Last night featured a pretty good game between the Chargers and the Raiders. Even better than the play of the teams was the fact that they both were wearing their actual, legit uniforms for the game.
That hasn’t always been the case this year. Last week’s game featured retina-burning ensembles sported by the Rams and Buccaneers, sartorial disasters that came a month after the NFL’s inaugural “middle finger to the color blind” game between the Jets and Bills in November. One shudders to think what we’re likely to see for Saturday’s game featuring the Redskins and Eagles.
If you can get past your concerns about your damaged cones and rods, you might actually start to wonder about these so-called “Color Rush” uniforms. Specifically, you might wonder: what the hell is going on here?
If you’ve browsed these pages before, you’ll note that uniforms–particularly the new wave of redesigned and (mostly) butt-ugly outfits–have been a subject of concern here at the DFR. Post like this one and this one, for just two examples, have decried these fashion statements, not just for their lack of aesthetic appeal but also for their obvious money-grab motivation. The DFR prefers the classic look, without exception.
However, the Thursday Night “alternates” come with interesting dimensions all their own. Most of the money-grab that goes with alternate jerseys comes from getting fans of a particular team to shell out for yet another variety of the home team’s unis. But that idea isn’t really operable when something like the “Color Rush” nonsense is specifically attached to a national game like Thursday Night Football. You may get a few dimwits in the stands that night to buy those eye-scorchers, but it’s hardly likely that the people around the country watching at home are going to buy very many of them. What gives then?
I think the “Color Rush” program is directed towards the people watching at home, but not to get them to buy the jerseys; it’s simply to get them to be the people watching at home. It’s a concept–read: gimmick–to try to draw more of an audience. The NFL is throwing everything it can into trying to boost the ratings for Thursday Night Football.
But that’s a strange thing, because if we know anything about the NFL, it’s that football is always the king of the sports ratings. So why is the league trying to pump up the numbers when they know that the numbers are going to be high anyway? Why do work that you don’t need to do?
I think that there’s an acknowledgement contained within this, by the NFL, that the Thursday Night schedule represents a case of overreach. The general consensus has been, for a couple of years now, that the Thursday games have been mostly awful. Almost invariably it’s a couple of bad teams, playing bad football, on a day and at a time that is hardly natural for a football game, and that screws with the schedule in any number of negative ways for each team that plays in the time slot.
So the NFL is trying to get out in front of things, by trying to give people non-primary reasons to watch these ugly games. And they are, thereby, acknowledging that their inferior quality product runs the risk of losing audience as more and more people recognize that they’re being sold junk football. Hence, the gimmick.
The crucial takeaway here is that the league is making a tacit acknowledgement that they have vulnerability, at least in this part of their TV package if not in other areas. That’s definitely a change of pace from the league’s usual arrogance, and it’s yet another sign–a small one, but one added to a growing collection–that the NFL is not a Wehrmacht of American sports; that it is not an unbeatable juggernaut. It is yet another example that the colossus may be starting to crumble. It will be interesting to see what other, similar developments come around as we move forward. Stay tuned–but, please, protect your eyes as best you can.