We interrupt Rivalry Week to wax poetic about the alternate uniforms Ohio State will wear at Michigan on Saturday. Here goes: They suck.
OK, that’s not entirely true. The all-white get-up is not inherently ugly, not like some of the garish fashion concoctions that Nike has come up with for the Buckeyes to wear over the past decade. It’s more that, for a lot of reasons, the vanilla ice cream look does not belong in The Game.
Ohio State vs. Michigan is different. Urban Meyer says so. Captain Khaki Pants says so. Players on both sides say so. Fans know so. And the beauty of The Game being different is that it is always the same. Or should be.
There is comfort in knowing exactly what you are getting each Saturday during Thanksgiving week. (On another personal note, Rivalry Week has suffered since moving closer to the holiday, but that’s a gripe for another time.) And what you should be getting is sunlight — what little there is of it — glistening off silver helmets (not pewter, white, black or even candy-apple red).
I enjoy tradition, so excuse me if I’m not big on athletic-department money grabs, co-sponsored by Nike. Pardon me for showing up in Ann Arbor wanting to see white jerseys, gray pants and no camouflage. I respect the military. My old man’s unit was the first into Hiroshima after the bomb. Salute. But I don’t want to confuse the Buckeyes for Green Berets.
Yes, we’ve covered this before, beginning in 2009 when Jim Tressel changed things up by introducing black numbers on white helmets as a tribute to the 1954 national champions. It was the first of four significant alternate looks — and six overall — that have appeared in the rivalry. So why write about it now? Because I’m fed up. And my hunch is that the majority of you are, too. A sample of fan complaints:
Buckeyes fan Bill: “Wear your colors.” Ohio State preacher Paul: “The Game is the Cadillac of all college games. You don’t put bumper stickers on a Cadillac.” And Scarlet and Gray-bleeding Dave: “Alternates are fine for any other game. Not for TTUN.”
Critics of Ohio State wearing alternate uniforms against Michigan fall into two overlapping camps: traditionalists and anti-greed protesters.
Those in the first group generally have little problem with the Buckeyes wearing alternate uniforms — just not too alternate — as long as OSU-UM is off limits.
The second group dislikes Ohio State selling off its tradition for profit. They reason, and I agree, that the entire charade mostly is about the cash that Nike and the school can make off apparel sales.
I have written about the money grab before, and to be fair, Ohio State does not get rich via alternate-uniform sales. But it does get richer. And the university is always looking to pad its pockets.
But what really bothers me is when the administration hides behind players in defending the decision to disrespect The Game. Players love wearing different uniform combinations. And it helps in recruiting.
Come on, man. Sure, most players probably like the alternate unis, but that’s like fourth on the list of why OSU does this, right behind dollars, dimes and pennies. And, anyway, catering to players should not be the main reason to disrupt tradition. Fans’ opinions matter. The Buckeyes and their Nation is a symbiotic relationship. One is worthless without the other.
I have heard from readers who think it is time to punt on this issue because the ship has sailed. Maybe, but to borrow from another local movement … #SaveTheScarletAndGray.