Wearing the Colors

August 28, 2005

Rally sons of Notre Dame,
Sing her glory, and sound her fame
Raise her Gold and Blue

And pink and green and red?

Apart from the fact that it would no longer rhyme with "and cheer with voices true" on the next line, it's a ridiculous addition to one of the most famous college fight songs in history. Check out some of the other fight songs out there — I guarantee that within the first three lines most of them reference the team colors. Ever see Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide, as anything but a sea of red?

One of the strongest and most emotional links fans can have with their favorite teams is in the proud display of team logo and colors. So what's the deal with professional sports franchises and their governing bodies? Why can I go buy a pink, red or yellow New York Yankees jersey? Why can I buy a green Red Sox hat?

Well, the answer is obviously merchandising $$. Yes, sports is a big business, and an entertainment business at that. But seriously — as a designer, brander and fan, is this really necessary? A sports franchise is a brand, complete with an identity system including a logo, colors and (less rigorously) typefaces. To make a corporate branding parallel, it's on par with IBM's bars and signature blue. And in this era of free-agency in professional sports, often the ONLY consistent thing to root for is the uniform, the logo and colors — the players seem to change by the month.

Some frivolous fans will buy these multi-color items if they're out there, sure — but if the only option available was the real thing, I bet they'd buy that. The marketing arm of Major League Baseball (one of the worst offenders, I believe) obviously disagrees with me, as theyíre the ones, as far as I can tell, that push the manufacture and sale of these so-called "fashion" items. But they push other things, too, that don't always fly. Fans got up in arms about Spider Man movie promos on the bases; funny what things are considered sacred, and what things aren't.

Of the professional baseball teams, the St. Louis Cardinals seem to keep this in check more than most. I recently went to a game at Busch Stadium (its last season, by the way). I hit the upper deck to get a panoramic view for a photograph. The entire stadium radiated Cardinal red. Ever hear that St. Louis fans are some of the best in baseball? Ever hear the players talk about how much they love to play there? Ever try to get a ticket better than standing room only? Good luck. The Cards get it, as do their fans. How great would it be if the rest of the sports world got it too.

I suppose I'm just a sappy idealist. But c'mon. Lose the pink hats.

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