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Coloring your perception of your favorite teams

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earing your team's colors is, quite literally, the easiest way to show your support and your allegiances. School colors show school ties. Sometimes, the more distinct the color, the more distinctly your sartorially styled support stands out. It is the reason "Purple Fridays" exist; for better or worse, depending on how far fans take their purple-passioned fashion.

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There's an old saying that "you know God (whichever higher power you do or don't believe in) must be a Carolina fan; because, why else would he paint the sky Carolina Blue." It's tough to argue with that logic.

My Carolina Blue-based sense of pride is well-documented. What's lesser-known is that I literally don't own a single item of red clothing, lest I be mistaken for a Maryland fan. Marketing mavens have made "black-outs," "white-outs," and "khaki-outs" en vogue, in arenas across the country; doing a disservice to the schools and teams true (blue) color wearers.

Tonight, the University of Oregon's men's football team will take the field in the inaugural College Football National Championship Game, wearing uniforms absent of any of the school's color(s) whatsoever. No green. No yellow. No hue or variation of either.

If Miami was the "U," Oregon has become the "O." (As an interesting aside, while the University of Oregon owns the trademark to its "O," it is Disney that owns the trademark to the cartoon-inspired duck, which explains, at least in part, why the University got away from the duck, and gravitated toward the big "O" on its uniforms.)

Nike's Test-Lab-U, the "O," does its best to make tradition based in traditional uniforms passé.

To its credit, (the) Ohio State University, the other team in tonight's National Championship Game, has incorporated subtle(!), visible visual nods to some of its traditional uniform variants in the uniforms it's team is wearing in tonight's game.

Both team's uniforms were designed and manufactured by Nike.

Unfortunately, unlike a few years ago when Oregon played Auburn for the National Championship, this year's game does not provide the sartorial subplot of Nike versus Under Armour; a real battle; one for which Kevin Plank should be applauded, for his unapologetic aspirations to supplant Nike as the world's biggest and best sports apparel brand.

Last year, Oregon brought in almost $5 million in licensing royalties. Much like Maryland's student-athletes and school-color-wearing alums should always and forever buy Under Armour products as a way of saying thank you for all that Kevin Plank does for and gives to his alma mater, Oregon's athletic department, and it's non-profit student-bookstores, should similarly stay loyal to Nike, as a way of saying thank you to their Ducks-come-uniform-chameleon's benefactor, Phil Knight; Nike's co-founder and proud(est) Oregon alum.

The absence of any school color(s) in Oregon's Championship Game uniforms is noteworthy enough that it caused ESPN's Twitterer-in-residence of sports-business-related "news" Darren Rovell to step away from his 140 character plus picture-styled "reporting" to pen a nearly 1,000 word piece on "The Incredible Rise of Oregon as a Merchandising Powerhouse" last Friday; getting back to his business of sports reporting roots; writing an actual story about the business of sports.

Rovell quoted Arlyn Schaufler, the general manager of The Duck Store, the university-owned, non-profit bookstore, as saying that Oregon is "fast becoming people's second-favorite team."

Being honest, nobody has a second-favorite team. Those who do, do so in the instance where, for example, they relocate for a job and adopt a team in their new city. But, that adopted team is likely in a complementary or secondary sport; an NBA team allegiance in a new city for a diehard NFL fan, for example. Or, your "second favorite team" may be the polite way you describe your feelings toward your significant other's school's team; they are a diehard Syracuse fan, for example, and you went to a small liberal arts school in the Midwest that didn't have a football program.

The idea of Oregon as a sports fan's "second-favorite team" has less to do with team affinities or allegiances and more to do with sports sartorialism; it is closer associated with the idea that, as Jay Z says, "he can make a Yankee cap more famous than a Yankee can."

Both, the Yankee cap, and now the Oregon gear, are more fashion statement than show support for the school.

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To it's credit, Maryland and UA's efforts to match Oregon and Nike's uniform uniqueness have, at least to-date, and even when pushing burning the envelope with its "Crash Test Dummy"-inspired unis, championed, incorporated, or at least maintained a nod to the school and the state of Maryland.

Michigan is going to do its best to make khaki a color. Oregon, on its biggest stage, and its platform from which to make merchandising magic happen, is going colorless. (My physicist friends tell me that, technically, white is not a color.) Oregon has tripped and failed before; famously attempting a mono-chromatic color scheme of florescent yellow lettering and numbering on florescent yellow-backed basketball unis that left said lettering and numbering illegible to fans and referees alike.

Fashion, like art, and like choosing your favorite team, is subjective and borne of personal preference.

So what if I don't like Oregon's choice to play in the game without a single nod to its school colors. I'm old-ish. I may not like fluorescent shoes, Nike Elite socks, adidas' "candy-striped" uniforms, or sleeved basketball jerseys; but the kids they're recruiting certainly do. I like Penn State and Alabama's single-striped helmets and singular-versioned uniforms (often without names on the backs of the jerseys); Indiana's clown-panted warm-ups; and UCLA's classic, simple-striped basketball uniforms (and its cheerleaders' knee-high, striped-sock too). I like the Steelers and the Packers' throwback "bumblebee" and "Acme" uniforms respectively.

Most of all, I like the subtle style of the Alexander Julian-designed argyle print incorporated into Carolina's basketball shorts; sports sartorialism at its best. But again, I'm biased toward that Carolina Blue.

As a less than subtle footnote: The fact that Oregon is winning, and winning the recruiting battles, due in large part to its ability to provide a different style or scheme of uniform for literally ever game, only further demonstrates that college sports, when played at their highest levels, are most definitely a business; one where marketing and fashion licensing, and the proliferation of team logoed apparel are of vital importance — even when that apparel doesn't include any of the school's colors.

Reach sports columnist Matt Laczkowski at 410-857-7896 or sports@carrollcountytimes.com.

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