Like many people I was hoping that the mistakenly posted MDen "Big Chill" Jerseys were not, in fact, what Michigan would wear September 10, 2011 when they christened Michigan Stadium's first ever night game. On Friday night we found out that they were, in fact, what Michigan would wear when they christened Michigan Stadium's first ever night game. Oh well. Below is a photo of the uniforms as modeled by Ryan Van Bergen and Denard Robinson. There is a full photo gallery over at the Detroit News. Also at MGo.
Photo Courtesy of John T. Greilick / The Detroit News
Upon a second viewing, they're not that bad. They're not something I'd ever buy or wear, but they're not that bad. The big ass block M is actually pretty cool. My only issue is the piping on the shoulders. But even that's not really that bad because it's obscured by their shoulder pads. On the plus side the numbers on the helmet and the gray face masks are pretty cool. Honestly, I kinda like it, if just for one game.
While the uniforms aren't my favorite, they're no where near as bad as people were predicting. In comparison to some of the "retro" or "throwback" jerseys the NFL has been pushing on its teams, this is nothing. It's also nothing when compared to the NyQuil green jerseys with metal WINGZ that Oregon's been forced to wear as part of its soul for money deal with Nike. This is a, hopefully, one time gimmick that will go away after the game on September 10th.
Getting away from the uniforms for a second, why was everyone freaking out about this? I understand the history of our uniforms and the importance of tradition, but it's not like they were setting the stadium on fire so they could put up a dome. The helmets are legit throwbacks. The jerseys aren't. The pants are. It's not like Fritz Crisler wasn't the first person to take advantage of any marketing gimmick he could lay his hands on, because he was. Frankly, this type of marketing is a throwback to the golden age of Michigan athletics, whether people want to admit it or not. I'm mean we had a live, caged Wolverine named "Biff" on the sidelines. As awesome as that was, it was a gimmick too.
Traditions evolve, things change. Michigan never had luxury boxes or night games until recently. We didn't have hockey games inside Michigan Stadium until this year. We didn't have Lacrosse. There are things that we hold sacred for strange reasons, but they are sacred and we will defend those things to the death. Perhaps Michigan's uniforms are one of them. I don't know. But Michigan started down the road to modern college athletics the second it signed on for luxury boxes, brand new practice facilities, mega scoreboards, and stadium lights. And everyone seemed cool with that.
Here's the rub, you can't pick and choose the things that are sacred to you and not to others, because there is no true consensus. The only thing that is sacred above all, are the helmets. And God help the man or woman who messes with those. But past that.... who knows? At some point Yost will have to be replaced. At some point Michigan Stadium will have to be repaired or improved again. Coaches and sponsors will come a go. All the things that make college athletics possible will converge to change tradition and to create new ones.
As much as we want to live in the supposed hey-day of college football, when it was pure and clean, that wonderful yesterday never existed. It's a figment of our imagination. Teams paid players under the table. Whole races were excluded from playing on the field or studying in the classroom. Large scale academic cheating happened all the time. The University of Chicago was the national college football power. Things change.
And in the grand scheme of things, these jerseys, whether you like them or not, are an insignificant blip in Michigan's grand tradition of inovation and promotion.