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Saturday, February 05, 2005

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 Michael on 02/05 at 10:40 AM
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