Pittsburgh get some corporate loveglove love too?

Pittsburgh Pirates: Not Ribbed for HER Pleasure

But since I’ve never seen a woman wear this hat, even in Pittsburgh, I wouldn’t guess that the hat design isn't at all ribbed for her pleasure. And Pittsburgh hasn’t seen a World Series since 1979.

Last year's most questionable uniform would be the University of Oregon’s football team jersey. This piece designed by Nike had blessed Oregon’s players with wings on their shoulders. My first thought was "Oregon: Your shirts are weird. Boise State blue field weird."

Oregon Football: Last Year's Ugly Duckling

The strange thing about bad sports kits is that they tend to correspond with mediocre performance. Clearly it’s either coincidence or karma that’s involved. In another example, it wasn't until the Toronto Raptors got rid of that insipid cartoon dinosaur jersey that they finally made the playoffs.

For one, no fan wants to spend $80 to $120 on a shirt that looks ridiculous. If the shirt is ugly or has weird color combinations nobody will want to wear it. Therefore, as morale goes, bad unis are a great way to erode your fan base, not to mention that it makes people wonder what the hell you’re thinking.

Still, despite their dress, Oregon nearly bagged the national title last year, losing to the mighty Auburn. Maybe Oregon is the exception.

On uniforms my beef is this: If professional sports clubs want fans to keep coming back, dressed with enthusiasm, the least they can do is hire competent designers and stick to colors that work. You wouldn’t wear your ugliest tie to a job interview. So why, when pursuing a championship should you not dress the part?

Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex, wearing a mock turtleneck, a bolo tie and bunny slippers.

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