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Mister Answer Man:  Super Bowl edition!

Dear Mister Answer Man: My wife and I are arguing about the Super Bowl.  I say the Eagles have a chance because they’re loose and relaxed, and that they won’t have the “just happy to be here” syndrome of so many teams who get to the big game after years of disappointment.  She says that there’s no such thing as “team psychology,” that it all comes down to coaching and execution, and that Belichick is just that much more creative and versatile than Reid.  Who’s right? – B. Cowher

Mister Answer Man replies: Apparently neither of you understand football.  Forget “team psychology.” Forget “coaching and execution.” The really important thing, in big games, is the uniform.  A Super Bowl champion has to have a very tough, very masculine uniform.  The Eagles have done themselves a favor by adding black to their color scheme since the last time they were in a Super Bowl, when their flat-green-and-silver was no match for the far more serious silver and black of the Raiders.  Also, they have a very angry eagle logo now, and they’ve moved to a darker, more iridescent green that Mister Answer Man thinks is pretty cool.  So they have a much better chance now than they did 24 years ago.  But New England has that dark blue (also iridescent) and silver with those Very Stern Numbers, not to mention a harsh, streamlined Patriot logo instead of that geeky eighteenth-century guy in a three-point stance.  When you compare these Patriot jerseys to the old red-and-white-with-one-blue-shoulder-stripe scheme of the 1970s and 1980s, you realize why this crew has been to three Super Bowls in the past decade, winning two, while the old Patriots, who dressed like the local high school junior varsity, played like the junior varsity in the only Super Bowl they fluked themselves into in 1986, losing 46-10 to a team with a much more deadly uniform.  Once you understand all that, you realize you’re looking at a 27-21 New England victory this Sunday.

Dear Mister Answer Man: Does this explain why some teams suddenly do well after changing uniform designs?  I’m thinking, of course, of the Broncos and Buccaneers. – M. Shanahan

Mister Answer Man replies: Why, yes.  There really is no other explanation.  After all, the Broncos lost four Super Bowls– each one more embarrassingly badly than the one before– wearing a flat orange as their primary home color, along with a flat blue helmet with a big D with a horse inside it; they switched to deep blue jerseys, got themselves a new very angry horsehead, and promptly won back-to-back championships.  The poor Tampa Bay Buccaneers, of course, dressed up like pieces of Brach’s hard candy for twenty years, wearing a lovely, fetching salmon-red-white home jersey that just screamed, “come and sack my quarterback– I won’t mind.” In a brilliant design decision that turned the franchise around, they redid the entire uniform from scratch, devising a dynamic electric-red-orange-and-silver-with-black-piping uniform complete with a cool new pirate flag.  The result?  Can you say “Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers”?  The phrase was literally not pronounceable in English in the 1980s.  And don’t forget Houston!  The old Oilers played for years in home jerseys of periwinkle and white with persimmon piping.  Very nice, very attractive, very creative.  But Super Bowl champions do not wear periwinkle; in fact, periwinkle doesn’t even make it into the Super Bowl.  It was a good idea for them to move to Nashville and call themselves the Titans; more important, it was a better idea to make their dominant home color a midnight blue.  Guess what?  They promptly went to the Super Bowl.  Unfortunately, they kept that wussy lighter blue for their shoulder accents and bordering.  Had they chosen a more masculine secondary color, Kevin Dyson would’ve found the end zone on that final play in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Even minor details like numbers can make a difference.  Take the 1970s Steelers and their traditional “block” jersey numbers: four Super Bowls.  Take the contemporary Steelers with the identical jerseys but with new, narrow sans-serif numbers: zero Super Bowls and lots of losses in the AFC championship game.  Enough said.

Dear Mister Answer Man: Wow.  I never thought of this before.  Is it true for all team sports? – S. Bowman

Mister Answer Man replies: No, only the manly ones.  Baseball players can wear pretty much anything.  But there was no way, for instance, that the Pittsburgh Penguins were ever going to go anywhere wearing baby blue.  Not even with Mario Lemieux.  But lo, you put the Penguins in black and gold, and they win back-to-back Stanley Cups even though their name is still the Penguins.  Similarly, the Québec Nordiques of the mid-1990s were a formidable team; in the shortened regular season of 1995, they actually led the Eastern Conference in points, but bowed out to the number eight seed Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.  The next year, with the same lineup, playing as the Colorado Avalanche, they won the Cup.  Why?  Because you can’t ask hockey players to dress up in sprightly blue jerseys with fringed fleurs-de-lis and expect them to win championships, that’s why.  In fact, my research shows that the fleur-de-lis, in and of itself, is the single most enervating thing you can put on a jersey.  The New Orleans Saints have great colors, but they’re wearing a Frenchy flowery thing on their heads, so it’s really no mystery why they spend January watching the playoffs on TV.  If they could just keep the jerseys, lose the “Saints” motif, and maybe rename themselves the Devils, they’d give themselves half a shot.

Dear Mister Answer Man: Give me a break already.  How do you explain the great Dolphins teams of the early 1970s? – N. Buoniconti

Mister Answer Man replies: Yes, OK, there have been two measly exceptions to the rule over the last forty years, so give me a break already.  The Dolphins managed to win consecutive Super Bowls wearing beautiful aquamarine-and-orange jerseys that the Fab Five themselves could not improve on.  Likewise, the Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl in purple uniforms with cute rounded and tapered sans-serif numbers; yes, they had nasty black helmets, but still– purple jerseys, cute numbers, and a “literary” team name to boot.  The lesson here is clear: occasionally, teams with pretty jerseys can win it all.  But they’d better have a brutal, crushing defense or they’ll wind up like those fleur-de-lis Saints . . . or those teal Jaguars.  Really: men in teal.  What were they thinking?

Again, hockey has its weird exceptions as well.  The 1981-82 Vancouver Canucks sneaked into the Stanley Cup finals sporting mustard-colored grade-B science-fiction uniforms.  Then again, they got swept in four.  Twelve years later, when they had the sense to wear good hard masculine black jerseys, they took the series to seven.

Dear Mister Answer Man:  Can your theory explain the phenomenon of the Buffalo Bills?  Even as they lost four straight Super Bowls, they had royal blue jerseys, a stylin’ logo, and traditional block numbers.  What were they doing wrong? – M. Levy

Mister Answer Man replies: The problem with the Buffalo Bills was not their uniforms.  Their uniforms were fine, and more than worthy of a Super Bowl, as was their breathtaking hurry-up offense.  The problem with the Buffalo Bills was that they came from Buffalo.  I’m sorry to say it, because I’m fond of the city, but let’s be honest– you could put black and silver and a pirate guy with an eyepatch on the Bills and they still wouldn’t win a championship.  And now that they’ve got those shiny metallic jerseys with matching pants, they’re an utterly lost cause. Remember, matching pants always look like pajamas.  And no one wants to see pajamas in the playoffs.

Mister Answer Man thanks you for all your questions on this important subject!  Mister Answer Man is rooting for the Eagles, mind you, but he knows you can’t fight against elemental forces of nature like color schemes.

Posted by on 02/05 at 10:40 AM
  1. Oh, Mr. Answer Man.  You are indeed wise.  Now, if you could only answer the question, “What the hell are they thinking over at the NHL?” Would a logo redesign maybe help knock some sense into their knuckle-heads?

    Posted by Stumax  on  02/05  at  12:59 PM
  2. Wow, Mister Answer Man: Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I never thought I’d see that Canucks jersey again. But have you explained the fifty plus year streak of the Rangers? The Broadway Blue could not have been more masculine—military even. But for years they would fall out of the playoffs faster than you can say Walt Tzachuk. Explain that MAM.

    Posted by  on  02/05  at  01:21 PM
  3. The problem with the Buffalo Bills was that they came from Buffalo. 

    Mr. Answer Man is indeed correct.  In fact, I blame my near-complete lack of interest in team sports on the fact that I spent my adolescence in Buffalo in the late 1960s through 1970s, a period of time bracketed, as far as the Bills were concerned, by Jack Kemp at one end and OJ Simpson at the other. I mean, woo hoo.

    This argument works, at least, if one ignores the existence of the Sabres (nee the “Buffalo Hockey Bisons"), which has been easy for me to accomplish.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  02/05  at  01:35 PM
  4. Help me answer man! I stopped watching Super Bowls after #6. Found them too addictive. What do I talk to people about next week?

    Posted by  on  02/05  at  01:35 PM
  5. Mister Answer Man replies to one question in particular:  Have I considered the 50-year streak of the Rangers?  Um, did I have season tickets to the Garden from 1970 to 1973?  Is my copy of Rod Gilbert’s autobiography autographed by Rod himself?  Did I attend the Rangers’ summer hockey camp three years running?  Did I suffer through the finals of 1972 and 1979 before bursting into tears of relief in 1994 (and let’s not forget that the Canucks’ Nathan Lafayette hit the post with five minutes left-- we were that close to OT in game seven, after giving up last-minute game-tying goals in games 1 and 7 to the Devils in the semis and then again to the Canucks in game 1 of the finals)?

    The Rangers’ long streak is even more remarkable when you consider that four of six teams made the playoffs for the first 27 years of that streak-- and yet the Rangers were rarely one of those four, and went to the finals only once (in 1950, against Detroit, losing in OT in game 7, and yes, that occurred to me when Lafayette hit the post).  They were truly abysmal.  Part of the reason has to do with the fact that for many years, the NHL gave each team first dibs on any player within a 50-mile radius of the franchise.  So Montréal and Toronto had their pick of eastern Canada’s finest; Detroit got to poach off of the tip of southern Ontario; and the Rangers had the rights to all the prospects in Hoboken.  But I think the deciding factor was that the Rangers didn’t-- and don’t-- have a real logo.  Only when they wound up in the finals against a team that has even less real a logo did they manage to squeak out a Stanley Cup.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/05  at  02:37 PM
  6. I knew you were a fellow sufferer. When Lafayette’s shot hit the post (it knicked off Leetch’s leg or stick) I lost consciousness, control over my bowels, and my heart has been running on one third capacity ever since. When I came to I screamed at the Rangers a string of profanities that clearly scared the gods. And then collapsed into a sobbing heap. As the seconds ticked down, I had a vision of a logo ...a broken stick, the broken ankle of Jean Ratelle, and, yes, a broken heart. It looked like a Frieda Kahlo, only tougher.

    Posted by  on  02/05  at  03:29 PM
  7. I know you said this only applies to manly sports, but have you ever considered extending this to academe? I mean, every year I have to wear those ridiculous robes--sure, they’re a nice macho black, but realistically, it’s like a big baggy muu-muu. How can anyone take us seriously in something like that?

    As long as we’re dressing up in medieval garb, why not chainmail? And no more funny flat-topped hats, how about something in chromed steel? If we were all carrying polearms or something sharp and spiky, those tedious droning commencement speakers might pay more attention when we start getting restless.

    If we dressed like we were prepared to repel a swarm of vikings or Republicans, we might just have a less wimpy reputation.

    Posted by PZ Myers  on  02/05  at  04:53 PM
  8. Mister Answer Man replies:  This is brilliant, PZ.  I’m so sorry I didn’t think of it while I was looking up all those retro NHL jerseys!  Especially since in some academic ceremonies, we have to carry a “mace” that turns out simply to be a clapboard of some kind.  I say bring back the real mace.  Scrap the muu-muu and let’s get us some of that extremely virile UnderArmour shit (in black, of course).  And an iron maiden especially for GOP state legislators.

    Chris R, Jean Ratelle was my favorite player, just edging out his boyhood friend Gilbert.  The day he was traded to the Bruins was a dark, dark day for a franchise in precipitous mid-70s decline.  But the day he broke his ankle in 1972-- with 46 goals on the season and a month to play, the first Ranger to contend for the scoring title since the leather-puck era-- was almost as dark.  And it was teammate Dale Rolfe who broke his ankle with a slapshot on a power play.  I was there.  I saw him fall.  All of Creation wept.

    Chris C, you don’t have to ignore the Sabres.  And the jersey theory works with them, too.  Almost thirty years of skating in cerulean and gold with only one Cup final appearance, and then black uniforms with a very angry buffalo head, and before you know it, a Cup final.  Of course, since they were still from Buffalo, the league felt free to make up new crease rules for OT in game six.

    Dr. Wu, Mister Answer Man has no answers for you.  There is nothing else going on in the world, and therefore nothing to talk about.  You’re on your own.

    And Stumax, you heard it here first:  my locker-room sources tell me there will be a 30-game season after all.  Followed, no doubt, by seven months of playoffs! 

    Posted by  on  02/05  at  05:21 PM
  9. The problem with your explanation, Michael, is that you use the word “cerulean” when describing the Sabres’ old costumes, where an authentic Sabres fan would instead grunt “blue” while breaking a bottle of Genny Cream Beer on his forehead.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  02/05  at  05:30 PM
  10. Exactly right.  The formula applies to college football as well.  The impure cases are especially interesting.

    Consider, for example, Kansas State University.  In 1988 the football team was so bad that they earned a Sports Illustrated story calling them “Futility U.” The very next year they changed their logo from the lame wildcat to the abstract and powerful POWERCAT!  Purple remained the school color.  Almost immediately K-State became a good, but not all that good, football team.  While the logo change turned the tide, many boats remained unlifted due to the purpleness of the sea.

    Posted by zwichenzug  on  02/05  at  07:51 PM
  11. Can we extend the theory to blogs?  I mean, what are we to do about Brad DeLong’s site (http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/moveable_type/)?

    Posted by Sean  on  02/05  at  08:41 PM
  12. Or, if I could spell, (http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/)?

    Posted by Sean  on  02/05  at  08:43 PM
  13. Sirrah!  Baseball “not a manly sport”?  I’ll see you dig in against competent big league pitching, sir, and after three pitches we’ll examine how many colors have been added to your uniform!  And good day to you!

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  12:46 AM
  14. Hitting big-league pitching is probably the most difficult hand-eye task yet devised by humans, Doghouse.  You know it, I know it.  Nonetheless, professional athletes wearing rainbows across their chests (1980 Astros), powder-blue pajamas (1970s and 1980s Royals), pillbox hats (1979 Pirates), beanies with blue PJs with piping (Expos), and even chocolate coatings with yellow filling (1984 Padres) have all won pennants, World Series, or division titles, and that’s just not manly.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/06  at  10:58 AM
  15. Michael,

    I’ll freely admit that some ML teams have been dressed like Waylon Smither’s conga line, and further that baseball is the subject of a beloved Broadway musical.  Then again, every slasher flick features a guy in a hockey mask, and he’s always enraged by normal teens having heterosexual relations. Perhaps the response here is that this elitist theory of yours--and that’s all it is, a theory--applies only to those sports where the players, or the fans are most insecure about their own sexuality? 

    I mean, what will you be telling us next?  That the most decorated hero of WWII, John “Duke” Wayne, was less that a real man just because he relaxed in women’s housecoats and fuzzy slippers when away from the set?  Or that our it’s somehow suspicious that Our Glorious Leader spent his formative years as a cheerleader?

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  01:36 PM
  16. Two questions:

    Based upon your criteria, I would say the manliest uniforms of all time are the home navy-blue-and-white of your own Nittany Lions.  As far as I know, they have changed neither coaches nor uniforms in many years.  Whence their recent futility?

    With this “clothes make the men” theory, don’t you run the risk of being called a “prognastic girly-man” by the ex-player commentators who spend all that time blabbering about “cover-two” and “fire in the belly?”

    Posted by corndog  on  02/06  at  02:15 PM
  17. Ah, yes.  I thought the Bills’ ugly uniforms were the problem. 

    Chris C - we’re soulmates, except that I’m still addicted to the Bills.  You gotta love a city that has Hockey Bisons and Baseball Bisons.  One of my brothers proposed that the Sabres should be named the Bottlecaps, since the old Bison uniforms had a Pepsi logo. 

    Michael - the “harsh, streamlined” Patriot on NE’s helmets is known as the Flying Elvis in Boston.  The silver-lame’-Las-Vegas Elvis, not the Hound Dog Elvis.

    Posted by  on  02/06  at  04:15 PM
  18. I meant “prognostic girly-man.” Sorry.  It’s spelled “prognostic girly-man” but it’s pronounced “Throat-Warbler Mangrove.”

    Posted by corndog  on  02/06  at  04:16 PM
  19. Ah!  The Nittany Lion Dilemma, like the solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem, looks straightforward at first glance but is in fact almost inconceivably complex.  And to this day it awaits its Andrew Wiles.

    As with Fermat, prizes will be awarded.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/06  at  06:20 PM
  20. I’ve discovered an elegant solution to the Nittany Lion Dilemma, which this comment text field is too small to contain.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  02/06  at  06:28 PM
  21. Oh, it’s the tired old “my margins are too small to allow me to talk about any n greater than 2” gambit!  Cripes, I thought that one died in the seventeenth century.  Seriously, Chris, you can use half the comment text field, and then half of the remaining half, and then half of that remaining half, and so on, and you’ll never run out of room.  Honest!

    Posted by Michael  on  02/06  at  07:04 PM
  22. Sorry.  No can do. Zenophobia.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  02/06  at  07:59 PM
  23. Sadly, I think we hit another wall with the sport of basketball.  The LA Lakers tacky gold with purple piping and lettering is harldy “manly.” And I dare say, the Celtics logo, which I revere, by the way, is something less than terror inspiring.  And the Cavaliers?  The 76’ers?  The powder blue of the Raptors?

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  01:09 AM
  24. Ahhh, basketball players can wear anything, too.  Basically, the theory works only for sports in which you have to put on your jersey over shoulder pads.  And no, that doesn’t make us insecure about our sexuality.  It doesn’t!  Just keep those damn fleurs-de-lis off my body.

    And may I point out that this humble blog came within three points of predicting the final score?  I rest my case.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/07  at  08:56 AM
  25. I have an important post-SuperBowl question.

    Why was Paul McCartney singing atop a stage shaped like a cross? Is there a vast, Christian conspiracy at FOX?

    Posted by Roxanne  on  02/07  at  11:36 AM
  26. Mister Answer Man replies:  Yes.

    Posted by Michael  on  02/07  at  11:38 AM
  27. Given your superior, non-girly-man, prognostic abilities, I was wondering if you might share how you convert what appears to be a qualitative model of manly sports team superiority based upon uniform color and design qualities into a quantitative model robust enough to have made you some decent (as in non-academic quantity) cash yesterday.  Or do I need to upgrade to Berube premium to access that information?

    Posted by corndog  on  02/07  at  12:35 PM
  28. I’ve been giving way too much thought to the academic regalia connection raised by PZ Myers. Trade in those wimpy robes and hoods for the kind of futuristic hockey gear used in “Strange Brew” starring Bob and Doug MacKenzie (the third greatest movie behind “Slapshot” and “Mystery, Alaska"). Add to this large gold chains with proud medallions illustrating the disciplines (they can double as bottle openers for long graduation ceremonies too). Finally, what will really scare anti-intellectuals and anti-university conservatives alike is this: Prominent codpieces (for both men and women). This is a very stupid and masculine game they’re playing; we are just subverting their own symbolism. Don’t screw with us.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  12:44 PM
  29. you’re looking at a 27-21 New England victory this Sunday

    Almost on the nose, Michael. Have you considered offering betting advice alogn with your commentary?

    Anyway, as a former Philadelphian who has always thought that the Iggles fans represented the worst aspects of that generally fair city, I am pleased by the Super Bowl outcome.

    Posted by The Continental Op  on  02/07  at  02:45 PM
  30. "The New Orleans Saints have great colors, but they’re wearing a Frenchy flowery thing on their heads, so it’s really no mystery why they spend January watching the playoffs on TV.”

    My husband and I are both from New Orleans and love the Saints. We have also come to the conclusion that the Saints are doomed because they have a flower on their helmets. I am glad someone else has come to this realization!

    Posted by Denise Plauché  on  02/07  at  03:22 PM
  31. Anyway, as a former Philadelphian who has always thought that the Iggles fans represented the worst aspects of that generally fair city, I am pleased by the Super Bowl outcome.

    I’m a New Englander and a Patriots fan, so I was naturally pleased by the outcome.  But I wasn’t especially happy at it coming at the expense of the Eagles and their fans.  As we up here well know, long suffering builds frustration and fosters aberrant behavior.  I didn’t feel bad when we beat the Rams (they needed a punch to the mouth) or the Panthers (’cause I think they’re punks, and more importantly, they’ll get back in the hunt.) Killing Philadelphia was one of those “do we have to?” moments.  But we did have to.  Of course, they helped by treating being down by two scores with 5-6 minutes left as leisurely as Sunday brunch.

    Posted by Miguel Sánchez  on  02/07  at  10:16 PM
  32. <<The LA Lakers tacky gold with purple piping and lettering is harldy “manly.”>>

    True story:  Jack Kent Cooke, the former owner of the Lakers, hated the word purple.  He had no problem with the color, just the word.  So the great Lakers announcer Chick Hearn would say “and the Lakers are in their Forum Blue and gold uniforms tonight”. 

    Nope, not working, Chicky Babe.  It’s still *purple*.

    Posted by  on  02/08  at  02:41 AM
  33. I see Micheal has avoided discussing the Redskins.

    Posted by  on  02/08  at  12:57 PM
  34. Very close, Michael, among the closest I saw among paid sports pundits.

    This is precisely why I intend to have every blogger redesign their sites to black and blue motifs, with blood dribbles at the corners. And no more snack foods on the convention trails for Democratic candidates. Just 3” steaks and pan-sized pork chops.

    And none of that kissing babies crap. From here on, it’s nothing less than the despoiling of all those cornfed Iowa farmers’ daughters. And unaged rye whiskey.

    Certainly, we’ll have to burn Atlanta again, to remind the South that their sissified Republican ministers have forgotten who their REAL God is. If Kerry had listened to me and neutered those Swift Boat poseurs on 60 Minutes, he’d already be Emperor-In-Chief.

    I guess I have to do everything myself around here.... But remember our slogan: DON’T MESS WITH VERMONT ! if you know what’s good for you.

    Posted by Screaming Howie Deeeeeeeeeeeeeean!  on  02/08  at  09:54 PM
  35. "S. Bowman”

    That’s funny!!!! Your at Penn State eh? He he he. Penguins fan I presume. Thanks for the coach! We truly enjoyed him. Did you know he is a scout for the Tigers now?


    A die hard Wings fan grin

    A.K.A. Dr. Rud’s hockey crazed right wing student

    Posted by  on  02/10  at  02:36 PM
  36. And, in soccer, the French national team had fleur-de-lys thingies on their uniforms, and they won the World Cup.  But the fleur-de-lys were pretty small, and there was only one per jersey…

    Speaking of pretty small, the actual World Cup trophy is beautiful but embarassingly tiny.  It’s about the size of a softball.  They should have at least made it the size of a soccer ball!

    Posted by Tim Horrigan  on  02/15  at  01:07 PM





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