As any longtime reader will know, this blog is pretty much exclusively limited to topics that are so myopic that they are only interesting to me.
This particular post is probably the ultimate example of that vision, as I’m going to rant for a bit about the color of Columbia’s football uniforms.
Last year, in conjunction with the beginning of a “new era” in Columbia football, the Lions introduced a radical redesign to the traditional Columbia blue shirts that the team has worn for eons. The home uniform is a color called “anthracite,” which is a fancy word here meaning “really black-ish gray.” The road uniform is white, but the main trim color is also “anthracite” rather than Columbia blue.
This morning, I woke up to this tweet, announcing that this weekend Columbia will wear an alternate uniform for the first time.
Setting aside the misspelling of “Wien Stadium” — which, as the location where Columbia plays its football games, is a word you’d think the appropriate people would spell correctly — these new navy alternate uniforms are not horrible. In fact, they’re perfectly good alternate uniforms. They have an appropriate amount of Columbia blue (sleeves, numbers) and aren’t “anthracite.” That’s enough for me.
But that doesn’t change the overriding point. I hate this entire uniform set so much, because none of the uniforms are Columbia blue.
Which one is my favorite? I hate all of them.
In these seven uniform combinations, Columbia blue is the fourth most prominent color after white, “anthracite,” and navy. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but the color Columbia blue is literally named after Columbia University. It should be one of the predominant colors that a team representing the university wears on the field.
There is no such color as “Columbia gray.” Though I do have a friend from Columbia named Gray. I suppose I could call him Columbia Gray.
There is also no such color as “Columbia navy.” There is a color called “Yale blue.” This color is basically navy blue. Columbia should not look like Yale, which is a different school, located in Connecticut.
I believe that head coach Al Bagnoli and athletic director Peter Pilling sanctioned these sacrilegious strips because they wanted to encourage a clean break with a losing past. And they’re certainly right that the Columbia football team has been very bad. In the 6.2 seasons of Columbia football I’ve had the burden to witness, the team is 10-52.
It might even have made sense to get a new uniform design. The Lions wore their last set for twenty games in 2013 and 2014, and the Lions lost all twenty of those games.
But to cut Columbia blue — the color that represents the University, the color named after the University — down to a mere accent, just because “anthracite” is more menacing or masculine or whatever stupid justification the marketing people at Nike cooked up for the athletic department, is insulting to the school, its alumni, and the entire point of the football program.
(After all, wearing Columbia blue didn’t stop the basketball team from winning the CIT.)
Frankly, I would rather the team never win another game than to continue to dress like a parody of a “serious” football team. Columbia football does not lose because they wear Columbia blue. They lose despite wearing Columbia blue.
I hope that Bagnoli and Pilling realize this and change the primary uniform in time for the 2017 season.
Columbia’s uniform history (2010-present)
It may not be worth tracing Columbia’s recent uniform history, but I’ve already done the research so I’m going to write down what I found.
Going back through the Columbia Spectator’s football archives is truly one of the saddest journeys a person can make. It’s filled with hilarious-in-retrospect sentences like “Pete Mangurian brings a wealth of experience to Columbia” and “it’s no secret that the Lions had a difficult 2013.”
As far as I can tell, the Norries Wilson Lions (2010-11) always wore monochrome at home — Columbia blue tops and Columbia blue pants — while alternating between blue and white pants on the road.
After large screaming man Pete Mangurian took over the program, the 2012 Lions stopped the monochrome look. Columbia blue tops were matched with white pants at home, and the team wore the reverse at home.
As part of Mangurian’s plan to restore the team to respectability, the Lions unveiled beautiful new uniforms before the 2013 season. For two years, the Lions wore Columbia blue tops with no crazy striping and piping paired with sleek white pants trimmed in navy accents at home, with the mirror-image white tops worn with either white or blue pants on the road. A subtle stripe added to the helmets completed the look.
This was a gorgeous, simple set of uniforms, and Columbia never won a single game wearing them. In two seasons, the team went 0-20, culminating in the resignation of athletic director M. Dianne Murphy and the dismissal of Mangurian. In three seasons, the man who said he wanted to use the “W” word — “win” — won exactly three games, finishing on a 21-game losing streak.
In 2015, Al Bagnoli broke out the current gray monstrosities, accented with navy and Columbia blue and with the word “LIONS” written on the pants for some reason. The Roar-ee Lion logo replaced the letter C on the white helmets — the only positive development of this uniform set.
Making matters worse, the team only wore gray pants, so at home the Lions looked like a team of lead pencils while on the road they looked like led pencils with a really, really sharp point. So far this year, though, the Lions did break out white pants for their road matchup against Georgetown, easily the best possible combination. And this weekend against Princeton they’ll wear navy blue for the first time, prompting this fun rant from me.