The Pro Bowl has an image problem. It is the least popular of the major sports’ All-Star games, skipped by many who are chosen to play, barely watched by fans, and even more sparsely attended by anyone at all. This year, in an attempt to gain more interest, the game is changing some rules, most notably abandoning the NFC versus AFC format and going to a “fantasy draft” format, following the NHL’s lead.
While no longer playing between conferences, the league took the opportunity to also abandon the familiar red vs blue concept, one that pulls the major colors from the NFL shield.
And apparently completely turned the reigns over to the “designers” at Nike.
When Nike was awarded the contract to supply the NFL uniforms, knowledgeable fans feared for the worst, worried that Nike would do their de rigueur damage to the appearance of teams, ignore broad swaths of history, relegate beloved looks to the trash bin. As it turned out, our fears were mostly unfounded. The new uniforms looked very familar. Metallic pants became muted, and many teams were cursed with the dumb dress-shirt-under-jersey, new-signing-press-conference look, but otherwise, Nike mostly kept their grubby paws off of our teams, our favorite players, and the most popular league in the world.
But no more.
Apparently, the NFL offices said, “Here, Nike, people think our Pro Bowl uniforms are always ugly anyway, so you might as well do whatever in the hell you want to them, with absolutely no regard to any human equipped with eyes and taste other than in their mouth.”
And so, an apparel company, whose supposed mission would be to fabricate uniforms to the team and league specifications, who increasingly breaks those bounds and drools their color-blind design influence all over the jerseys we fans have grown up with, created the monstrosities you see here.
Knowing how much control the NFL likes to have over uniforms, the more likely supposition is that this was the eleventy-billionth version of the Pro Bowl uniforms, having been presented, amended, re-presented, changed, emailed, kicked upstairs, redone over and over, eventually leaving us with these.
To call them XFL-ish would be to besmirch the great name of the one-year, Vince McMahon football experiment. To call them “video game uniforms” would only serve to denigrate beloved console football games from ColecoVision through to PS3. To call them ugly would offend even the most Gérard Depardieu among us.
No, the only term that can adequately describe the atrocities that millionaire heros will don in their league’s All-Star exhibition game is this;
“Looks like something Nike would do.”
The scrubs, cover-alls, ballerina-tights all-one-colour look is only the beginning of the horror. The “dark team” (remember, it’s not AFC vs. NFC anymore) will be, not in black, but in a charcoal grey. I’m sure Nike will have a special name for it, like Aranthracite, or Terriblacktiville, or SkidMarx.
Then, the neon begins. Not happy to remain hidden away in the ALF generation and your local mall’s Hot Topic, neon orange and green are now going to appear on the modern gladiators of the NFL. Colours once relegated to hair scrunchies and slap bracelets will now be on the chests, arms, legs, and feet of players possibly having their busts one day take their place alongside Lombardi, Greene, Sayers, and Payton.
Just to make sure as few things remind you of the 93 years of team and league history, team patches are in grey and silver instead of actual team colours. You can almost see that here on the Ravens player’s sleeve.
Better seen here on the 49ers patch, the monochrome look is joined by four stars on the back under the collar, possibly for the 4 divisions per conference? The conferences which are no longer represented at this game?
Note, too, the textured numbers. The only thing truly surprising is that the Nike swoosh on the side isn’t rendered in neon itself.
For comparison’s sake, we spin up the retro history machine and take you WAY back to the last Pro Bowl game, played on January 27th of 2013. Perhaps you should ask your grandpa if he remembers back that far. Back in the olden days of the sport, this is what the players wore:
Ahh, that antiquated clash between the NFC and the AFC. How old, dusty and boring it must have looked back then, before society had drawn such a fascination with Miley Cyrus’ tongue or how long the US Government shutdown would last.
Apparently the US Department of Taste, Uniform Oversight Division must not be on the exclusive “essential services” list that Congress so sneakily included themselves upon.
Or perhaps the answer is more simple than that, and a league just finally gave up in fighting the world’s most domineering power in ugly, design-forsaken sporting apparel, and let Nike take the Pro Bowl Uniforms to a greasy spoon diner, then a fraternity keg party, slipping it doses of GHB in its hunch punch until it was finally time to take it to a back room, covered in plastic, and murder it.
Rest in Peace, Pro Bowl Uniforms. We never thought we’d never look back fondly to designs such as these.
And yes, even this looks like the Pro Bowl I remember more than this year’s edition will.
I’m sure that here in the internet era, where there are a thousand people who share any particular opinion, no matter how strange it will be, there will be commenters saying they like these designs. That these look “modern and sleek.” That they somehow love the randomly placed shoebox-sized block of neon color on the side of the pants, vaguely in the area where stripes used to be when teams actually designed uniforms, and teams employed actual designers who dictated what the appearance would be.
But then, there are over a thousand members of a message board about severing one’s own fingers. There are 10,000+ juggalos. There are whole sites dedicated to Holocaust denials.
Doesn’t mean any of those folks are correct, either.
These uniforms are atrocious.
NFL, your uniforms are bad and you should feel bad.
But what else would you expect of Nike? They have obviously been sent to this planet by an evil alien force in a surreptitious attempt to destroy the appearance of all sport that we hold dear.
They are just accomplishing their mission.