As I settle in for another afternoon of Super Regional fun, a topic of ultimate, world-changing importance is on my mind: uniforms.
Baseball is uniquely suited - as it were - for such a discussion, as teams have home, away and alternate jerseys, and, on special occasions, will don throwback unis or armed forces tribute threads, using the shirts on their backs to make statements - good, bad, or ugly.
At its most basic, the baseball fashion debate boils down to the pull-over jersey or the button-up version, sort of a casual third piece in the diamond version of a three-piece suit. I've always been a fan of the buttons. It looks cleaner, classier, more baseballish.
But that's just getting started, sort of like a randy suitor confronted with an ankle-length hemline. These days, teams - especially, if recent viewing is indicative of a trend, college teams in the postseason - are pushing the fashion envelope ever further - or further backward - with varying results.
The most glaring, in many ways, example is the Super Regional uni sported by Louisville. The jersey's wide horizontal stripes, in reds fading from cranberry to carnation, are clearly some sort of homage to the Houston Astros of the 1970s - though why such homage would be paid is less clear. The red stripe running the length of the pant leg puts one in mind of of 70s prom getup. You can just see a young man stepping out of his souped-up TransAm, corsage shaking in his hand, Supertramp accompanying him up the walk.
Personally, I don't mind them so much, maybe because by the time I got to see them after reading tweets and status updates heralding them as harbingers of doom, nothing would have been that bad. At least they're colorful. The uniform bucks the mystifying Graying of College Sports trend, which began (as most questionable athletic fashion does) at Oregon and spread like a virus in need of some Tide throughout the country. Seeing teams sprint onto the field in gray pants or, in some cases, gray pants and jerseys (tone-on-tone is a no-no) makes me a little squirmy. It's like the team manager has gone on strike and no one's done the wash for a month.
Or, in the case of Florida State's head-to-toe yellowish bronze, like an elephant on the 15th floor sneezed.
The teams that do opt for color seem to prefer ones that have nothing to do with their school hues, i.e. the baby-blue T-shirts peeking from beneath Oklahoma's jerseys in regional play or the navy blue sleeves of the dot-matrix disaster of North Carolina in yesterday's Super Regional loss to my South Carolina Gamecocks. Said Gamecocks also sport a gray-and-black number, oddly reminiscent of the Yankees, that could use a shot and a handful of Prozac. (We also feature a more classic garnet pinstripe, which also conjures up the Bronx Bombers, but in as good a way as possible).
The thing that modern-day unis lack, though, and must adapt if they're going to truly commit to fugly, is the waistband. From the Astros' Nerf football-orange to the Brewers' day-glow yellow (on a cornflower blue background) to the A's yellow-and-green stripe, to boggle the mind and cross the eyes, you gotta have a waistband. (This flies in the face of conventional fashion wisdom, which holds that defining a waist is a good idea). Some teams, like N.C. State's throwback to the 70s White Sox, give us a lounge-lizard-esque belt, but no contrasting color bisecting the midsection like a Velcroed ferret.
Internet research - a.k.a. googling - has informed me that adias is to blame for this - why let Nike single-handedly lead college uniform fashion off a badly dressed cliff? But ugly unis are nothing new - especially on the MLB level, as noted above. From the disturbing proliferation of teal preferred by the then-Florida Marlins to the head-scratching green that suddenly became a part of the Boston Red Sox unis to the San Diego Padres proving, once and for all, that yellow and brown in no way go together, America's past time has a rich tradition of gag-reflex-testing fashion. None so glorious, perhaps, as the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, whose yellow-and-black bumblebee numbers with the tugboat operator hats call to mind Sister Sledge and "We Are Family" - albeit a family with an unfortunate genetic predisposition to colorblindness.
And one musn't forget the 1976 White Sox, who, in a nod to the beer-guzzling Saturday softball leaguers they would become, actually wore shorts - that's right, shorts - topped by hideous wide-collared black-and-white shirts. Actually, one must try very hard to forget them, though some things can't be unseen.
I hope this perspective makes it a little easier to watch the Cardinals in the CWS, where they're headed for just the second time in school history and the first since 2007. The baseball duds are, in my humble, personal opinion, far less teeth-grinding than Louisville's basketball threads, which embraced this past season's unfortunate camo insanity - as if, after a hard-fought game on the hardcourt, players were going to shimmy up the nearest deer stand and hone their shooting skills by taking aim at Bambi.
And at any rate, the Cards don't care. Ugly unis and all, Louisville is the first school in history to make the CWS and the Final Four and play in a BCS bowl game in the same season. So stick that in your stilettos and walk it down a runway.