Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Jersey Boys

In a quiet off-season for the 2015 Georgetown Hoyas, the team got its most coverage by, of all things, a jersey change.

But that was only half the story.

Such changes seem to rotate every two years on the Hilltop, nothing like the run of Oregon's uniforms du jour or even the regular rotation of basketball jerseys seen at the University. One hoop jersey appeared for the regular season finale, saw action in five games, and already seems to be gone for good. You can do that with 15 jerseys, not 100.

I guess the fan base can be thankful that Nike didn't put something really silly out there, but the look of the 2015 Hoyas isn't anything to write home about. In fact, it looks a lot like the style of the Michael Ononibaku era, circa 2005:

Were they playing to this era? Of course not. Nike doesn't invest in Georgetown's jerseys as they do for basketball, so it's more likely they offered three of four generic designs and the staff decided on a simple one. And it's simple--no "wow" factor, unless you count the words "Hoya Saxa" along the sides of the pants. It certainly could have been worse.

As for an alternate helmet, well, what were they thinking?

Georgetown has worn gray or silver-shelled helmets for 50 seasons, and it served them well. Who thought of picking up the Georgia Southern helmets instead?

The style of numbers only and color (a near-black, at least from the photos) bear no particular ties to Georgetown. A post on a Lafayette message board suggested it was a nod to its pre-1950 heritage (when Georgetown wore blue helmets), but that's a stretch even to this amateur historian. I'm not convinced alternate helmets are necessary, but a simple switch to a gray G on a blue helmet would have been even more impactful.

Uniform styles don't change on great programs: Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, USC. Georgetown had a great look in the Sgarlata-as-player era and it would look great today:

But that's not Nike talking.

So what's that on top of the helmet?

If it's Nike, that means a generous dollop of kente cloth design, something I've complained about for nearly 20 years. I still get questions as to what my problem with it is, and it gets a little complicated. Here, once and (maybe) for all, is my argument:
Kente cloth is a deeply held cultural symbol of the Ghanian people, specifically the Ashanti tribe. It was never made as a marketing tool; yet, by Nike's generous use of it on Georgetown basketball  jerseys from 1994-97 (playing off Georgetown's popularity in the black community) it cheapened what kente is all about.

Would Nike have been so cavalier to use the stripes of the Hebrew tallit to sell warm-up jackets? How about a jersey that looks like a dalmatic? How about references to Allah on a design  to sell Nike shoes? (Well, they actually did that one ...)

Kente cloth has no institutional ties to Georgetown University whatsoever and to suggest that it does is disingenuous. It's a Nike branding instrument, nothing more, which is sad. The point is that cultural artifacts are not suited to selling merchandise, and as a global university, Georgetown should have known better.  Yes, the relationship Georgetown basketball has with Nike may override such thinking, but how does it tie to football? It doesn't. 

Finally, I said that the new jersey design was only half the story. Where are the white (road) jerseys with the new design?

As of late August, they haven't been seen in a single photograph, tweet, or Facebook post. It's likely that Georgetown didn't get a pair of road unis from Nike, and will likely be using the 2013-14 style which bears no resemblance to the new look:

This, of course happened two years ago, as the white jerseys were new and the blue jerseys were two years older, as if GU can't get a pair of jerseys anymore. And unless you're the Dallas Cowboys, home and away jerseys should be the same style.

Clothes maketh the man, but not in football. It's what's inside that counts, even with that Georgia Southern helmet.

(And for a further look into jerseys, check the Georgetown Football History Project.)