November 2009
Top of This issue Current issue

Team Colors

by H. Scott Prosterman

I have seen the apocalypse in college sports and itís all about the so-called color black. As more pro and college teams re-designed their uniforms, I often said that doing this only reflects the lack of tradition in their programs. Could you ever imagine the Yankees ditching pinstripes? The Cardinals without red birds on a yellow bat? The Packers changing colors? The Celtics wearing anything but green at home? Woops, lost that one. Michigan in anything but Maize & Blue? Or the University of Tennessee wearing anything but the Big Orange at home? OMG!!! It happened, it actually happened.

The story goes that the team captains requested the black jerseys as a special Halloween gig. Oh please. Why not just say, we decided to stop being cool by trying to be TOO cool. Iím told black is the so-called ďcolorĒ of the hip-hop crowd. By trying to appeal to the hip-hop crowd and the lily white pseudo-hip-hop crowd, sports teams are dulling the landscape to an unsightly and historical degree. For too long, kelly green has been dimmed to a black-toned forest green; royal-blue has been tarnished into black-navy; and all primary and secondary colors have been benched in favor of unis designed by the former East German Mental Hospital Interior Design Team.

OK, I admit it. Iím showing my age. When I played basketball in college we had LONG hair and SHORT shorts like REAL men. I come from a time when bold colors defined a teamís tradition. I grew up in Memphis as a huge Tennessee Vol fan, despite the fact that Iím the only member of my family who did NOT go to school there. My attachment for the program was cemented when I attended the UT Sports Camp as a 14-year old, and fell in love with all things Big Orange. I forecast myself playing wide receiver and running track for the Big Orange, like so many guys I admired growing up. However, fate, size and my skill set had me playing D-III basketball and running longer distances instead of sprinting for the Big Orange.

Excuse me, did I say ďBig Orange?Ē I meant to say ďBig Black.Ē Ugh. Uffda. Oy-vay. Somehow that doesnít have the same ring to it, or the same look. Pardon me while I breathe a big sigh of resignation. Wait. NO-NO-NO. I REFUSE TO ACCEPT IT. Pardon me while I . . . wait, itís OK, it went back down. Black is fine for Johnny Cash; NOT the Big Orange.

A few years ago, the Tennessee Athletic Department offended legions of fans by wearing a cross on their helmets for the Cotton Bowl, as a patronizing tribute to the late, great Reggie White. I was compelled to write the UT Athletic Department and every major newspaper in the state saying, ďExcuse me, but UT is a state school; and though it may be unpopular to say this, we still have separation of church and state, and Bush Jrís re-election was NOT a referendum on doing away with that.Ē (All in one breath!) After a sizzling argument with UT Sports Information Director Doug Ford, I received a call from UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton acknowledging the poor judgment, properly apologizing and promising that such a display would NEVER happen again.

In perspective, seeing black jerseys instead of the Big Orange at Neyland Stadium was just as offensive as the cross on the helmets. Both were sacrilegious. PLEASE. Never again!!! Oh, and bring up the hemlines on the so-called basketball shorts, and letís see how much quicker the guys get up and down. And PLEASE bring up the hemlines for the women hoops players too. Nothing makes a tall, elegant young woman look frumpy like a pair of those oversized bloomers hanging around the knees.