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Column

Special-event jerseys: The new gold bling

Imagine if you were about to go in for major surgery. After you’re wheeled into an operating room, a public address announcer’s voice interrupts.

“Your attention, please ... the morning’s surgeons, nurses here today and techs are wearing special-event scrubs, which will be auctioned off after this surgery, with the proceeds going to benefit the education fund of collegiate and professional athletes who should have studied more and really earned their degrees.”

When the San Francisco 49ers took to the field for their inglorious season-opening Sept. 14 win over Minnesota, they were wearing one of the most hideous, hard-to-view red and black ensembles I’ve seen in professional sports in many years.

However, the very concept of special-event jerseys is irritating. It’s the new gold and diamonds of the NFL and other major pro and college leagues; wear an ugly, era-inconsistent jersey that doesn’t reflect the team’s color scheme, and then brag about auctioning or donating the rags for a charity the program should have been quietly supporting in the first place.

Even the phrase “We’re doing if for the troops” is starting to wear thin. While raising interest and awareness of the needs of our military or about poverty or grave illnesses might be an occasional by-product, the real purpose of these events is to maintain a wholesome team image and continue to sell tickets and merchandise.

There was a phase, a few years ago, when NFL teams wore retro jerseys so often, the rare occasions when the teams wore their regular modern-day uniforms seemed like the “special event” days. Even more sadly, players would showboat or behave in ways we’d have never seen or heard about in decades past, so the jersey was their only tie to the past.

It’s one of the many things that turned me away from the league, but college football and other sports have made a mockery of special uniforms as well. It’s sad to watch — not simply because it’s visually unappealing, but also because it’s like waving gold chains around.

High school teams, and, I suspect, many small colleges, don’t have the budget to buy new uniforms each year, much less a special outfit for one or a few competitions. The “bling” of special-event uniforms is kind of like shouting about the financial ability to put on a Halloween costume and then get rid of it the next day — at the expense of the ticket buyer.

Picture Michael Jackson and his red and black jacket he wore in the “Thriller” video. It’s an iconic look. Imagine if Jackson would have toured in 1983 with the jacket as a part of each show, with fans buying tickets just to see him in the jacket.

Then, suddenly, just before coming to Des Moines, the tour’s marketing team announces Jackson will be wearing a “special event” jacket at his Iowa concert, to be auctioned off later with the proceeds going to a charity that helps adult men who can’t dance well.

What if you were one of those ticket buyers? You might sympathize with the cause, but you still want to see the jacket. Fans deserve to see their stars appearing in the ways that earned them admiration in the first place.

As for the San Francisco 49ers, I’d like to say the team played well, as they did win by 17 points. I’d like to single out some of the lesser-known players for their contributions, but, hey, it was awfully tough to see their numbers on their red-on-black color scheme.

For all I know, that could have been Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon out there catching passes, with Ray Wershing kicking the extra points. Maybe this year’s season opener really was played in 1983 — do I hear “Thriller” playing in the background?

Contact Jason W. Brooks at
641-792-3121 ext. 6532
or jbrooks@newtondailynews.com

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