Monday, June 11, 2007

Throwbacks for Greenbacks | by Pat

I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised by this most recent ND press release:

Notre Dame and Adidas will honor the 30th anniversary of the 1977 National Championship team by wearing the authentic green jerseys and gold pants for the USC game on October 20th, head coach Charlie Weis announced Friday. The Throwback uniforms will be designed to replicate those worn by the '77 team.
Reaction has been mixed, to say the least; the wearing o' the green -- when to use them, and for what purpose -- has always been a lively debate among ND fans. But to us, the major story isn't really the green; it's the whole idea of marketing a "throwback jersey" in the first place, along with the timing of the announcement itself.

We can revisit the history, tradition, and viability of the green-jersey-as-inspiration tradition at a later time. For now, let's put that aside. What this looks like, on its face, is a crass, Adidas-sponsored marketing ploy disguised as an homage to the 1977 National Championship team.

According to the press release, ND will be wearing the jerseys to honor a past championship Irish team rather than as a surprise motivator against a tough opponent. Don't get me wrong, the '77 team was fantastic and definitely deserves to be honored. But why would they get an entire throwback jersey when, say, the '66 team only got a patch? And, more importantly, why release the information now, if not to give enthusiastic shoppers plenty of time to get their orders in?

Notice in the release that it isn't just Notre Dame honoring the '77 team. It's Notre Dame and Adidas. And you, too, can honor the '77 team, at just $65 a pop at a bookstore near you. It's one thing to fill up the bookstore with all manners of ND-labeled bric-a-brac and see what people will buy. But there's something sacred about the actual gameday uniform, and the further encroachment of commercial advertising into the House that Rock Built doesn't sit too well. We don't want ND teams doubling as billboards for the latest and greatest alternative jersey marketing idea. Anyone who has seen what Nike did to Oregon or Florida's uniforms would agree with that.

Notre Dame's uniform history is not nearly as immutable and timeless as many fans might think, yet at the same time, the colors and configuration of the jerseys should not be considered just another marketing toy, ripe for revenue exploitation under the guise of honoring some former players. This may have started as a benign honor for the '77 team, but given the timing of the announcement and the prominent mention of the jersey's manufacturer, I don't see how this development can be viewed as anything but another squeeze of the golden goose.