Column: Wearing me out

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The NBA’s Christmas Day uniforms are certainly ugly, but they also represent exactly what is wrong with the alternate uniform craze sweeping pro sports. Photo courtesy NBA.com

While watching the Knicks struggle to play something resembling basketball against the Thunder on Christmas day, I was struck by something even more reprehensible and odious than the Knickerbockers’ effort level all season; the garish Christmas Day uniforms.

In case you didn’t use the NBA’s Christmas programming to effectively avoid awkward conversations with the relatives, let me tell you, the NBA’s “uniforms of the future” are truly a sight to behold. Gone are the tank-top styles one normally associates with basketball in favor of tight, simply designed sleeved t-shirts that look like something that would be worn in a futuristic intramural handball league.

But at the end of the day, it’s not the design that irks me so deeply. It’s the ongoing cash grab of which teams—and leagues—are a part when it comes to selling merchandise.

Not to get all curmudgeonly, which I admittedly do sometimes, but I remember a day when teams stuck to two—or at most three—jerseys per year; a home, an away and sometimes an alternate. The whole alternate uniform craze kicked off, to the best of my knowledge, sometime in the 1970s, but over the past decade or so, it’s simply gotten out of control.

Riding the growing popularity of the Mitchell and Ness throwback fad of the early-aughts, it seems that nowadays teams rarely wear their standard uniforms anymore. Including the Christmas game, the Knicks have worn seven different uniforms over the past calendar year, including a blinding orange kit, a St. Patty’s Day green number and the Hispanic-heritage themed Los Knicks jersey.

Even my beloved Red Sox are guilty of participating this uniform bacchanal, wearing their green St. Patty’s day uniforms in Spring Training—undoubtedly a ploy to sell more merchandise to the many Boston fans of Irish descent, as well as the red alternates they don on each Friday game they play at Fenway.

As much as it pains me to say, this is one area in which I respect the “Yankee way”. Pinstripes and greys, that’s it—although I will take this time to point out that Yankee fans are guilty of one of my least favorite sartorial faux-pas, namely wearing Yankee jerseys with player names on the back.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some instances in which I enjoy a good alternative uniform. The Toledo Mud Hens, the AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, are among the best at this, wearing Chewbacca-inspired unis on Star Wars Day and even incorporating a large hotdog on their threads in conjunction with an eating competition hosted at Fifth Third Field.

But the Minor Leagues have long been associated with wacky promotions, so this isn’t out of step with the minor league product. Plus, Chewbacca Jerseys.

Our four major sports leagues have long rejected advertising on the uniforms, but have ingeniously found a way to advertise their own brands through the utilization of differing color schemes, logos and playing on national pride. Check out the Milwaukee Brewers, who offer Hispanic, German, Italian and Polish themed jerseys. This jersey racket has become something of a cash cow for teams.

I, for one, am just not buying what they’re selling.

 

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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.