Tag Archives: uniform

Time for Raptors to Evolve

By Jason Menard

Is it too late to pick up the “loveable losers” tag from the Chicago Cubs because the 2005-2006 edition of the Toronto Raptors certainly need something to hang their hat on?

Alas, following a November that left the team 1-15 on the season is just pitifully bad. The eminently likeable head coach Sam Mitchell appears before the media’s cameras resembling Nero more and more, fiddling while the franchise burns behind him.

There are only so many times you can say your team is playing hard, working hard, learning well, developing in practice, or whatever other excuse Mitchell’s been using to deflect the fans from the hard and fast truth. This is a bad team.

Hope for the future is great and all, but we live in an instant gratification society. It’s easier to appreciate the aging of a fine wine when you’ve been able to taste a couple of batches along the way to test its progress. However, if you make that same wine aficionado abstain until the vintage is ready, chances are you’re going to have some cranky days along the way.

It’s fine and dandy to promise wins that will come one day, but the fans need the odd reminder of what a W looks and feels like.

Compounding this is the natural inferiority we, as Canadians, feel about our professional sports franchises. Whether or not we like to admit it out loud there’s always a feeling that these professional leagues, based south of the border, look at Canadian franchises as nothing more than annoyances better to be relocated to a more favourable environment. And it’s not a fear based on paranoia as NBA fans in Vancouver, MLB fans in Montreal, and NHL fans in Quebec City and Winnipeg will attest to.

Winning is the only way to ensure long-term financial security. The Toronto Blue Jays have started to figure it out, investing money into a franchise that’s not even a contender in its big-money game, but has a little potential for success. Remember, we Canadians support our teams win or tie!

But beyond fan support, the other aspect that we as Canadians have to deal with is American ignorance. Getting players to relocate north of the 49 th is as difficult as pulling teeth at times. So, once they’re here we want them to stay. Make ‘em happy, keep ‘em smiling and maybe more will come. Take a look at the World Series-winning Jays for example – they were a franchise that people wanted to play for, not a destination to be avoided at all costs.

Which brings us to the NBA’s Raptors. Blessed with the rights to a talented cornerstone upon which the franchise can be built in Chris Bosh, already the concerns are starting to rise. Will he stay once his rookie deal’s done? Can we keep him? Do we have the right management to build a contender before he bolts south of the border?

It’s not a lot of fun in Raptorland, either for the players or the fans. Despite the ever-gracious Bosh and fan-favourite Matt Bonner the team hasn’t been able to capture the fans’ imaginations as loveable losers – they’re just losers, and that has to stop.

It’s time for a complete overhaul of the franchise, only a decade into its existence. The team is burdened with a dinosaur-sized weight of past burdens left malcontents like Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter, dismal seasons, and lost hope. The 2005-2006 Raptors have been crafted with the idea of starting from scratch and building together for a bright new future powered by Bosh and fuelled by rookies like Charlie Villaneuva, Joey Graham, and Jose Calderon. Why hamper their development by fitting them with ill-fitting clothes?

It’s time to finally make the Raptor extinct and create a new attitude and culture of winning. It’s not enough to just rearrange the furniture if the exterior looks the same. Open the concept of a new team name to the fans and let them feel some sort of ownership for the franchise. Choose a colour scheme and logo that kids can be proud to wear. And wipe the slate clean of the history of losing that the Raptors name carries with it.

The team has tried everything else: new managers, new upper management, new ownership, and new players. So why not start a new era with a new attitude and new mentality, prominently displayed by a new logo.

After all, the Toronto Loveable Losers doesn’t sound any worse than what they are now, does it?

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Clothes Make the Man

By Jason Menard

The word itself has a connotation of conformity, but there’s nothing uniform about sports fashions. And, although in public most guys will say we don’t care about how our teams look, deep down inside we know that clothes really do make the man!

A combination of my wife out of town visiting family and being laid up in bed with an illness left me with ample time to watch an inordinate amount of sports. With the television no longer being held hostage and forced to display home decorating shows, I had unfettered access to the sporting landscape and all the colours of which its comprised.

Whether we like to admit it or not, how our teams look has a great deal of influence on where our allegiances lie, and that stylistic selection process begins in our youth. As a kid, I was drawn to the San Diego Chargers not just because of Dan Fouts, but because I thought the lightning bolt design on their helmets were pretty darn cool. Watching a recent Chargers game, with them wearing their throwback jerseys and helmets, I was transported back to that time – and came away from that game a little more invested in the team than I was before I tuned in.

And I’m not alone in being partially swayed by style. Back in the late 80s/early 90s the Oakland/L.A. Raiders silver and black were the colours of choice for gangster rappers – and, as such, became the uniform of choice for their legion of fans and wannabes. This colour scheme’s impact was so great that we had a run on franchises, both new and old, adjusting their look (hello Los Angeles Kings) in order to change their image on the playing surface and in the minds of the buying public. In these cases, the hope was that silver and black would translate into green.

A fan of hockey’s Montreal Canadiens since birth, I have an inborn preference for classic colours and styles. That’s why the Habs’ bleu-blanc-et-rouge appeals to me, whereas the more modern Nashville Predators logo doesn’t strike any chord whatsoever. Overall, most fans appear to prefer the classic styles, and while teams may flirt with extremism, they eventually come back to a happy medium. Look no further than the Phoenix Coyotes whose Picasso-inspired logo has matured into a more traditional design and colour scheme.

The reason for this is, while logos and colour schemes may not preclude someone from becoming a fan, it certainly does weigh in with the amount of pride we can have. I’ve yet to find the soul brave enough to stand up and proudly proclaim his or her love for the Mighty Ducks logo, yet I can watch a Syracuse college football game and be overwhelmed by a sea of orange in the stands.

What it comes down to is that simple is often better. The gold of a Notre Dame helmet carries with it more tradition and majesty than any other logo could convey. Whether it’s monotone hue of Cleveland’s football Browns, baseball’s Yankee Pinstripes, or the green and white of basketball’s Boston Celtics, these colours have been woven into the fabric of our lives and are instantly recognizable.

New franchises — or old ones trade tradition for a quick spike in jersey sales – run the risk of irrelevancy. Closer to home, our Toronto Raptors, established during the Jurassic Park-inspired hysteria for all things dinosaur, now stir up fewer images of Tyrannosaurus Rexes and more thoughts of Barney. And the 90s were rife with new franchises in all sports embracing an entirely new pallet of colours, ranging from teal to aquamarine – colours that may have been trendy, but unable to stand the test of time. Yet, it’s not an exact science. The Montreal Expos, whose name was inspired by the world fair taking place in their city in 1967, served the team well for over three decades.

The problem with market research-inspired jerseys is that, by their very design, they must change when the market does. The appeal of classic styles is that they withstand society’s changing preferences, dynamics, and fashions, never being at the forefront of style, but always being respectable.

Then there are the truly memorable logos and jerseys. Of course, they’re often memorable for all the wrong reasons. Just once! Just once in this era of throwbacks and nostalgia, I’d love to catch the Vancouver Canucks take to the ice in their black, orange, and yellow chevron uniforms. Or how about the purple and gold Kings jerseys with the crown on the front? If it was good enough for Marcel Dionne, it’s good enough for today’s players.

So what becomes a player most and draws fans to the game? Essentially, when it comes to sporting fashions, simple is better. We want a logo, a colour scheme, to be proud of. We want the focus to be on the players and the game, not the uniform.

In sports, as in life, the classics never go out of style.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved