Sack Cloths

Uni Watch has been so busy obsessing over baseball (and let's face it, there's been a lot to obsess over, what with the Harlem Little Leaguers' flat hat, Larry Bowa's smock—and has anyone else noticed that Met third-string backstop Jason Phillips wears his catcher's helmet with the brim facing forward?) that the NFL season has snuck in through the back door. By now you've seen the league's new uniforms, which range from the good (the Texans and the Redskins' 70th-anniversary throwback home unis) to the very bad (the Seahawks) to the mixed bag (the Bills, whose unsightly new home duds are offset by their sharp new road outfits). But here are some subtler changes that you might have missed:

• The little NFL logo patches at the base of players' jersey collars—which first appeared in 1991 and have since spread to left pant thighs and helmets, as well as to gear like wristbands, gloves, and even the towels that quarterbacks tuck into their waistbands—have been updated. The new patches, which are slightly larger and roughly triangular, feature the NFL logo and, above it, the word "EQUIPMENT." Uni Watch can only imagine how many meetings, memos, conference calls, prototypes, and forms filled out in triplicate were required for the NFL brain trust to come up with such an earthshaking brand revision.

• The league's hot new color is very dark blue, which is now the main hue for the Bills and Seahawks and is also the dominant color for the Texans. As trends go, this one isn't particularly dynamic, but at least it's an improvement over the teal and purple mania of recent years.

• The Seahawks, in addition to their numerous ill-advised jersey, pant, and color-scheme changes, have tinkered a bit with their avian helmet character, giving him a slightly meaner, furrowed-brow look that effectively transforms him from a stately symbol to a silly cartoon.

• Slowly but surely—OK, very slowly—black shoes are gaining ground on the white-shod majority. This year's black-footwear converts are the Seahawks and Jets, who join the Buccaneers, Bears, and Jaguars. Black power, baby!

• The NFL, surprisingly, has resisted the sports world's alternate-jersey craze—until now. Six teams, most not yet announced, will wear alterna-designs at least once after Week Nine. The new designs will be based either on the team's existing color palette (the Browns, for example, will wear orange jerseys, matching their helmets) or on a retro theme (the Chargers will revive their old powder-blue jerseys). And in another retro move, several teams, none yet announced, will wear throwback designs on Thanksgiving weekend.

Unlike Major League Baseball, which toned down its post-9-11 patriotism displays this season, the NFL is once again putting American flag stickers on players' helmets. Uni Watch happily notes that the word "EQUIPMENT" does not appear above the flag—maybe they're saving that for next season.

 
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