Friday, March 9, 2012

Adidas, Baylor, and Where Alternate Jerseys Fail


I'm a big sports fan, basketball in particular.  One of the most overlooked yet decisive aspects of sports are alternate uniforms: the topic doesn't come up often, but when it does, take cover, because opinions will fly.  Teams generally have home and away uniforms, sometimes with one alternative look (example: the Lakers have white, gold, and purple variations in their regular rotation).  Every now and then, though, teams have some "special" alternates, such as throwback jerseys, anniversary uniforms, or the NBA's recent Latino Night jerseys.

Personally, I'm a big fan of these alternate uniforms.  It goes beyond sports for me; one of my favorite sites to waste time on is Project Rooftop, which features alternate designs and artist interpretations of superheroes.  I enjoy the departure from the norm, and it's the same for sports.

Sometimes it's just a cash grab to sell these alternate uniforms.  Okay, it's usually a cash grab, but some are more blatant than others.  Nike released Hyper Elite Platinum jerseys for some of the most successful programs in men's and women's college basketball.  (Interestingly, Duke and North Carolina wore theirs both against Maryland, who is sponsored by UnderArmor.  Coincidence or calculated marketing move?)  Maryland made some noise this past college football season when they had more uniform combinations than they did games during which they could wear them.  And, of course, Oregon football has been known for their variations for years.

Now Adidas is getting into the game for college basketball with some...interesting results.  The three schools getting a makeover are Cincinnati, Louisville, and Baylor.  Cincinnati's are pretty neat; the team is the Bearcats, and the uniform features some sort of tribal stripes, which I guess makes sense until you notice that the Cardinals and Bears sport these stripes as well.  That brings up another point, which is that nothing really differentiates these uniforms.  Nike's Platinum uniforms had aspects unique to each school; UNC's had stylized argyle (argyle is featured on the Tar Heels' regular uniforms) while Kentucky's had a checkered pattern running down the side.  Everything except for the team names and the colors are the same for these Adidas uniforms.

And the colors.  Oh, those colors.  Cincinnati's are fine.  So are Louisville's.  But Baylor's?  First of all, it's a bright neon yellow.  Second, that isn't even one of Baylor's colors!  Yellow, yes, but not highlighter yellow.

I understand people's aversion to alternate uniforms.  Sports franchises and universities are rife tradition and fan's don't want that tampered with, especially for some commercial ploy (ironic considering the state of even so-called "amateur" sports, but that's a discussion for another time).  Knowing this, you'd think Adidas would put a little more effort into making their uniforms school-specific.  Despite the mild backlash Nike received it was obvious they at least tried.  Here's hoping Adidas will do better next season - if they're brave enough to give it another go.  With all of the money out there, I'm sure they will be.

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