Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Support From a Very Unexpected Place

Green Bay Packers

This is probably old news for many of you, but I missed this when it first came out. Cliff Christl, writer for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, had a lot to say about the Packers' uniforms, regular and throwback.

Before we begin, I should stress that Christl has covered the Packers for over three decades. This isn't some rookie scribe we're talking about here, but a seasoned journalist who has a long relationship with the team and league. He is one of 44 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and also is on the Packer Hall of Fame selection committee. He is also apparently something of a contrarian when it comes to gridiron fashion.

Green Bay Packers
Writing about the 49er game, he had this to say:
(T)he best part of all Sunday were the throwback uniforms worn by the Packers; uniforms patterned after the ones the team wore when it won its first NFL championship in 1929.

For the first time in more than 50 years, the Packers donned uniforms befitting their great tradition.
Wow. Bold statement.

There's a lot here, so I'm going to address some of the issues he raises.
The Packers' regular uniforms are among the ugliest in the league. The Chicago Bears' uniforms, for example, fit the team’s image and history perfectly. So does Detroit's – or, at least, their uniforms fit the image of the old Lions.

Those two teams dress like they belong in the "Black and Blue Division."

But mustard yellow? It might be a nice color for a prom dress, but for a football uniform? No, take that back. Mustard yellow wouldn’t look good on anybody anywhere. And what does the 'G' on the helmet stand for? Greenbay? Is that where the Packers are from?
Setting aside for a moment the fact that the throwback uniforms still use the same shade of athletic gold, he's got a point about the helmet logo.

Milwaukee marketing executive Charlie Radtke made some waves in September of 2009 when he made the same point. Christl continues:
My favorite Packers’ jersey of all time was the hunter green and gold that the Packers wore in 1951. But the blue and gold throwbacks, along with the chocolate helmets, worn Sunday would be a close second. Maybe they’d look better with a large number on the front in place of the smaller number and circle. And a small "GB" logo might dress up the helmet. But the design and color scheme fits a team that exudes pro football nobility.
Green Bay Packers
In late 1993, the Packers considered changing their uniforms to gold, along with their dark green, but abandoned the idea after Ted Thompson, then an assistant in the pro personnel department, modeled it in front of Bob Harlan, Ron Wolf and others in Lambeau Field.

They rejected it, in part, because Harlan and Wolf didn’t like the look, but also because fans seemed to be overwhelmingly opposed to change.
For the record, I'm one of the only Packer fans who's still disappointed that Ron Wolf never followed through with his re-design.

Loved it then, still love it now.
And fans were downright outraged over the prospect of the Packers changing the team’s primary color from green to blue, even though blue was the Packers’ original and primary color for most of their first 40 years. The team was even called "The Big Bay Blues" back in the early '20s.

But here’s my argument if you’re one of the fans who still feels that way.

The current Packers’ jerseys essentially date to 1959, Vince Lombardi’s first season as coach. No doubt, he approved the colors and design if he didn’t pick them out.

Well, guess what?

Lombardi was color blind. He might have been the greatest coach ever, but nobody ever called him dapper.

On the flip side, the original 1929 jerseys would have been chosen by Curly Lambeau, a ladies’ man who always dressed to the nines. When he was coaching and playing for the Packers in the 1920s, he was a store salesman for Stiefel’s, a men’s clothing store that was a fixture on Washington Street when downtown was Green Bay’s shopping hub.

So tell me now — which of those two men would you want choosing your fashions?
That's a very pithy line, but a little unfair to Lombardi.

Sure, Curly was an extremely dashing fellow:

But Vince cleaned up nicely. Although we're used to seeing him in football pants and sweatshirts at Training Camp or anchoring the sidelines in a camel hair coat, Coach Lombardi knew the value of dressing for success:

Looking good, Coach.

In any case, it's interesting to see so much love for the throwbacks, and from a source like Cliff Christl.


revnorb said...

I can't quite get past the throwback helmets. They look like Tootsie Pop centers. The beige pants can also take a hike; gold would have been a much more pleasing choice.

John said...

Chance... you never cease to amaze me. I love stories like this. Opinions from those who are closely connected to the team. (I don't happen to agree with them, but that is not the issue.)

I did really like the throwbacks this year. When they were introduced so many were disgusted by them, but like the article says, gold and blue were the Packers for about 40 years. They were taken from Lambeau's college (Notre Dame) of course, and looked very sharp, simple, and clean.

Now, are their current sets the worst in the league? Heck no. Just because green and *whatever color yellow/gold/mustard* aren't very prevalent in pro sports, doesn't mean it isn't a good fit. Also, I like just the "G" on the helmet. If you are going to change it, I guess use the interlocking GB, or the Holstein Heisman logo.

Do we know what happened to the Ron Wolf prototype jersey? That would be a great white whale to find.

Great job again Chance.

N8I said...

I too was disappointed about the redesign that Wolfe killed. Those are some classy looking uniforms!