Looking Good Out There
geography shapes our fandom, but so do sartorial preferences
Six-year-old me would have been envious of 40-year-old me.
I fell in love with sports as a first-grader. I summarily began picking favorite teams, collecting baseball and football cards, and going to games. Gazing at pictures of NFL teams in action, one in particular stood out for their colors: the Miami Dolphins. They wore jerseys shaded in aquamarine, trimmed in what they termed “coral” (orange, really), and in a visual sense, I could not get enough of seeing the Dolphins on the gridiron. Plus, those aqua jerseys were somewhat of a rarity: Playing in the heat of Miami, the Dolphins often wore white at home. For a few years in my youth, Miami had a role as somewhat of a secondary favorite football team, without regard for a player or proximity or rivalry. This was all about the look.
The reasons we choose our preferred teams are myriad, though the most-common and obvious explanation is where we live. If you’re a Wisconsinite, the Packers and Badgers and Brewers and Bucks will get the nod (unless you’re me, and the Les Steckel game set you off course to the other side of the Mississippi).
We root for our high school alma mater, even though in almost all cases we only went to that high school because our parents happened to live within the boundaries of a given school district. A third-grade kid in Fall Creek doesn’t watch the highlights on SportScene 13, get smitten by Brady Redwine and the Elk Mound Mounders, and decide that they want to be at Elk Mound. That kid will end up going to Fall Creek High School, and probably follow the Crickets the rest of their life, only because of teenage residence.
For that matter, if I could have chosen my high school based on team colors, I would likely have picked Durand or Eau Claire North. Memorial was, thankfully, right behind in my color rankings, and also happened to be my residential destination as my parents had settled on the south side of Eau Claire. Fortuitously, the purple of the Old Abes synced with the purple of my Minnesota Vikings.
I freely admit that my attention to literal detail is different than most sports fans. I have always followed the design aspect of athletics. Thus, while many fans will want a team to win or lose mostly because of a player or coach or scheme they love or vehemently dislike, I often find myself abnormally attuned to whether a team can put together a winning streak in a favorite uniform.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ 1980s-era pinstriped “fauxback” (a term referring to a uniform design with throwback elements but not an accurate re-creation) is my favorite of their sartorial choices. I would be tickled if that became their full-time home option, and the Eau Claire-designed ball-in-glove logo their official emblem. I also know baseball players are exceptionally superstitious about their uniforms. Thus, any time the Brewers wear that alternate, I pay extra attention to the outcome. A win, and maybe they’ll keep wearing it for good luck, and perhaps never stop; a loss, and the players might shelve it forever.
With that reasoning, you can imagine my reaction when the Brew Crew pulled out their ball-in-glove alternate caps in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. For the first time since 1982, that logo was being worn in the playoffs, and it was glorious. All was right with baseball. Critically, Milwaukee won, so it wasn’t a jinx. Alas, they lost Game 4 in the same caps, so come Game 5, they were back to the “M” caps. I clearly wasn’t the only person paying attention to headgear in crunch time.
If there was a Packers game I had to attend this season, it was the one when the Dolphins came to Green Bay. Sitting in Lambeau Field this November at the game, I finally got to see my beloved aquamarine in person. Being on the road, Miami wore white jerseys, but, thankfully, aqua pants. Aesthetically, I was in my happy place. I didn’t really care if they won or lost. For me, to paraphrase Billy Crystal’s Fernando, it is better to look good than to play good.