|The merely OK, the bad, the confusing, and the ugly. Top to bottom, 2003, 2007, 2006, 2008, 2007, 2009, 2011, and the classic.|
Read any online rugby comments board, and you quickly discover that American rugby enthusiasts don’t agree on much. They are either for or against the latest USARUGBY or TU initiative (most of them seem pretty reasonable, but don’t affect me too much), for or against Jack Clark and his teams at Cal (met the guy once, and he was nice to me when he didn’t have to be), for or against the Gold Standard (O.K., I made this last one up, but they all probably have a strong opinion about it as well).
Well, let me proffer one vital cause that I think we can all get behind. In short, the return of the classic Red, White and Blue hooped jersey as the official Eagle team jersey.
A team jersey should be iconic. Unchanging save for the smallest details. It is how you are known to the world and a symbol of what you represented yesterday, today and always. Can anyone pin down what the Eagles’ jersey looks like? At every World Cup, it is different. Heck, at every World Cup qualifying game it is different (did you think we really forgot Uruguay 2006?). The shade of red has vacillated between red and some weird wine-like maroon. A nation’s jersey, especially our American jersey, should be doubly unique. Not different for contrarian’s sake, but unique. It shouldn’t be something that looks like we bought it off the “for sale” rack or the discard pile. I don’t think I ask too much. This isn’t a case of American exceptionalism. Every Kiwi, South African, or Argentine thinks the same about their jerseys.
I respect the fact that Canterbury has a distinctive jersey, and that peripheral fact may affect our current decision-making. But if I wanted to buy a navy blue Canterbury jersey, I would order a Scotland jumper. If we are to build a brand, or a Lovemark, it needs to be distinctive. And frankly, this problem predates USA Rugby’s deal with Canterbury. The greatest try of the last World Cup, and most are not contemplating the bright future of rugby in America. Instead we are wondering what those flashes are on Z’s shoulders. An homage to Charlie Brown, perhaps?
It also needs to be classy. I am not sure what that “Starred Chevron” was on Saturday, but it was certainly distinctive; distinctive for screaming “Rugby League” every time an American player was on the TV. Well, on my computer actually. Worse, it was also ugly.
Many of the viable options are already taken, namely Red (Wales and others), White (England), Blue (Italy, France sort of), and Purple (thankfully taken off the board by England).
Luckily, we have a viable alternative. Throughout much of the USA’s early years, and on into the 1990s, we had a jersey that was classy, distinct, and good looking. In fact, I cannot remember when we discarded it. The jersey is like the best friend you once had who drifted away without you noticing it. It was the USA pounding Japan 74-5 in 1996, or Matt Alexander hitting the kick against Hong Kong in 1997, and then crap jerseys after that. Why did we ever abandon it? Greed? Hubris? Too much time at an after-party? I am not arguing that it didn’t need an update. Thinner, more numerous hoops perhaps? Incorporate the All-American scheme of the logo as a shield on the front? Definitely the sheerer look that we see nowadays on rugby jerseys. But nothing too radical. Nothing as bad as we have been subject to for the last 13 some odd years.
Clearly, there are some downsides to this move but I think they are minor. Even a hint of hoops screams “Cal” to haters of the supposed braggarts from Berkley. And you got to admit, ‘Movember’ would look a heck of a lot more normal with the hoops. In response, all I can say is why would we ever want to associate the Eagles with success? If a simple jersey change would do it, we should have done it long ago. And the hoops, while spawned in the 1970s, are not of the 1970s. Much like yours truly. The distinction is important.
That is not to say that we couldn’t have an alternate strip, or wouldn’t throw on a solid color as a “one off” sort of deal. Black to look fearsome or Pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness I guess. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be Neon Pink (see Stade Francais), Neon Yellow (see Wales), Neon Orange (see Scotland), or frankly, Neon anything. But we wouldn’t need an alternate strip for many games. Done right, we wouldn’t need it for any games, save the ones we would choose.
I think the benefits are obvious, and with a World Cup staring us in the face, I think it is high time for a change. Powers that be at USARUGBY, please adopt, nay re-adopt, the classic Eagles Jersey. Let Red be Wales, White be England, Blue be Italy, and the Red, White and Blue be America. Now and always.
Now, about that logo …
Evan Wollen is an officer in the United States Army, and a longtime rugby player, coach, referee and fan.