July 2005
ENOUGH OF THIS RUBIK’S CUBE STUFF! Is there a fan out there that doesn’t want an end to this madness of athletes in uniforms that don’t represent the meaning of the word? “Uniform” means the same. And for good reason. So you can tell one athlete/team from another. T&FN has been kvetching about this problem at the international level for years now, what with outfits that are one color when an athlete is coming towards you and another when going away. To its credit, the IAAF has heard the bleatings and has a motion on the table to do something about it.

But let’s talk about the offenders du jour: the colleges. It pains me to pick on Kerron Clement, because he was probably the most exciting and enjoyable of all to watch in Sacramento. It’s always incredible to be privileged to watch a true superstar in the making. We thought he was so impressive that we made him our poster boy for the month. But he’s also the poster boy for everything that’s wrong in the (not-so) uniform department.

In that big center spread (p. 32-33), you’ll find him in a black uniform. Très chic. Turn to p. 18 and there he is in a white uniform. While you’re on that spread, look at p. 19 to catch him in blue. But hey, that’s not all. Go back a page to 17 and check out Clement’s teammate, Josh Walker. Is he in black? No. Is he in white? No. So he must be in blue. No—he’s in orange! The Florida team must have a special position known as Uniform Manager. This is the style-conscious dude who chooses who wears what in what race, and packs the 22 extra bags all this finery requires.

I blame pro ball teams, who started this “third jersey” silliness so they could market even more stuff to their fans. Or simply decided that black made them look “tougher.” Well excuse me, but when I go to a meet I expect to see Florida easily identifiable as the guys in some combination of orange & blue, their official colors.

The NCAA does mandate that relay teams wear the same uniforms during a race, but other than that, all bets are off. Hey, I don’t want to see the boys from Indy go nutso on regulations like the HS Federation and penalize people for non-matching underwear or wearing a necklace, but how about at least an official-colors rule? And while you’re at it, how about a regulation that all teammates in the same race have to wear the same uniforms?

How goofy was it to watch that incredible men’s 200 final, knowing that teammates Wallace Spearmon and Tyson Gay were going to be threatening the 20-second barrier just two lanes apart, and to discover that they weren’t even wearing the same outfits? Spearmon was white over red, Gay was all red. What does that do for fan enjoyment?

I also hesitate to complain about the big shoe companies, because without the sponsorship dollars that Nike and adidas pump into the sport’s economy many burgeoning stars would have to drop out. I realize that their marketing honchos salivate every time they see a field almost completely in one uniform, but I wish somebody in the front office would realize how they homogenize the sport and make it difficult for the fans. How about at least some regional differentiation? Doc Martens West in one color, Doc Martens East in another?

Bottom line—the way it’s going, you can’t even tell the players with a program.