By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

From a uniform perspective, the Super Bowl has generally been a snooze. What else can you say about an event whose biggest uni-related moment over a four-decade span was when Thurman Thomas misplaced his helmet?

Still, it's fun browsing through the Super Bowl's pictorial history, if only as a reminder that NFL players once wore real sleeves, shoulder stripes once encircled the entire shoulder, and the guy holding the down-marker once wore stirrups. It was during just such a browse that Uni Watch began to discern an intriguing pattern. To wit:

The best-dressed team usually wins the big game.

Don't think so? Just look at the rundown of past Super Sunday results and see for yourself. By Uni Watch's reckoning, the better-looking team has won 25 of the previous 38 games -- nearly a two-to-one ratio. That includes obvious aesthetic mismatches like Super Bowls XXIII and XXXVIII, as well as closer judgment calls like XVII and II. Yes, there have also been occasional miscarriages of sartorial justice. But two times out of every three, haberdashery is destiny.

So who needs oddsmakers or insider analysis? We can divine the Super Bowl's outcome just by reading the uniform tea leaves.

The NFC is the designated home team this year, which means the Eagles will be wearing their green jerseys and the Pats will be wearing white (their record-setting fourth different Super Bowl uni, don'tcha know; you can read about the other three here). With that in mind, here's a head-to-toe examination of the two teams, with a weighted point scale for each uni element:

Helmet (4 points): Back in the Pat Patriot days, this would have been a tough call, maybe even a toss-up. But now it's no contest -- Philly's winged design romps all over Flying Elvis. Advantage: Eagles.

Jersey (4 points): What's the deal with side piping on jerseys? It always looks lame-o, regardless of the sport or era, whether here, here, here, or here -- or, unfortunately for the Patriots, here. Advantage: Eagles.

Pants (3 points): Simple rule: Symmetrical pants piping is always better than asymmetrical. Advantage: Pats.

Hosiery (2 points): Even simpler rule: Striped socks are always cooler than solid-tone socks. Advantage: Pats.

Footwear (1 point): Simplest rule of all: black shoes always look better than white shoes. Advantage: Eagles.

Patch Compatability (1 point): This category merits a quick historical survey, because jersey patches have provided some interesting Super Sunday plotlines:

  • Super Bowl IV featured competing patches: The Vikings wore the NFL's 50th-anniversary shoulder patch (you can get a better look at it here), which all NFL teams had worn throughout the 1969 season. That prompted the AFL to create a 10th-anniversary patch for the Chiefs to wear in the Super Bowl -- the last game before the two leagues merged.

  • Super Bowl X took place in January of 1976, so Pittsburgh and Dallas donned a bicentennial patch. The Steelers wore it on their upper chest, the Cowboys on their left sleeve.

  • Super Bowl XXV brought the first patch devoted to the game itself -- an oversized, unsightly splotch worn by the Bills and Giants.

  • After a seven-year break, game-specific patches re-emerged for Super Bowl XXXII. This time, thankfully, they were smaller. They stayed at a manageable size for a while, but lately they've been getting bigger (and have also spread to accessories like wristbands and towels, which seems like a bit much). It's now clear that they're here to stay.

    Leaving aside the question of jersey clutter (which reached its apotheosis in this year's Rose Bowl, where Michigan actually printed the game's date on their jersey's left shoulder), the problem with Super Bowl patches is that they're designed way in advance, before we know who the participants are. So they sometimes end up clashing with a team's color scheme. This is going to be one of those years: The logo for this year's patch is mostly blue, which means it'll coordinate a lot better with New England's uni design than with Philly's. Advantage: Pats.

    That leaves the Eagles leading, 9-6. But there's a wild-card category: the coaches. You know Reid and Belichick will get at least as much on-screen time as any player, so we may as well factor them in. Not that it's exactly a battle of glamourpusses -- more like the fatso versus the vagrant. But Belichick gets credit for having turned his look into a signature style. In short, he has a uniform; Reid is just a shlump. Advantage: Pats.

    How much is the coach's category worth? Uni Watch leaves that up to you. But however you choose to weigh it, it looks like a close game.

    For the Birds
    As if in response to Uni Watch's recent survey of logo animals, the Arizona Cardinals chose last week to unveil an updated helmet logo. If you haven't already seen it, brace yourself for a shock -- it's pretty drastic.

    OK, so not quite. Uni Watch doesn't mind the logo tweak per se, but making the cardinal look meaner and tougher seems rather obvious and predictable, no? Like, why not show him furrowing his brow and gritting his teeth while you're at it? (Answer: Because the University of Louisville already took that idea.) And in a real marketing coup, the Cardinals will give the new logo some early exposure by having defensive end Bertrand Berry wear it on his helmet in the upcoming Pro Bowl, which should be a great showcase for the eight or nine people who actually, y'know, watch the Pro Bowl.

    While the logo change is merely evolutionary, Cardinals VP Michael Bidwill promises that the team's new uniforms, due to be unveiled in the spring, will be "revolutionary," a term that should be setting off alarm bells in any perceptive person's head. Uni Watch's advice: Avoid the rush and start hating the new uniforms now.

    "C" Section
    Last week's column on team captains left many readers wondering why the great sport of soccer was omitted from the discussion. The reason, of course, is that Uni Watch, like any other red-blooded American, is utterly soccer-clueless. But now, thanks to helpful tutorials provided by a variety of soccer fans, Uni Watch is happy to explain that a soccer captain wears a colored armband (sometimes imprinted with a highly creative symbol or word), which can be removed and given to another player in the event of an ejection or substitution. Now could someone please explain why a soccer uni is called a kit?

    Meanwhile, contrary to Uni Watch's initial report, there's been at least one NFL team whose captains wore the designatory "C": the 1983 Cowboys, as seen in these photos of Drew Pearson, Bob Breunig, Danny White, and Ron Fellows. Uni Watch, struggling mightily not to make any jokes about the "C" possibly standing for "cocaine" (remember, the early '80s was when Dallas became known as South America's Team), sends an appreciative shout-out to the many Cowboys fans who wrote in to protest this oversight.

    Speaking of oversights, Eric Hoey notes that at least one NHL team has worn the "C" and "A" on the right side, instead of the customary left. That would be the 1995-96 Kings, whose bizarre third jersey featured a royal illustration where the letter would normally go.

    Best "C"-related feedback of all: this story, relayed by Andrew Spey. It only takes a minute to read -- enjoy.

    It turns out that the Kansas City Outlaws hockey team (who, as noted in last week's column, recently wore jerseys that mimicked the baseball unis of the old Kansas City Monarchs) are far from the only team to have worn uniforms based on another sport's attire. In fact, the cross-dressing trend appears to be fairly common in minor-league hockey:

  • Tom Rogers and James J. Bonsignore note that the Cleveland Barons have held several "Pigskin on the Pond" nights, with the team wearing Cleveland Browns-esque jerseys.

  • Mike McGrew points out that the Tulsa Oilers have worn jerseys honoring the OU football team, and press releases indicate that the Oklahoma City Blazers have done this too.

  • Mike Petriello and Robert Payne report that the Charlotte Checkers welcomed the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats to town by wearing Bobcats-style uniforms. (The minor-league Charlotte Knights baseball team went a step further, wearing actual Bobcats jerseys for a game last August.)

    There's a related example from the world of college hockey, where Cory LeFevre informs us that the University of Michigan team wears helmets patterned after the school's football helmets (which are in turn patterned after the football team's old leather helmets, which means the hockey headgear is a representation of a representation). A bit of Uni Watch photo research reveals that the school's lacrosse, field hockey, and swimming teams have also gone this route.

    And there's more: James Weise reports that the Michigan trend inspired the Ohio State hockey team to wear its own football-inspired helmets for a game against the Wolverines last month. No word on whether the Buckeyes will be putting little merit stickers on the players' helmets.

    Paul Lukas plans to wear a baseball jersey while watching the Super Bowl. Archives of his pre-Page 2 "Uni Watch" columns are available here and here. Got a question or comment for him? Send it here.

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