Canzano: Nothing wrong with the Oregon Ducks skipping the fashion show – OregonLive.com
It may very well turn out that Nike is saving the biggest college stage for its biggest college football uniform surprise in history. Oregon’s washed out, colorless combination may prove to be an end around, with the Ducks trotting out actual school colors next Monday against Ohio State.
I hope not.
There’s great irony buried somewhere in the outrage over the Ducks frosted-uniform look that was released a week in front of the national championship. Many wondered why it is that Oregon wouldn’t have a single school color in the combination. Others wrung their hands over the idea that the spit-shined liquid-metal helmets and highlighter-yellow winged shoulder pads would disappear with the Ducks finally ready to show America what the program is all about.
Count me among those who appreciate that Oregon is skipping the fashion show.
The Ducks play fast and well. They have mind-blowing facilities. They have countless uniform combinations. They have the Heisman Trophy winner. UO’s campus doubles as a testing center for Nike products. There’s nothing Oregon needs to do in the next week to prove itself any further except play excellent football.
Oregon was accused years ago of being the Paris Hilton of college football. Some of the same people miffed at the white uniforms this week hated that descriptor. Truth is, the Ducks are now more Beyonce. No shame in that (until Oregon shows up in backless uniforms). And now suddenly everyone wants the program to include school colors or gaudy wings?
The Ducks revamped their classic Donald-Duck look in 1999 and showed up looking like the Ninja Turtles. Fans hated it, but the Ducks played well so it became cool. I was in Starkville, Miss. in 2003, when Oregon opened the season with highlighter-yellow uniforms that looked ridiculous — until recruits said they looked like the coolest things ever.
A big part of Ducks football season has been the weekly unveiling of the helmet, or jersey, or look the team will wear to the point where the purists out there like myself have come to accept that the tradition here isn’t a color or a logo but the entire lack of any sort of consistency.
The Ducks don’t really have a true uniform. It’s why Oregon has the best uniforms in America. It’s why the toned-down look against a lunch-bucket program such as Ohio State is a beautiful inside joke. It’s why those amused by it are tweeting clever things such as, “There are only three kinds of people who look good in white: Jesus, Girls and Marcus Mariota.”
The statement Nike is making — if this isn’t a ruse — is that Oregon isn’t about to upstage itself at the college football championship game. In fact, it’s not going to even try. Should the Ducks win this game, those uniforms will undoubtedly become a memorable, prized piece of program history, with children everywhere wanting to wear the whites.
Nike has plans to be all over this national title game. The company has purchased some prime airtime, and is even quietly producing a clever Oregon-tribute television commercial that will run at the end of the game should the Ducks win the national title. UO has embraced the lucrative relationship with Nike to the point where it’s no longer self conscious about acknowledging it.
When coach Mark Helfrich was asked on a nationally syndicated radio show Tuesday where booster and Nike co-founder Phil Knight sits during games, Helfrich answered, “Anywhere he’d like.”
What will the Ducks wear on game day?
Anything they’d like.
Rambod Rouhbakhsh, a doctor friend of mine, who now lives and works in the deep south once told me that kids there opened his eyes to the beauty of Nike’s marketing campaign with Oregon football. He lives in rural Mississippi, where he sits on his porch, sipping tea in the summer. The guy wears a bow tie to work and is a huge Ducks fan surrounded by unhinged Southeastern Conference fanatics.
“Dr. Bod” told me years ago that kids who live in his area play college football video games using their favorite SEC team. But when they play against someone who takes their SEC team first, the kids always default to playing with Oregon as their team. They do it not because they loved Bill Musgrave, Dan Fouts and Joey Harrington, but because they dig the uniform options.
America loves what Oregon wears, no matter what it looks like.
Nike did that.
Don’t start questioning that now.