When we step back to think about what it is that draws us, as fans, to sport, I think we need to dig a little. It’s about being a part of something bigger than you are. It’s about belonging to a community built of shared experiences. Bonds created through common strong emotions bring us together in a special way. If you think about it, the neighborhood you live in, the neighbors you live next to, that’s random. What connection, what true emotional bonds, do you share with your conventional community-through-proximity members? But the bond among sports fans of a common team is deep and immediate and strong. The tribalism innate to human nature finds an outlet in sport.
You may think the introduction of sociology concepts into fandom a silly notion.
But consider the Miami Heat fan living in Ohio.
Such fans are poorer for having a less substantial bond to their team, based only on a particular player or a current wave of success. The fabric joining their tribe is thinner. There’s little joy in triumph because there’s little investment and it’s shared with comparably uninvested peers.
These fans should read more Shakespeare or at least watch the Henry V St. Crispin’s Day speech.
There’s no House of Plantagenet on a battlefield vs. King Louis VII. No Normandy vs. Anjou. No one is tuning their longbows today; there is no Agincourt worth fighting for on earth today. But there is Ohio State vs. Michigan. There is a place where we can pull together as a tribe and to unite through support of a team who represents us.
Once more unto the breach, dear Browns fans, once more!
Which is a long preamble to today’s subject.
The subject is uniforms. The greater subject is how simple uniforms emphasize what is pure in sport. How marketing overload dilutes the purity of fandom and at the same time attempts cynically to exploit those fans through the planned obsolescence of new uni intros. How focus on the form of unis distracts from the substance of sport.
But that’s a lot to tackle today, so let’s just explore some disturbing trends in uniforms today, shall we?
Some people like the lime green + Zubaz design of Notre Dame’s basketball unis.
I saw something odd on my twitter timeline Thursday night. Someone in my timeline tweeted that Notre Dame’s uniforms were great. I think he might have even done the stale “Best. Uniform. Ever.” twitter affectation. I was tempted to reply with the equally overdone meme: “Best. Uniform. Ever. — said by no one, ever.”
Can you imagine a world without Nike and Adidas logos on uniforms?
There once was a time when Notre Dame’s brand was Notre Dame. The uniform represented team-oriented fair play, sportsmanship, academic achievement. It was source of pride for Irishes and Catholics everywhere. Was that not enough? Was it that important to ‘broaden the demographic?’ Doesn’t the grasping for new fans and added merchandising revenue diminish the bond among Domers who have held fast Notre Dame ideals for decades? In fact, alienate them? What’s more important: alumni pride or lime green sock licensing revenue stream from teenagers who don’t get it?
I hear some of you now: the 50 year old ND alumnus doesn’t buy team gear. What matters is securing Southie lest the Celtics or BC make inroads there. To you, I remind you: this is your Zubaz market –>
John Wooden: 664-162, .804
Can we agree that John Wooden is the best coach of anything ever? No ‘top five.’ The best.
He learned his hoops in the heart of ‘Hoosiers,’ three times in the high school state finals, three times Indiana all-state. Went on to Purdue, three times all-american; Purdue won the 1932 National Championship.
Then he started coaching. High school, then Indiana State, then UCLA in 1948 (although his preference was to coach Minnesota and only bad weather prevented his receiving their offer). Ten national championships ensued.
What’s more, the Pyramid of Success ensued. Which came first? If it’s not obvious, it should be: the principles employed by Wooden as captured in the Pyramid came first; winning came second. Championships were incidental. His teams were already winners for having been with Wooden for four years.
How did he do it? That is a whole other post. But one principle of Wooden’s teams centered on suborning individual wants for the betterment of ‘team.’ There’s the famous story his refusing to allow Bill Walton to play with the beard:
… Walton, who defiantly showed up to Picture Day on the eve of the season’s first practice with a full beard, which Wooden forbade his players to have. Walton told Wooden that he didn’t have the right to tell him how to wear his hair. Wooden agreed that he didn’t have the right to tell him how to wear his hair, but he did, however, have the right to decide who would play on the team. “We’ll miss you,” he told Walton, who shaved his beard before practice the next day.
Good lord. Could you even imagine Pat Shurmur telling Trent Richardson to cut his dreads?
As we noted above, UCLA pissed on Wooden’s grave and offended all their alumni with the absurd Zubaz unis. This seems to working itself out in an unsurprising way: first round blow-out loss to 11 seed Minnesota in the NCAA tourney; coach to be fired imminently.
But as pertains to today’s subject and uniforms, let’s talk socks. Every year, Wooden kicked off his first practice with a lesson on how to tie your shoes:
“Gentleman, today we’re going to figure out how to put our shoes and socks on.” Some players would blanch. Wooden would calmly explain that most players are benched for blisters, and the easiest way to avoid them is to pay attention to the basics. He would meticulously show them how to roll up their socks and tighten their laces. “I wanted it done consciously, not quickly or casually,” he said. “Otherwise we would not be doing everything possible to prepare in the best way.”
I bring up the shoelace and socks anecdote because …
Keith Dambrot: step your game up.
The Keith Dambrot’s story of falling from grace, then finding redemption, is a good one.
But what the fuck is going on with Akron’s inability to have one shoe style and one sock style as part of their uniform?
Maybe because of his incident at CMU Dambrot avoids anything could cause conflict. Maybe it’s a cynical maneuver to help in recruiting. Whatever the reason: Dambrot’s laissez-faire attitude toward shoes and socks is an embarrassment and a failure.
What in the fuckity-fuck is going on in these pictures? Why do all these players need their own style of shoe? Why the fuck does Treadwell have orange socks on?
Apparently, because this:
Not only do you need to rock fresh sneakers but you have to compliment them with fresh socks. With the Nike Elite Socks becoming a highly demanded fashion piece, Nike Sportswear at 21 Mercer will offer Nike Elite Basketball sock customization with no charge from purchase $14. Check out some samples below, and start on our own custom pair now.
That’s how Dambrot lets his team express ‘individuality.’ That’s the cause for which ‘team’ is being suborned at Akron.
Seriously, why? What is gained? Are they expressing their individuality? Really? Getting in lockstep with Adidas marketing is ‘being individualistic?’ Becoming pawn of Nike is worth putting oneself above ‘team?’ A mensch want tell these impressionable young men that buying the exact gear that is marketed to them is, in fact, the opposite of individuality. A rabbi would teach them that they’re not defined by what they wear.
Maybe it’s easier to recruit in this way. Go into some poor kid’s living room and tell him he won’t have to wear white socks and in fact, you don’t care what kind of socks he wears. The team rules on uniforms are guidelines that can be followed on an optional lesson.
Who benefits from that message?
This is not teaching. This is not coaching. This is caving. These are not life-lessons that will help ‘his kids’ once their athletic careers are over (ie, in two years).
This is ‘John Calipari, the UMass years.’
Fuck you Keith Dambrot. You’re sleazing your way through this gig; you’re positioning for a gig at Syracuse. But you’re not teaching.
Aim higher. Any coach can race to the bottom with cute new unis and Nike branded socks.
But the true and great coach dares to teach Henry V and Wooden’s Pyramid.
It wasn’t that long ago that Dan Gilbert got a ration of shit for ‘enabling’ LeBron and his entourage. Well? There is a point there in hindsight. How about we hold a coach accountable for enabling tendencies in foresight?
The view from here is that the coach tries to raise up his charges is not a dinosaur but, today, a pioneer.