Thursday, September 10, 2009

Subtle Changes Redux

Well, there they go it again.

Last year, it was black cleats instead of white. For this season, the Packers have made an even more subtle change to the uniforms, adding player numbers to the back of the helmet.

Here's a closer view from the preseason:

There is a certain logic about it; there are situations when you may wish to make it easier for players to quickly identify their helmets.

Although the Packers have gone without helmet numbers for the past fifteen years, they were a part of the team's uniform for decades before that. In the early 1950s, they were hand-written on the front of helmets:

By the Lombardi era, the team was marking helmets with military-style stenciled numbers, as seen here on Bart Starr's helmet (post-quarterback sneak in the Ice Bowl):

I have read that these numbers were made by running a marker over the stencil, but haven't seen any conclusive evidence to confirm this. Judge for yourself.

In the 1980s, the Packers switched from stencils to green Dymo tape, seen here on a Mark Shumate 1985 gamer:

The Dymo tape was in use as late as 1993 or early 1994, as we can see on Ty Detmer's helmet in this photo with Mark Brunell:

It appears to have been dropped by the 1994 season.

Since then, no numbers. Until now.

The new helmet numbers use the same font as those on the jersey, and appear to be printed on a clear decal laid atop the white stripe.'s Paul Lukas believes this is the first time a team has ever put two-digit numbers in the center of a helmet stripe. In the Lombardi era, double-digit numbers straddled the stripes while single-digits were placed within the white center stripe:

I like the numbers, but the back of the Packers' helmets are getting ridiculously cluttered. Part of the reason that the numbers look so sharp on the Lombardi-era helmets is that they were alone back there.

I guess I can understand the NFL logo, but think it's time that the flag be removed. Nobody doubts the unfaltering and boundless support that the NFL, the teams and the players have for our troops. And do we really need the warning label? Can't they move it to the inside, or can't the players just sign some sort of waiver and free up all that space?

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