Monthly Archives: September 2011

2. New Orleans Saints

Stop.

Let me explain a few things. I am from Louisiana, but I am not a Saints fan — I am a life-long Cowboys fan, and always will be. I do like the Saints, but if they go head-to-head against the Cowboys, then I’m pulling for Dallas 100% of the time, even if the Cowboys have no shot at making the playoffs and the Saints need the win to get into them. So there is no home-state bias here. The Saints are nearly impossible to dislike, but I’ve liked their uniforms even in the Aaron Brooks era.

Secondly, the Saints mean everything to New Orleans, which is a city that I’ve truly come to love. That had absolutely zero to do with ranking them this high. They just have some downright smashing uniforms.

It all starts with the fleur-de-lis. The French  has been the official state symbol since 2008, but has long been part of Louisiana culture, particularly in the Acadiana region. You can read about the symbol’s history, but there’s no denying that it’s classy for one, but also deeply intertwined with the state’s history. Louisiana is unique in its culture, food, language, music, and more, and the fleur-de-lis was the perfect choice for the Saints’ logo.

Louisiana

Next comes the colors. Several teams in the league have great colors, but the Saints’ colors absolutely make the uniforms. They’re not unique in their striping, combinations, or anything of that nature — they just throw their colors in your face. Good choice, NOLA.

And now, a picture barrage:

The future mayor of New Orleans

Whoever took this photo is a beast.

"I'm gonna look so awesome in this..."

Clean, yes?

I dance in the air sometimes, like this...

The moment no Saints fan will ever forget

A good look at the helmet

Skipping about

Pretty endearing image, yes?

You Saints fans better not give me any grief about them not having the best uniforms on my list.

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3. Pittsburgh Steelers

Just two spots from the top, the Steelers are yet another classic uniform ranked highly because they got it right long ago, and there is likely nothing that will change their uniforms for the next 100 years.

The Steelers’ owners are among the classiest in team sports, and their attitude is reflected in the organization from top to bottom. This obviously doesn’t affect the jerseys, but the team’s history is being maintained through their efforts, and the uniforms certainly reflect that attitude.

When you observe the black and gold jerseys, two questions arise:

Q: Why are the logos only on one side of the helmets?
A:  The Steelers equipment manager was asked by the team’s owner to place the new logo on one side of the helmets (which were then gold instead of black) as a test to see what it looked like. It proved to be so popular with the fans that they decided to leave it that way, and a logo was never added to the left side of the helmets.

Q: What does the logo mean?
A: I’m sounding like a broken record, but they’re tapping into local culture, which is always a huge plus. The Steelers’ logo is based on the Steelmark, owned by the AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute). The three colored “stars,” more accurately known as asteroids, originally stood for “Steel lightens your work, brightens your leisure, and widens your world.” No, I’m not kidding. Later, the colors came to represent the ingredients used in the steel-making process: yellow for coal, red for iron ore, and blue for scrap steel. The AISI allowed the Steelers to add the “ers” to the end of Steel on the left.

Today, the uniforms represent the winning tradition of their team. The Steelers are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for most Super Bowl appearances (eight), but are sole owners of the most Super Bowl wins in the NFL, with six. They are traditionally known for their tough, blue collar-ish work ethic and hard-nosed defense. The Steelers ownership, roster, coaches, fans, and uniforms all represent the work ethic of their city. What’s not to love about that?

Hines Ward, the hardest-blocking WR in the NFL

Fantasy owners are hoping Rashard Mendenhall's workload from last year doesn't lead to injuries and exhaustion in 2011

As intimidating as 95% of the NFL's defense

"Perhaps you recognize me from my shampoo commercials"

Oft-criticized (and often justly), Ben Roethlisberger is still a top-level (champion) QB

Facing off against bitter rivals, the Baltimore Ravens

 

"Let's talk about my hair some more..."

Their throwback alternates

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4. Oakland Raiders

Al Davis, the Raiders’ long-time owner/GM/doofus, is wrong about almost everything these days, but he remains right about one: silver and black rocks.

The Raiders’ uniforms can be summed up one a word, which can also be used to most accurately describe their fans: scary. But they weren’t always scary…

In 1960, a “name the team” contest was held by the Oakland Tribune. The winning monicker: the Oakland Señors. That’s right. The scary black-and-silver Raiders could have been called the Oakland Señors. The name was changed nine days later. The original color scheme was black and gold, featuring logo-less black helmets with a single stripe. This all changed when new owner Al Davis entered into the scene and changed the Raiders’ colors to silver and black, resulting in one of the most brilliant marketing success stories in sports.

Unfortunately, Al’s strategies (especially in regards to the NFL Draft) are horribly antiquated, and he has yet to come to grips with the deeper, more cerebral NFL of the 21st century. The Raiders have not been a serious contender for many years, but that hasn’t affected the beauty of their historically-great uniforms.

Darren McFadden: Arkansas native and up-and-coming NFL star

Run away!

Speedy wide receiver, Jacoby Ford

The white jerseys: pretty much just as cool.

Bad team, great unis.

And what is the only thing scarier than Raider Nation (pictured below)?

The NFL's most normal fan base.

Raiders owner Al Davis…

AHHHHHH!!!

I’ve said it about other logos and uniforms during this series, but the Raiders logo is absolutely classic. If it ever changes, you might as well dig up Al Davis’ coffin and paint Kansas City’s logo on it in bright red and yellow.

Yes, I’m aware that he’s not dead yet. Emphasis on yet.

How did he lose his eye? Al Davis ate it.

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5. Atlanta Falcons

Red. White. Black.

It is incredibly difficult to mess up those colors, and I can safely say that the Atlanta Falcons have done very well with this powerful trifecta.

There aren’t any kinds of interesting historical facts about the Falcons’ uniforms. They, like many other sports organizations, have vacillated between concepts. “Do we use red or black jerseys as our primary uniform? Do we need to change the Falcon logo to make it more aggressive? Should we wear throwbacks once or twice a year, if at all?”

The Falcons have found a way to incorporate creative design without trying too hard, and the results are gorgeous:

Matt Ryan: the next Tom Brady.

Expecting big things out of Ryan this year (he's on my fantasy team).

Michael Turner sporting the all-black alternative uniforms. Nice.

Roddy White in a beastly jersey.

The Falcons updated their logo along with a top-to-bottom redesign, resulting in this little beauty:

Falcons logo

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6. Cleveland Browns

No doubt about it — this is going to be a polarizing entry.

I consider the Browns’ uniforms and helmets to be among the most beautiful in the NFL. They’re simple, iconic, and sure to incite either appreciation or disgust from uniform watchers. You either love the Browns’ uniforms, or you want to vomit at the sight of them.

They’ve remained the same for nearly the entire 65-year history of the Cleveland Browns. White pants, dark (really dark) brown shirts, and orange helmets. The helmets have been completely plain, solo-striped, and triple-striped, like today. The colors have varied only slightly, with the brown on the shirts finally arriving at its current shade, a dark chocolate brown (actually, “seal brown”).

The uniform is so plain that there’s really not a lot to say about them. The striping is perfectly balanced, and…………well, that’s about it.

Colt McCoy, rallying the troops.

Mr. Madden cover himself.

Does this make you angry?

Jim Brown says you'd better like these unis.

And the logo?

This is it.

Classic.

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7. San Francisco 49ers

Yet another traditional rival that I’ve been forced to rank above my beloved Cowboys, the 49ers have some of the classiest uniforms in the NFL.

The Niners became one of the NFL’s best teams during the 1980s when quarterback Joe Montana began etching out his legacy as one of the greatest players and leaders of all-time. I still remember getting my young hands on a copy of the 1990 Super Bowl between Montana’s 49ers and John Elway’s Denver Broncos. I was only 7, and I didn’t know who won. I don’t even remember how I acquired it. I just remember watching in awe as the 49ers routed the Broncos, which I wasn’t too happy about.

The 49ers sported the cherry red tops, pale gold pants with absolutely huge stripes down the sides, and the elegant golden helmet with San Francisco’s “SF” logo emblazoned across the sides (see below).

Joe Montana

In the 1990s, San Francisco continued under the leadership of Jerry Rice and new QB Steve Young, but made what I consider to be several mistakes: they changed the traditional golden pants to white, added black shadows behind the numbers, and even added black to the pant stripes (keeping in line with the 90s and early 2000s trend of making absolutely everything black — I blame Steve Austin). The white pants were actually part of the team’s original look dating back to 1946, but changed to “beige gold” in 1964, remaining that way until the “throwback” season of 1994, which I refer to as the “throw-up” season.

The 49ers made the sensible decision to switch back to gold in 1995, but then reverted to a more modern white-pants look in 1996. It wasn’t any better.

What is this lunacy?

Thankfully, rationale got the best of the 49ers organizational heads once more in 1998. They brought back the gold pants, but the look wasn’t complete until they brought back the wide red and white stripes in 2009.

Lesson (hopefully) learned: leave it alone.

Mediocre QB, wonderful unis.

Awesome color combo.

Classy.

The logo? Not a lot to mention — it does its job, and we all recognize it now.

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8. New England Patriots

You should see this one coming.

New England scores major points for tapping into their local history. They’re named the Patriots, for crying out loud. They’re wearing red, white, and blue. They’re led by a coach who dresses like a slob in a sweatshirt on the sidelines, subtly emphasizing the northeastern lack of pretension involved in going about your job. They are the New England Patriots, and they are everything their uniforms seem to say about them.

He seems to yell often.

If you don't like these jerseys, you probably hate America.

But as much as I like the Patriots’ present uniforms, I will never, ever think it compares to their throwbacks:

I told you he yells often.

More yelling. And pointing.

Admittedly, if I had my way, they’d revert to the retro uniforms permanently, but since they’re not, we’ll have to settle for 8th-best.

This...

...and not this? You kidding?

BRING BACK ANDRE TIPPETT!

 

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9. Houston Texans

How could I possibly rate the Texans at #9?

The Chargers, Cowboys, Jets…they’re all ranked behind an expansion team that has only been in the league for 9 years. This is a team whose city couldn’t even keep their first club, the Oilers, who now reside in Nashville as the Titans. Their uniforms aren’t even all that memorable, and they don’t really revolutionize anything.

But the Texans beat a trend that bears mentioning: most “modern jersey” teams try too hocking hard. Their logos are cheesy. Their jerseys have stripes, spikes, and odd colors that make them seem more like an AFL team. The Texans beat all that with solid jerseys that feature one of the absolute best logos in American sports, especially for teams younger than 30 years old.

For the second installment in a row, I’m beginning with the logo:

If you’ve been following this series, you’ve probably caught on to my appreciation for teams that integrate their region’s history and character into their uniforms and logos. The Texans use their state flag’s colors and overall scheme, while also incorporating a bull’s head, tapping into the cowboy roots of the Lone Star State (note: the star’s five points represent pride, courage, strength, tradition and independence). Texans bleed state pride, and the Houston Texans have done everything they can to avoid relegation as the state’s “little brother” football team.

Now for the uniforms.

No, they’re not reinventing the wheel, and that’s why they work. The logo is featured very prominently on the helmets, almost to the point of being oversized. The stripes are minimalistic in design and proportion, leaving all of the emphasis on the colors of Texas and that beautiful logo.

The Texans did it the right way, and that’s why they’re #9. They might not be America’s Team. They’re not really even Texas’ Team. But due to a future that’s looking way up (many analysts are predicting a great season for them), they might see a lot more appreciation shortly.

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10. Dallas Cowboys

We’ve now entered the top 10.

The final jersey in the “Perty, Perty Good” division: my Dallas Cowboys.

I’ve tried desperately to remain as unbiased as possible during the process of solidifying this list, and the placement of America’s Team has made up 80% of that struggle. I’ve stared at photos of the Cowboy’s uniforms for about 23 of my 28 years on earth. Hershel Walker scoring a touchdown and being mobbed by his celebrating teammates is my very first football memory. My father, my brother, my brother-in-law, my nephews…all Cowboy fans. My son will be a Cowboy fan, even though he will be born here in Louisiana, land of thousands of dedicated New Orleans Saints fans (and millions of bandwagon Saints “fans”). I love this team.

But how do I rate their uniform? Aesthetically, how can I rate this jersey?

Simple. I’ve always known exactly where I stand on the Cowboy’s uniforms and logo.

1. The Cowboys have the most iconic logo in the NFL. This isn’t my subjective opinion. It’s instantly identifiable, even if it is just an outlined star. It represents the history of the team that has become so synonymous with the game itself that it became “America’s Team.” A Saints-loving friend of mine tried to argue once that the Saints are the new “America’s Team.” I’m sorry, but no. Just check the ratings year-in and year-out, even during a decade-and-a-half playoff win drought. The Cowboys still rate higher than every other NFL team (click here for the data to prove it).

There has been, is, and forever will be exactly one America’s Team. It is the Dallas Cowboys, and the Dallas Cowboys are embodied in this star. The logo is the Dallas Cowboys.

2. The helmet is among the league’s best. It obviously features the star, but it’s perfectly balanced, thanks to the perfectly-aligned stripes, and the appropriate level of shimmer (without crossing over into namby-pamby land):

Emmitt Smith: NFL rushing record holder and twinkle-toed dancer

3. The Cowboys almost always wear their white jerseys.

Here’s where I am, and have always been, conflicted. I just don’t know how I feel about the Cowboy’s white uniforms.

An interesting bit of history: the Cowboys’ original owners felt that the football team, just as all “good guy” cowboys in old westerns, should always wear white. That’s partly why they have always worn white at home, which for many years distinguished them from most of the league. When they did wear their blue jerseys, they almost always underperformed, leading fans of the team to believe that the blue jerseys were cursed. (note: all of the Cowboys’ five championships were won while in their white jerseys)

Other teams began to tap into the Cowboys’ superstition, and would wear their white uniforms at home games, forcing the Cowboys to wear their “unlucky” blue jerseys. The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are two notable cold-weather teams that began this trend (Most white-wearing home teams did so because of intense heat. See also: San Diego, Arizona, etc.). The Cowboys almost never wear these blue uniforms, which is a shame, because they’re actually pretty good.

The white uniforms very much the Cowboys’ jerseys. They have plenty of history wrapped up into them, but history didn’t give the Colts a pass, so where do these jerseys truly stand? I keep looking at them, expecting to admit that I don’t like them, but I do. And I don’t think it’s just because they belong to the Cowboys. But you be the judge:

Demarcus Ware: my favorite current Cowboy

Felix Jones: from the University of Arkansas to glory (what a step up!)

From the glory days.

The underutilized “unlucky” blue uniforms:

Hoping to end a 17-year drought...

And the throwback jerseys, which I secretly wish would become the new home uniforms after some modern alterations:

The Cowboys iconography is far too compelling to leave them out of the top-10, but in all honesty, there has always been something lacking in their uniforms. I’ve felt it, even as a die-hard Cowboys fan. They have one of the best identifiable helmets in football, period (only surpassed by Michigan’s timeless stripes), and are so well balanced in the leg stripes and elegant shade of navy. But the white jerseys are not quite fitting for America’s Team.

The Cowboys uniforms play a balancing game that keeps them out of mediocrity, but holds them back from greatness.

But none of that would matter if Super Bowl #6 showed up soon.

One of the greats: "Roger the Dodger" AKA "Captain America" - Roger Staubach

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11. San Diego Chargers

The Chargers dilemma:

For the 2011 season, the Chargers have decided to use their white helmets with each variation of their uniforms. This moved them from around #18 to #11 on my list. If only they’d switched to their powder blue (more on this in a second)…

How can you go wrong with lightning? Seriously. I know that in some ways, lightning bolts, flashing, and thunder seems to harken back to 80s metal bands, but when you incorporate a thunder bolt into pretty much anything, it instantly becomes a lot better. The Chargers have taken this concept to the Nth degree (side note: I have no idea what the Nth degree really is).

In 1974, the Chargers did something stupid: they changed from their “powder blue” jerseys to a dark blue variety that was alright, but not nearly as beautiful. They also changed from the white helmets with the numbers underneath the bolts to the same dark blue, but changed the bolts from gold to white, and removed the numbers completely. Thus, their jerseys went from gorgeous to mediocre, and then aged poorly into the “meh” category.

Then, they took a half-step back in 2007, returned the bolts to their proper gold, and integrated some of the original powder blue into the design. As stated, they also returned to white helmets in 2011, solidifying a great jersey…

Looking better...

Even better...

But then…the famous powder blue uniforms, which are, in my humble opinion, the best jerseys to ever be presented on and NFL field:

If San Diego wore these jerseys regularly (instead of nine times in the last three years), they’d have instantly been bumped into the top 3, but since the Chargers organization has decided for years to abandon the pleas of fans and non-fans alike, I’m pushing them no further than #11.

Man, I love those unis…

And now, the Chargers logo.

And that’s all they need.

Please, Chargers organization. Please, please, please give us the powder blue jerseys. You will become my AFC team if you do.

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