I almost didn’t have it in me this year.
After three full seasons without the Columbia football team wearing Columbia blue uniforms — the color named after the school — and me writing two separate screeds attempting to convince the team to change course, it seemed about time for me to accept the futility of my quest.
Despite wearing the obviously wrong colors of royal blue and “anthracite” (a word that describes coal but here means a putrid shade of dark gray), it would be tough to argue with the results last season. Miraculously, Columbia put together its best season in over two decades, finishing at 8-2 — good for second place in the Ivy League. The come-from-behind, overtime victory against Penn on Homecoming was easily the greatest moment of my admittedly pathetic career as a Columbia sports fan.
These accomplishments are marred only slightly by the fact that they were accomplished wearing the wrong colors.
All of that, though, changed last Saturday, when Columbia announced what color they’d be wearing to take on Georgetown.
— Columbia Football (@ColumbiaLionsFB) September 22, 2018
LIGHT GODDAMN GRAY.
Gray is not an official color of Columbia University! As I observed in 2016, there is no such color as Columbia Gray. (Shout out to my friend Gray, who I met at Columbia!)
So, if you’re keeping track at home, the Lions now have four primary uniforms available to them. One is white, one is royal blue, and two are different shades of gray. At this rate, by 2036 the football uniforms will be… don’t make me say it…
I genuinely don’t understand the infatuation with gray.
These uniforms aren’t awful by themselves — I love the way the COLUMBIA BLUE numbers catch the eye, splashes of brilliant color standing out from their drab surroundings. But when you pair gray jerseys with a white helmet, it just looks like you put white jerseys through a bad washer cycle. (Just ask the New England Patriots, who used to have an awful gray alternate of their own. I wonder what the connection is there.)
And now, a break for some guest rants
By now, you all know what I think about the Columbia uniforms. But I am, of course, not the only fan of the football team.
I reached out to some other longtime fans of the football team to get their take on the uniform travesty. Their responses have been lightly edited so that this piece is not 8,000 words long.
I looked at some pictures and they appear to have navy blue uniforms and light grey uniforms? Where did this come from? The school publishes a magazine called “The Blue and White.” The cheerleaders have some chant about “blue” and “white.” The official university design guidelines say the school colors are “blue” and “white”. Why are the uniforms navy and grey? At least the numbers are light blue… Is this what progress looks like in 2018?
Also, the jersey design is so uninspired. They look like generic “football” uniforms you’d find in a costume warehouse in Hollywood–recognizable enough that we know they’re football players, but not specific enough to distract us whatever Shondaland-equse melodrama is happening in the foreground. Did the uniform design crew forget they had a job, and then just choose some “cool” font in MS Word at the last minute and call it a day? The team is finally having some success and the Athletics department still can’t bother to do their jobs and design a uniform.
Tried to see the new uniforms. Went to Google.
Columbia Blue. Pantone 290. B9D9EB. Call it what you will, it is the color that defines our university. Go out to any football game this fall and you’ll see countless students, alumni, and fans wearing Columbia blue shirts, jackets, and beanies, but you won’t see the players on the field wearing it for some reason. The team has four uniforms, yet none of them show off the color that represents our community.
Now that the team is less of an embarrassment compared to my time at the school (end of Wilson, beginning of Mangurian eras), it would be wonderful if the team returned to a color scheme that is easily identifiable with the school’s so that an era of success can be tied to the light blue that makes us unique.
I am not a crackpot.
What does the Columbia football team have to say about this?
It seemed only fair, too, that I give Columbia a chance to explain themselves. Frankly, at this point I’m insanely curious what the thought process is behind each year’s uniforms.
I reached out to Columbia Athletics a week before this post was published, asking for comment. This is something I’ve done before as a writer for IvyHoopsOnline.com. After sending a follow-up email, the staff person asked which outlet I was writing for. Passing up the opportunity to use a hilarious joke publication name, like Ivy League Athletics Uniforms Quarterly or Light Blue Aficiondado, I told him that I would be publishing this on my own web site.
At that point, I was told that Columbia Athletics had no comment on the uniform colors.
Now, obviously I can understand why a PR flack might not want to talk to me. My last two posts have been very critical of the football program, and hypercaution has always been the standard stance of the athletic department.
But if there’s a good reason why you’re doing something, you should stand behind that idea. You should be willing to talk about it with anyone, and maybe you’ll change their mind. (After all, Penn’s football team participated in a whole thing with the Daily Pennsylvanian about their new uniforms just yesterday.)
I remain open to understanding Columbia’s thinking on the matter. Instead, Columbia quite inadvertently proved my point.
They won’t defend the uniform colors.
Because they can’t.