Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Failure of imagination:
The Vikings' new uniforms

As the elder statesman of professional football writers, I owe it to the people not to make snap judgments. I prefer to deliberate something to death (and beyond) before opening up my key-lime piehole, which is why I have yet to comment on the botched surgery that is the Minnesota Vikings' new uniforms. For my third(!) wedding anniversary, my much-better half snagged me two tickets to the Redskins' season opener against the Vikings on Monday night, Sept. 11 (uh-oh!). I was going to wait until I saw the new uniforms on the flesh before I shot off my mouth. But then, last night, the uniforms went global as ESPN debuted the next generation of Monday Night Football. I can only be thankful that the announcing team, though shaky, wasn't as awful as many had feared because my hands weren't available to cover my ears. I had them over my eyes. Those fucking uniforms. They ... hurt me ... here.

Down and Distance readers know that the most popular post to appear in this space -- by far -- was March's sucker-punch insinuation that I somehow had obtained pictures of the designs before they were released to the public. Oh, if only the Vikes had dressed their players like Tinky-Winky. It would have been considerably manlier than the fruit suits they wound up with.

(Click the photo or here for a Star-Tribune photo gallery.)

There's so much that's wrong with the new uniforms that it's impossible to single out one defining feature. In fact, that is the biggest problem. When you think about a sports uniform, good or bad, something should immediately jump to mind, be it the New York Yankees' classic pinstripes, the Vancouver Canucks' abominable V-necks or the Pittsburgh Pirates' dandy pillbox. In the NFL, the prototype for the latest trend in uniform design is, of course, the Denver Broncos' armpit-to-knee swoosh, a big, clever slice of Nike on an outfit manufactured by ... Reebok. (Bok got pwn3d!)

There's nothing iconic, however, about the Vikings' new uniforms:
  • There's a side swoop of sorts, but one without any soul: half-hearted, two-toned, and it peters out somewhere about mid-thigh. It's supposed to evoke a Viking horn, but it's pointing downward, which makes no sense.
  • Gold piping winds its way around the numbers, over and under the shoulders and down the leg. Not only is it reminiscent of fashions of the 1980s, it's reminiscent of fashions in cheerleader uniforms of the 1980s.
  • The uniform's various stripes, colors and whatnot converge toward the nameplate in the upper back in a way that brings to mind the Macedonian flag.
  • The Norseman, that mustachioed sumbitch who represents all things blond, badass and redolent of pickled herring, has been removed from the upper arm, where he had ridden in tattoo-like honor since the '90s, to the terra incognita of the hips and upper back, where nothing good ever happens.
  • On top of these, er, updates, the players' names are now spelled out in an utterly incongruous serif font similar to that used by the Dallas Cowboys in their classic-look uniforms.
  • Oh, and after all that work, the purple in the uniforms still looks blue under the Metrodome lights when seen on TV.
Funny enough, the only improvement came with the closest thing the uniform had to an icon: the horn on the helmet. Small tweaks give it more definition and make it "pop" better. Me likee. If they'd only stopped there.

The Vikings' new uniforms are the ultimate mishmosh of changes made for their own sake, "innovations" borrowed piecemeal from other teams, and various bits of this and that added for no functional or aesthetic reason. I'm not a wild-eyed traditionalist who believes football should look just as it did in the 1970s. I think the Broncos' modern uniforms are better than the rec-room monstrosities that preceded them. The colors of the 21st-century Patriot dynasty are far superior to the Suzy Chapstick scarlet of their first Super Bowl appearance or the universal atrocity of their second. Nor am I just in love with the look of the teams of my Minnesota youth. I stood and cheered with the rest of the state when the Twins moved from powder blue doubleknits to traditional pinstripes. And that was even before they won the World Series.

No, my objection to the Vikings' new uniforms is based on simple appearance. These uniforms try to make a statement, but they have nothing to say. They strive for modernity by adding features that have already been done to death by other teams. They aim to be imaginative but are instead derivative. They are at once ugly and boring, distracting and forgettable, obnoxiously modern and sorely dated.

In that way, they certainly are unique.

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