Look, we’re all supposed to be social distancing and what not. You probably won’t be seeing a lot of other people for a short while, and sports are on hiatus until who knows when. Things, at least in the short term (and hopefully just for the short term), look a little bleak!
Let’s take this opportunity to reminisce on sport while we don’t have it. A few days ago, I asked the rest of the staff to send over games and uniforms that reminded them of better sporting times. The results are below. Got ones of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
As Mr. Grant is wont to do, he began with two intensely Chicago pieces: the red-billed Cubs cap and the red Blackhawks sweater.
Let’s talk about the history of this red-bill hat first: it first appeared as part of the Cubs’ alternate uniforms starting in 1994 and through 2006, disappeared for a year in 2007, and then returned in 2008. Typically, the cap is worn with the Cubs’ usual blue top and a set of gray pants. The red looks a little out of place, but a monochrome cap with a similarly-colored jersey is somewhat boring — all considered, the whole ensemble is really not at all bad look. And, at this point (given the 25+ years since its inception), this combinations even has a certain throwback aesthetic to it, which is all the rage these days.
As for the Blackhawks, they’ve been wearing red sweaters (because duh, it’s one of their main colors) for most of their club history, starting in 1955. I’m sure Jake remembers them most fondly for the Blackhawks’ wild postseason success from 2009-10 to 2014-15, in which they won three Stanley Cups in six seasons. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that these same Blackhawks were recently swept by your very own Nashville Predators (it’s the only local-ish top-flight hockey we’ve got, ok?).
Jake’s contributions also included the full-body racing swimsuits from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, one of the first times these suits appeared in major competition. Considering that there are numerous aerodynamic (hydrodynamic?) benefits to having the vast majority of your body covered by neoprene, these suits were banned in 2009, but not before a bunch of swimmers blew through world record times at the 08 Olympics and the 09 World Championships. Take a look at what we’re dealing with here:
Look, those suits — for all of their misgivings — will forever hold a place in American sporting lore; they helped Michael Phelps secure eight gold medals in the same Games, after all (not to mention, he almost did it again without said suits in 2012). MySwimPro calls this “The Greatest Swimming Performance of All Time”, and you know, I’m inclined to agree.
Let’s talk about another all-time performance: Bradley University, hailing from tiny Peoria, IL, has made the NCAA basketball tournament only nine times in its history, and its deepest run came in 2006, when the Braves dinked and dunked their way to the Sweet Sixteen. Take a look at their threads that season:
Very simple getup, but there are a few interesting things to note here. The tri-stripe down the side is the only major design element, but the shoulders feature a matching trim and the font used for the school name and numerals is very Comic Sans-y (but, to their credit, not as bad-looking as Comic Sans on a jersey would be). It looks very plain and the long shorts era of basketball was...not good, but I’m cool with these overall.
Drew pointed me towards the Steelers’ “bumblebee” alternate uniforms from a few years ago. Egad, these were an awful look. If you can get past the unsightly hoops design (which, to be fair, would not look bad on a soccer kit, but then again, this is a football jersey), the worst part has to be the numerals that looked patched onto a square of fabric, which was then sewn to the top of the jersey. As a Browns fan, Drew has get his kicks in somewhere against the Steelers, and where better place than the uni-verse?
Nishant went for the ultra-throwback with Wheeler High’s yellow basketball uniforms in 2008. Much like the Bradley jerseys above, these are very simple with the only custom elements being the side striping and the name and numeral font (the latter of which gives me very Atlanta Thrashers vibes). These are nice, but very clearly for a high school — not much design complexity at all.
Next up, Nishant recommended the Ladainian Tomlinson-era San Diego Chargers powder blue throwback jerseys, which — I gotta say — still hold up after all these years. People loved these uniforms so much that the Chargers made sure they stayed in the rotation when they updated their uniforms in 2007 and when the league switched over to Nike in 2012, and the modern versions were even upgraded to the Chargers’ primary jersey in 2019. These are still awesome, even after their Nike-ification.
Now, on to the “not-awesome but still warm-and-fuzzy” recommendations from Nishant, which center around our dearly-departed Atlanta Thrashers. Yes, those Thrashers, who, in 2011, had their owners elope with the Canadian city of Winnipeg, depriving Atlanta of an NHL franchise for the second time.
Look, I’ll be blunt: the Thrashers were children of the 90s, and they dressed like it until well into the new millennium. Just take a look at their selections for their final four seasons in operation:
That second one is bad — just straight-up unsightly. What makes it worse is that the original Thrashers jerseys were actually good:
Look at that border design: that wing pattern ties back to the team’s mascot and Georgia state bird, the thrasher. Instead of getting super “creative” with patterns across various jerseys, the Thrashers stayed simple, smartly opting to just swap colors between their home and away tops. To this day, I am still looking for that maroon and navy sweater to add to my collection because of its well-executed design.
Let’s keep with the throwback theme, shall we? The Memphis Grizzlies actually began life in Vancouver in 1995 as a sister Canadian team in the West to the East’s Toronto Raptors. Given that it was, you know, the 90s, the Grizzlies (along with the rest of the NBA, but we will get there) had some very...interesting takes on how to design logos and jerseys. Given the better part of 30 years to reminisce, we’ve come to appreciate and adore some of these, especially the Grizzlies’ original teal (now a part of Memphis’s rotation):
These were, and still are, awesome. Both of the Canadian teams went with incredibly unique color schemes when they were founded: the Grizzlies around teal (technically, the Charlotte Hornets also had this in their palette, but I choose to ignore that) and the Raptors around purple, and that’s part of why these jerseys (and the Raptors’ original ones, but again, more on those later) have been an indelible part of 90s NBA culture. The best part for me is the “native Canadian Pacific Northwest pattern” on the trim, which really ties into the history and culture of Vancouver. However, I could have done — and arguably still can do — without the massive grizzly bear logo on the thigh. The modern rendition seems to have a slightly smaller one, but making the logo the size of a soccer kit’s jock-tag and putting it right on the corner of the front of the shorts would look nicer. But hey, it was the 90s: everything had to be big and brash.
Reviewing the Grizzlies’ throwbacks bring us to Reed’s contribution, which is where we go full-90s NBA. No analysis to be found here — just revel in the intensely-90s aura of these uniforms. For added fun, here’s a 99% Invisible piece on the history of these now-adored jerseys.
Only big chest logos to be found here — no subtlety needed.