At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
Tomorrow at 8 PM Adidas and Michigan and Notre Dame will have an under-the-lights unveiling of the uniforms both will wear when the first night game in Michigan Stadium history goes down. That's odd: marketing 101 is "when you have bad news, release it on Friday at 5 PM." Michigan is treating their great unveiling like they're firing their coach for massive NCAA violations.
On the other hand, maybe it's not so odd. Yesterday the M-Den momentarily posted what looked like the official thing:
If that's what you're deploying, 8 PM isn't late enough. Broadcast the announcement from the Chinese factory where they'll be made at 4 AM Eastern.
The M-Den twitter feed later posted a three-part item expressing regret for the "mistake" that obviously failed to address whether or not those were the real McCoy. They likely are. Tom pointed out the close-up teaser image has the exact same M the mistakenly posted jersey does. If they're different, they're not much different.
Tomorrow we'll enter the ranks of schools that dress up like clowns for a little bit of money from a shoe company. Notre Dame will as well. I'll make some sarcastic comments, privately think anyone I see wearing one of the jerseys is a total sellout, and move on. This September we'll watch Clownz Faceoff 2011 and life will go on. It's not really a big deal. Everyone does it, and traditionalists sigh, and recruits say they're excited.
So why does this make me want to buy a shotgun, rocking chair, and lifetime supply of lawn fertilizer?
Well, there was a way to do this that would not give people hives. It did not require the assistance of a crack team of uniform designers, and it didn't have stripes conjured from one of their fever-dreams.
The numbers on the helmets (and the different wing pattern on them), block Ms on the socks and shoulders, and overall retro stylings of the mid-60s (like gray face-masks) would have provided a distinctive, historically accurate look. (Doctor Saturday pointed out that it would have been a look from an era when Michigan and Notre Dame were in one of their periodic snits, but whatever.)
It wouldn't have been much different. It would have been cool, though:
It would have been a genuine callback to another era of Michigan football. They could have brought out some former players, celebrated a Rose Bowl win, whatever. If they're going to do that in the Franken-uniforms they'll have to bring out a nighmarish assemblage of Horace Prettyman's arms and shoulders stapled to Bill Yearby's torso and head; the lower body will be a cyborg entity from 2211 that shoots postgame celebration laserz. The legs will stop at the knees because bony undead horror robots of 2211 come hovering or they don't come at all.
This bothers me because it makes it obvious that honoring the program's past doesn't crack the top several reasons they'll put the stripes on this fall, falling behind at least "money," "making Adidas happy," and "allowing Dave Brandon to 'create the future'." My money teat is easy to milk, but not that easy. I won't put on a Big Chill shirt with an Arby's logo on it and I'm not buying whatever that is above.
This makes me an old man but it also strikes me how stupid the corporate culture Dave Brandon comes from is. At a consumer-facing, mid-sized, publicly-traded corporation it's all about three months from now when you report your numbers and the stock price goes up or down and you're a hero or an idiot. Once companies go public they slowly lose the distinctive characteristics that made them successful in the first place and become a collection of generic suits*. The suits get paid exorbitant amounts of money to trade long-term goodwill for numbers that will allow another set of suits to increase the exorbitant amount of money they are getting paid.
The best example of how this doesn't have to happen is privately-owned Chik-Fil-A, which is still closed every Sunday for religious reasons and is so loved by Southerners that when the corporation bought the naming rights to the Peach Bowl it was generally regarded as an improvement. These are correlated factors.
These days a lot of tech companies are remaining private longer than they would have in the past—Facebook is the best example—in order to avoid the relentless make-your-numbers effect of being a public company. It seems like Michigan is announcing its IPO Friday night.
*[Once you get to the behemoth side of the scale you can maintain identity via monopoly: Google and Apple are distinctive entities that appear to have ethoses (ethii?) other than making money hand over fist; they can probably have these because they are making money hand over fist.]
(HT on the 60s uniform picks to "cutter," denizen of Michigan messageboards everywhere.)
Is there anything this fanbase won't complain about? Angelique Chengelis reported yesterday that the players liked the design, shouldn't that be important to us? Also, recruits are always eating up how Oregon has so many uniforms-those are f***** ugly-so who cares just accept it.
Don't tell me what to accept. Its great that the players like them. However, they aren't shelling out hundreds of dollars every year on tickets and clothing. A sh-tty design is a sh-tty design, regardless of how much the fan base complaints or not. Its a sh-tty design and is going to look stupid. Its a shame and its all corporate mentality driven, just like Brian points out. Its a sell-out and its sad.
Your right they aren't shelling out hundreds of dollars on tickets, they are dedicating hundreds of hours of their lives instead...hmmm..And its BS that we say the design is corporate mentality based-if the design was solely created to make money they would have designed the most radical yet LOVED design so every single fan had to own it.
Are they requiring you to buy a jersey? Are you somehow not getting a hundred dollars worth of entertainment when you buy a ticket because of the jerseys they wear? If its ugly, the accounting will show, but I don't see why people feel like they are losing financially with these new jerseys.
That's cool and all, but how do you explain Penn State still remaining successful with uniforms that haven't changed since about 1902 and a coach who was around to implement them? In fact, PSU's uniforms got even plainer for this season with the removal of the trim.
The claim that we need to do stuff like this to "attract recruits" and such, to enter into the Oregon arms race, is just silly. We're Michigan. We don't have Phil Knight in a box at Autzen listening to the playcalls on a headset, diagramming plays for his guests on a dry erase board. Plenty of schools do just fine without crazy WR gloves and space-age everything.
Turns out the trim was only introduced because there were questions of whether they could get the trim in the exact same color as the rest of the jersey, as the trim was a different fabric and necessary for the way in which the jerseys were designed. They've since found they can do without the trim with advancements in fabric and design, so when given the option, PSU decided to ditch the trim.
People aren't pissed about the uniform change simply because the current look is the way we've always done things (or because they just don't like staying up late). Playing at night is about making your product (to use Brandon-speak) available to a wider audience (you're just going to reach more viewers in primetime). It is the same reason we played during the day for decades (most people can't see in the dark).
Tinkering with some of the best uniforms in college football (Notre Dame is equally ridiculous for doing this) is about changing the product itself, a product loaded with meaning/identity/history for countless people. If Zingermann's opens a new location, that is a positive (or at least not a negative to anyone who isn't just bitching for the sake of bitching about the good old days). If they start selling McDonald's-quality burgers instead of their current fare, then people are (justifiably) going to be upset about it. The fact that these fashion abortions would make a dirty Big Mac look delicious only exacerbates the problem.
If they wear these uniforms and everyone here gets paid a million dollars? Of course we'd take it. But there's no correlation in either case. Are you trying to say we're a bunch of prostitutes and are simply haggling over price?
ask the people at the Ipad factory where the spate of suicides
occurred about whatever virtue Apple retains by remaining private (to work there you now have to sign a promise you won't commit suicide); ask the kids picking up cancer as they pick through piles of discarded computer parts in various parts of Africa and India; ask those of us who suffered through two bouts of rampant motherboard failure with early maclappies (why we're not mcslappies); or--hell--ask Linus Torvalds, who says that when he met Steve Jobs the guy had no interest whatever in talking computing, programming, or innovation, just sales figures (Torvalds' conclusion--he's a flapping idiot).
This is about as cranky--and self-contradictory--as Brian gets. (Why were you happy when a corporate CEO was installed in the first place? That was the time to piss and moan, not when--predictably--he does what CEOs do.)
The Adidas design is much nicer than the utterly generic unis in the photos. Denard is gonna make it shine.
I will buy Brian on a lot of fronts but as fashion maven--not.
suicide rates are actually below the general population rates as noted here. When you have more employees than the population of Detroit, and you even provide the towns for the employees to live in, then you're likely to have all stories and problems that population can generate. I believe this is the company that you're trying to talk about with the "will not off oneself pledge" and yes, they are the contract manufacturer for some of Apple's most popular products, but they are not AAPL. Foxconn is secretive, but it is not a private company, traded on the Hong Kong and Taiwan exchanges. Not trying to let them off for some of their business practices and how they treat employees, but they really don't fit the example here.
Michigan is supposed to be different, but all too often we are the same. Like we need money to fuel good things, including expanding our number of varsity sports to include lacrosse. New revenue streams, like selling special jerseys, are helpful to that end. That means is not eggregious in and of itself. However, in this particular case, the execution is hideous.
We will forever wish to have celebrated this event in our traditional uniforms, with perhaps a tasteful and discrete commemorative patch, a la the 100th game vs tsio. That would have been cool. People would buy those and wear them proudly. If they sold jerseys with 100th game patches now, people would buy them.
Why is this not a win-win? Why wouldn't his make the athletic dept., adidas, and the fans all happy?
Kids are welcome to run on my lawn, but not to take a dump on it!
Thanks for the shout out, Brian. I largely agree with everything you have to say about not only the throwback jerseys, but also about some of the less then enviable workings of corporations everywhere.
I think one of the problems here is that there's a difference between a throwback uniform and a throwback jersey. The uniform includes everything from head to toe and as Brian points out, there were some distinctive features on the mid-60s uniform that would have made it a throwback to the teams of that era.
The problem is that you can't readily sell that entire look unless there's a major market out there for white socks with block M's on them or mini-helmets with numbers on them. The main item that Michigan, Adidas and M-Den will sell will be the jerseys and they have to look distinctive enough for the common fan (or more specifically, the demographic that buys these things) to be interested in purchasing. Quite frankly, a simple blue jersey with number on the front and back and no name probably doesn't meet that objective. Maybe adding a block M on the sleeves would do it, but that's evidentally not the direction the Athletic Department is going at this time.
I think that's unfortunate because one of the major marketing points about Michigan is tradition coupled with innovation. We certainly see that in the stadium renovations, and for those responsible for it (including David Brandon), I say congratulations--well done. But these uniforms--which look like a composite of a late 19th century look coupled with a varsity football "M" sweater--misses on both counts. While I will withhold final judgement until we actually see the entire "look" unveiled tomorrow, right now I have to say that they don't look very appealing.
When properly done, throwback uniforms can be pretty neat, but there's always an urge to tamper with what's classically good. I thought it would present a pretty fun (and easily marketable) narrative for both Michigan and Notre Dame to play this first night game in Ann Arbor in replica uniforms from the 60s--certainly both team's helmets would be different looking (different wings and numbers for Michigan, shamrock for Notre Dame). It appears to me that U-M is going in a different direction with this.
One final thought. David Brandon did say words to the effect that the version of the uniform first provided in the Detroit Free Press was inaccurate. In actuality, they do have a lot more in common than Brandon might have led us to think--and that's unfortunate on his part. By and large, I've agreed with most of the things he's done during his tenure and I applaude him for the way he handled the NCAA investigation into Michigan's football program (if you want to see how not to do it, cast your eyes to Columbus, Ohio). Later this month, he'll be publicly presenting the FY 2012 UM Athletic Department budget and he's stated in the papers that he'll be putting together a long-term strategic plan to grow Michigan athletics. It's a big responsibility and I wish hiim well on it. My only point is this--there's no need to get cute about some things, and that includes the throwbacks. When all else fails, go back to what works best--that's why UM hired Brady Hoke, isn't it?
I don't think the throwbacks (or retros, if you prefer) are great, but I also don't share in the wailing and gnashing of teeth over them. Despite their apparent disconnection with Michigan history and their rugby styling, my Michigan degrees are not going to burst into flames because of them, nor are they going to cause people to point and laugh when I wear the rest of my Michigan gear. The brand and the tradition extend far beyond what the team wears for any one game (or say, our record over the last three seasons).
If you hate the jerseys, don't buy one. Flood DB's inbox with complaints. That is your right as fans and alumni. Since the concern is that DB is too corporate, do your part to make sure that the ROI on this project is underwhelming. At the same time, if people snap up the jerseys like crazy, and the recruits love them, then maybe we have to accept that not everybody shares our sense of nostalgia.
Just out of curiosity, did any of the get off my lawn folks ever own one of those starter jackets with 15 different Michigan logos on them?
Are the block Ms shirts really "jerseys"? I think they're varsity sweaters - when they played they wore the leather vests (possibly over shirts with stripes!). Note that in the 1901 photo, the shirts with shoulder pads (presumably game wear) don't have a block M. In none of those photos do you see block M chest and sleeve stripes on the same man.
The night game jersey is an unfortunate conglomeration of the styles, I think. Just stripes or just the block M would look better (Plus there will be helmet numbers from the 60's too!) As it is, too busy.
I actually kind of like the photos with the wide striped sleeves and a padded leather vest with a block M above the left breast. That would be a good look I think - wide stripes on the shoulders with a block M above and to the left of the chest numbers, where the number is on the as-designed jersey. Basically, swap the numbers and the block M on the chest and make the stripes wider.
Well, they are wearing padded knickers, cleats, and shoulder pads in many of the photos - I'm assuming those items were part of the uniform. But the block M turtleneck sweaters lack the features of "equipment" - no padded shoulders in the early 1900's photos, no vest in the 1890's photos (however in 1892 and on the guy in the top left corner of 1895, it does look like the block M is being worn over some degree of padding). I'd guess those were varsity sweaters. Then again I think "uniform" wasn't that uniform back then (e.g. different players may have worn different gear based on position / personal preference).
The main point I was making is that "large Block M on chest" and "rugby striped sleeves" have never appeared on the same uniform, and combining them looks lousy. I think one or the other would look a lot better.
To say that this is is unprecedented is simply accurate, because I don't see this jersery used in any of the pictures you posted. Sure, it has elements from previous uniforms, but this exact jersey hasn't been worn before. Therefore it's unprecedented.
I think if the jersey was an exact replica of one of the jerseys in your pictures, instead of kludging together multiple elements from multiple eras, you would have more people on your lawn.
I agree with you, it's just they did too much. If they insisted on having stripes and the block M, they should have gone with the vest look where only the sleeves had stripes and the rest was a solid Navy Blue, since the only era where we see striped sweaters coincided with players wearing vests.
That's not my point. I understand that they aren't going to wear turtlenecks and vests, my point was about kludging the design elements from different vests and turtlenecks. Precedented would be taking the design of one jersey worn by one person in one of those photos of one of those teams that won a shit ton of national and Big Ten/Western Conference championships and when the coach was FMFY, doing the best to fit it onto a modern jersey, and adding numbers. I think this would get more support than putting stripes on the sleeves like one team did (1920), but making them wide stripes other teams wore for an entire jersey (1884/1889), and then adding a block 'M' like other teams did (1891/1892/1895/1901).
1). To those of you saying "It's just one game", I would politely counterpoint that many see "just one game" as a means of opening the pathway to a slippery slope.
2). I was pushing for 1957, Ron Kramer-era throwbacks, where the longsleeves could come from a compression shirt, grey facemasks, and numbers on the helmets, so the 1965 look is very close to that:
And if that doesn't work for you, how about 1940 Tom Harmon style throwbacks...
And lastly, if that doesn't work, further honor Desmond and the 20th Anniversary of the catch:
And for those of you thinking this is a lot of to do about uniforms, politely, uniforms are a critical common thread that links the three men above together. So if we're bent out of shape about it, maybe it's because symbols are imbued with meaning.
The fact that stripes have existed on Michigan uniforms in the past does not justify these abominations. They're ugly as sin, a pure money grab, and most notably, nothing like them has ever been worn by a Michigan football team.
If you want to justify them as no big deal, or they actually look great, or it'll pay for XYZ, that's certainly your right. I don't think it's something a team with iconic uniforms and our tradition should be doing, but that's just my opinion and it's far from gospel.
Just don't call them "retro" or "throwback" and justify them that way, because intermittent long-sleeve stripes of varying width doesn't make that true. This is RAWK MUSIC jersey design at its worst.
I know, I know I'm weird about this. As an historian and a uniform afficiando, I should be all over this. But I have an explanation. My four sports passions are Michigan football, Red Wings hockey, Tigers baseball, and Michigan hockey. Leaving aside the last one, which rolls through jersey styles like Italy went through post-war governments, the previous three all basically have had the same uniform since 1938. There are slight tweaks, but the Red Wings, Tigers, and Wolverines have all basically had the same uniform framework for nearly three quarters of a century* means that they have traditions largely unparalleled in American sport.
Honestly, if it were a genuine effort to move a real template of a Michigan jersey past on to a modern template, I'd be more likely to not care. But because this is clearly such a naked money grab, and so clearly an effort by adidas to sublimate their corportate symbol on to the MIchigan brand, I find it disturbing.
*--So is everyone looking forward to the 75 years of "our helmet has wings" celebration for the 2013 season?
Most likely the 1899 photo is the key used by the designer. The finished version combines three elements of the photo:  the classic block M jersey;  the striped jersey worn by the team captain in the photo (I'd like to see game photos, but this was likely worn for some games, maybe away?);  the stitching motif on the M is probably a reference to the stitched padding on the shoulders of some jerseys from that time (seen second from the right in the 1899 photo).