Monday, January 30, 2012

My NFL Wish List for Nike

Dear Nike,

I know that you're/we're all excited about having won the contract to outfit the NFL. It's about time, if you ask me. For crying out loud, about 70% of the NFL players wear Nike already! I know you're going to be incredibly successful with the league and the extra business and exposure will be huge. But like Uncle Ben said, "with great power, comes great responsibility."

It's pretty obvious that Reebok worked themselves out of the NFL with poor design and average quality. This presents a huge opportunity but also a big responsibility for Nike. As a fan of the game and of the way it looks, and as a Nike retailer, I feel that there are things that need to be done and others that need to be undone with the changing of the guard. Unfortunately, I have no control over any of that in my position. I only have hope, hope that Nike will restore the professional look the NFL once had and intelligently blend it with all the fun and forward-thinking innovations that Nike has to offer.

Here are my specific wishes for the NFL/Nike marriage come April 2012...


It all starts with the refs. If the game is to be respected, then those responsible for its efficient operation must be respectable. Right now, they look anything but respectable. Are those truncated jersey stripes?! And wait, slacks?! With a stripe?! Oh boy. I could go on (numbers on the back, black sleeves...), but you get the idea. My point is, it looks amateurish. All of Reebok's redesigns do (we'll get to that in a minute). This look is the product of saying, "hey, let's update it a bit," without putting any effort into maintaining all the visual brand equity NFL referees had built up over the years as football and the corresponding media coverage has grown exponentially. The current uniform looks like it belongs in a European semi-pro league or on the field during a Saturday youth football game.

Simply put, we need to get back to this. Simple, classic, and instantly recognizable, with knickers and striped socks at all times! It just looks better, like a respectable NFL referee. And if a referee looks respectable, then we can respect their decisions.


It's a novel idea, I know. Uniforms that look the same. It would appear that the word uni- (one) -form (form), would limit extreme variation from the same group meant to wear one. However, Reebok has shown that it is a much more difficult task than one would assume. Let's take a look at some examples...



-Steelers: Harrison vs. Woodley

-Broncos: Tebow vs. his linemen

-Jaguars: Gabbert vs. Jones-Drew

-Packers: Rogers vs. Driver

-Giants: Manning vs. Boss

This is just embarrassing. What encourages me is that you've been able to pull off uniformity across position-specific tailorings for your collegiate teams, most obviously Iowa. Every detail is the same, it's only the size that's different. This is what needs to happen and it's really not that hard.

There's also a phenomenon that happens across the NFL, even on teams without drastic stripes or designs, in which different players wear different jersey templates. Sometimes, different players wear entirely different fabrics which alter the look of the jersey significantly. Ultimately this is a different jersey, which flies right in the face of the definition of uniform.

Please Nike, make uniforms uniform again.


When Reebok took over ten years ago, there wasn't a whole lot of variety in NFL uniforms. It was a whole lot of stripes and not a lot of difference in templates. As teams wanted to update their look to follow in the footsteps of the Broncos, Buccaneers, and Patriots, Reebok had a significantly blank slate to change the visual identity of the logos and uniforms of some very visible teams around the league.

But that's where Reebok went wrong. In my opinion, Reebok's footwear design started going downhill in the early 2000s and the NFL teams that got an overhaul around that time and since were victims as well. Some of the casualties include the Bills, Cardinals, Vikings, Falcons, Chargers, and Jaguars. I won't get into why those uniforms are complete failures, as I believe they speak for themselves. To be fair, Reebok did OK with a few redesigns. Some (the Lions, Texans, 49ers, and the Bills' second go around) were better than others (Bengals). And this may be a surprise to some, but I still hold that Seattle's redesign was one of Reebok's few (if only) successes. But when most of your unique redesigns are that bad, it's not the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.

Even in Reebok's successes, they managed to make simple mistakes that ruined what could've been a flawless design. I'm thinking of things like the 49ers' sleeve stripes. What happened there? I understand that many players have minimal seeves, but even those guys have space to put all three stripes around the sleeve. They're actually designed to interfere with the sleeve cuff. Silliness. Amateurism. These are simple mistakes that didn't have to be made. Please rectify this!

So when the time comes to overhaul some teams, please do it tastefully. I know the team has the ultimate say, but let's remember that some teams said yes. The power will be in your hands once in a while, so please use it wisely. And if at all possible, please usher some of those teams more in need to the front of the redesign queue.


This is not a football jersey. Neither are these. Please show the pros what collegians have already learned: jerseys can be sleek and ungrabbable while still covering and protecting your body.


I think we can all agree that these facemasks don't exist anymore. So why is an image of it still used so frequently and so prominently? The NFL and its players are very picky and specific about their equipment, so there's no reason that one of the ugliest and most antiquated helmets in football's history needs to be used in any kind of NFL art or a team's graphic identity. You guys are an intelligent and creative design house. If anyone can show the Browns and the NFL that you can be successfully plain and traditional without being obsolete, it's you guys.


Again, the idea is simple: people want to wear what the pros wear. But let's be honest, this is not what he wears. Sure, some people like their jersey to look like pajamas. But there are others of us that want to wear what the pros actually wear. It doesn't have to be at every corner shop, but just make it available, even if it's just on websites (,, team websites, etc.). Trust me, there are people out there who will buy it.

And that Cardinals jersey linked above brings up another frustration of mine. Let's clarify, or at least adhere to the meaning of "Authentic." When I was a kid in the 90s, products labeled as "Authentic" were what the pros actually wore. You could see it on the TV on Sundays. Nowadays, "Authentic" looks like this. Don't lie to consumers, we're smarter than you think.

Now, please don't read this and think that I'm not excited to see you, Nike, take over as the NFL's outfitter. I'm simply nervous and apprehensive after having seen what kind of damage can be done when a company that is ill-prepared gets stretched too far. But I have full faith that you'll do it and do it right. My intent here is just to make sure the voice of the NFL fan is heard to make this endeavor as amazing as it can be.

Here's to the next ten years!

Yours in NFL Fandom,

Greg Riffenburgh

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"The Feeling"

It starts in a huddle on or on the sideline or after a play. It's something bigger than one player, but they seem to be in control. It's something that grows, from one player, to one unit, to one team, then suddenly it's the whole building. It's that feeling when a team can do no wrong, when you're watching and you know what's coming, where victory seems imminent to the heart and the gut, but so far out of reach to the brain.

I got "the feeling" watching the last 3:42 of the Patriots-Colts game tonight. It's been the matchup of the decade with so much recent history and hype behind it, so much that you already know about that I don't need to go over here. It's something about these big games featuring legends in their prime that makes these games so special even before the opening kickoff. And then it gets historic.

As I said, "the feeling" came over the lat 3:42 of the 4th quarter, but the weird thing was, I hadn't seen any of the game up to that point. I had just gotten home from a dessert date and flipped on the TV to catch as much of what was left of the game as possible. I learned all I needed to know in seconds: the Colts had the ball in their own half, down by 13. A graphic came up pretty quickly comparing Brady's and Peyton's numbers. Brady was having the better night and the score showed it, 34-21. But right away, I knew, "Peyton's got way too much time and he's done it before, but can he score that many points with what's left? They've got a way to go." But on came "the feeling," and it got stronger with every completion Manning made. He willed his offense down the field and scored on an Addai touchdown run with seeming ease. Even though I hadn't seen the rest of the game, I knew this wasn't what was happening all evening, this was special. I knew that it was "the feeling," that these Colts had it behind them against such improbable odds, that Peyton was furthering his legend. And he still needed another touchdown to win.

Out come the Patriots, Brady's been playing well tonight, "but the Patriots seem to know too, they just look nervous." Sure enough, it wasn't just the Colt's offense with "the feeling," the defense had it too. 1st and 10, 2nd and 10, 3 and 2... what, 4 and 2! "What do the Patriots do here? Do they do the safe thing and punt, making Peyton go as far as possible? They're going for it!" Before the play even started, you knew, the stadium knew. Whatever the Patriots did, nothing can overcome "the feeling." Alas they couldn't convert. Suddenly Peyton had the ball only 29 yards to the end zone with 2:00 left, an eternity. Watching all of this you knew, you just knew the Colts were gonna have the magic and make it happen 4 plays and a perfect slant to Reggie Wayne later, the Colts did it. They did the impossible, 14 points in less than 4:00 to take a one point lead and snatch a victory.

I couldn't help but grin. I knew that this was big, I knew that this was history, a legend at work doing what he does best. All along knowing it was going to happen. It's just that little voice in your gut saying, "they're gonna do this. Peyton will find the only way to win this game." But your brain can't get behind it, it's skeptical. "But that's the only possible way to do it, and the Patriots know that. They're not just gonna let 'em do it." But when you have "the feeling" on your side, you do it. Everything clicks. Every play called is the right one. Every assignment is executed. Every decision made is the right one. Every play that needs to be made is made. And it just happens.

Such an incredible feeling.

Now, to get all analyst-y on you, Belichick is gonna get ripped apart for his decision to go for it on 4th and 2 with the game on the line like that. "He didn't trust his defense," "He's gotta play the percentages," blah blah blah... What's key in my mind was not the decision (I can easily justify either punting or going for it), but the play call. The play call was abhorable. The Patriots, in all their dominance and experience have to have a play or two in their pocket for just this sort of situation. A pass play to a sure-handed guy (in my mind Moss or Welker) that will get you 3-5 yards every single time you run it. A comeback. An in-and-out. A quick slant. Something for a situation where you need two yards but will surely get 5. Instead Tom throws off balance to Kevin Faulk on a little out and Faulk can't come up with the ball on the good side of the first down marker. Colts ball. Game (essentially) over.

But like I said, the Patriots just had that nervous look to them, like they weren't confident at all that they could hold onto their suddenly evaporating lead. You could tell they they knew that the Colts suddenly had that legendary stuff behind them, y'know, "the feeling." What made it so recognizable to them, was that they'd had "the feeling" before. That team of destiny air, that golden touch at the opportune moment. And when they realized that "the feeling" was suddenly on the other side of the ball, there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Idea of Golf in the Olympics

The author of this article brings up great points. The first thing I thought when I read the title was "wait, this game has one of the most well-respected code of ethics and conduct, golfers are honest people and play by the rules without supervision."

But the more I realized that the article tied to the Olympic bid, I realized that he was making a different point entirely.

I agree that golf is very elitist. I think most of that comes from the cost to play. Think about what it costs just to start playing golf: clubs are a few hundred bucks, cleats, a glove, acceptable clothing... and you haven't even paid to get onto the course yet. It just favors the more well-off (as do some other sports, like lacrosse, sailing, snowboarding...all those sports with huge startup costs and little public funding as opposed to say the high school football or track teams, both of which have high costs, but are offset by some public monies and pooled spectator revenue).

With that high cost comes the attitude, that the author mentions. If you've ever been golfing, it's like stepping into another world. Everything (at least at most courses in CA) is so nice, fancy and ornate to the point where you don't feel like you belong if you don't have enough money to drop $100 on brand new balls for the day out on the links. And the people also reflect that high society attitude as well. Because it takes all that money to get into it, those that do fork it over usually have plenty left over to show it off with other purchases (golf can also be one of these purchases).

Ultimately, golf just doesn't FEEL like an Olympic sport to me. Olypmic sports (in my mind) are basic, elemental tests of strength and skill. Stuff like track & field, gymnastics, rowing, shooting, swimming and the like. These sports don't get much attention from the mainstream sports avenue, so the Olympics is a perfect showcase for them. Some other Olympic sports have so much history behind the relationship that we are used to them being included (though they don't really fit because of the aforementioned definition). Stuff like basketball, baseball, hockey, volleyball... we're just used to seeing them there. And still other sports completely don't belong because it doesn't end up being a penultimate accomplishment to win there because there are bigger competitions elsewhere (think soccer) so the competition becomes diluted and not a true example of the world's best athletes.

As for golf? I don't think it belongs in the Olympics, not only for the reasons that the author mentioned but also because it misses out on all the reasons I just threw out: it's not a basic athletic test, it has NO Olympic history and the best competition is elsewhere. It just doesn't SEEM like an Olympic sport, y'know?

BTW, I don't buy that Augusta National is wrong for being an only male course. In fact, I think it's great that men can have their own private haven spending money how they want doing something they love. I think women have similar opportunities where businesses are typically female-dominated and no one complains. I think the reason most do complain about Augusta though, is because that male-only thing has historical ties to elitism and ugly segregation, which I realize it's kinda naive to think that it's such an "innocent" policy to be male-only. But there's also a kind of historical charm to it, y'know? Kind of a, "we've been doing business this way since 1xxx and we're not gonna stop now just because the times have changed." I think it's absolutely awesome and it's kind of a way to step back in time and feel a little old-fashioned.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's just... a little thing.

The MLS has come a long way towards being a competitive professional soccer league respected by the rest of the world. With the signing of David Beckham and even just rumors of other stars (Thierry Henry, Ronaldino, etc) saying they'd seriously consider playing Stateside has given the American league something to puff it's chest about in recent years.

But in my opinion, one little thing will hold us back in the eyes of our European counterparts whose respect we so dearly crave: our fans. I was watching the Seattle Sounders' inaugural game against the New York Red Bulls and was so distracted by the pitch. Look at all that confetti!

I know it may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but think about it: what does all of that paper and trash all over the field look like? That's right, a Central or South American soccer game. Don't get me wrong, a lot of great players and national teams have come out of those two continents. But what about their club soccer leagues? All of their best players play in Europe (Messi, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Robinho, Dani Alvez, Rafa Marquez). Little world-wide impression is made by these clubs. Granted I do think there is a language issue here (Europe is all English-compatible and easily translates to infiltrate American news, whereas the Spanish-oriented Central and South American only has a niche market in the US), but it goes beyond that. These fans are so loud and passionate, but that's about all the noise these clubs make. They're known for having fans that are absolutely crazy and throwing all kinds of unimaginable things onto the pitch, but they're club teams aren't much to be feared.

Hands down, Europe is recognized as the hub of world soccer. The best players from around the world go to play there. Two (Champions League, Euro) of the 3 most important tournaments in the world are exclusively European, and the other (the World Cup) is frequently won or contested by European countries. Look at their fields. No confetti around the endlines. No trash blowing across the pitch. No streamers draped across the goal. Granted, Italy still has crowd control problems and Spain a history of racism and flares in the stands, but in the most respected professional soccer leagues in Europe (England's Premiership, Germany's Bundesliga, Spain's La Liga), the field is pristine. It's hallowed ground. Fans wouldn't dare affect their team's chances of losing the game because the goalie had to wade through toilet paper around the penalty box in order to save a shot. Or their star player has to clear the corner flag just to get the free kick off. They have too much respect for the game, too much respect for the historic stadiums in which history has been and is being made.

The MLS and US Soccer would do themselves a huge favor if they took a long hard look at the situation. There are many other ways to show a fans support of a team. For instance singing, or beating drums or wearing your team's colors. In fact, a true fan, can appreciate the little things in the Beautiful Game. English fans applaud great play in the middle of the field, because they know that's where the game is really won and lost. To me, that's a real fan; one that can watch and pay attention to a goalless draw and argue that it might've been one of the best games ever played. It just looks trashy and tacky to have stuff strewn all over the field and to feel that "this is how a real fan behaves."

If the American professional soccer leagues (heck, even the fans) want worldwide respect for what they put on the field, they better make sure that what they put on the field is respectable.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wait, the BILLS?! What?!

We've had a few days to digest the fact the Terrell Owens has signed with the Buffalo Bills. But when I think about it, I still have the same reaction: are you CRAZY?!

Well, I feel that way for the Bills and Bills fans. Just looking at the face of situation makes one think, "here we go again." TO has done this before and to teams with backbones (Cowboys, Eagles) so we can imagine what he'll do to a team like the Bills. It's only a matter of time.

And it's not only his attitude. It's blatantly evident to anyone who watched a Cowboys game last season that TO is losing his touch. He dropped 12 passes last year, but that only means he touched the ball. Countless times he gave up on a route or didn't even try to grab the ball when the pass could clearly have been caught with even just a little extra effort. So frustrating as a fan of either the team or the game.

But if we take a second and look at the situation on a slightly deeper level, we find that this may just be a win-win for both the Bills and TO. Here's why:

1) It's a one year contract paying TO one of the highest WR salaries in the league ($6.5 million). If we look back at TO's tenures (San Francisco, Philadelphia & Dallas) his first year has never been the problem. At each stop he's tried to impress the league and prove that he's the best around. It's only after things don't go as planned that he blows up and starts to say some unnecessary things, letting his competitiveness get the best of his attitude. He has proven three times that he can be a team player in his first year or two. This gives the Bills the chance to have a potential playmaker on good behavior trying to prove he's still the best. If it doesn't work out, it's only one year and this young, rebuilding team is that much wiser.

I mean, if Randy Moss can do it with the Patriots, TO would do well to learn from him.

2) TO is an amazing complement to Lee Evans. TO is the rough and tough underneath route runner while Evans is the downfield burner. With TO getting balls and drawing coverage underneath because he's capable of breaking one off if he catches it, Evans should now have an easier time running his deep routes and getting behind the corners and safeties. With a capable QB in Trent Edwards and a two-headed rushing attack in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, TO can only help these guys out.

3) As a natural attention getter, TO brings a lot of interest into the second-smallest market in the NFL. As I mentioned in my blog about a team moving to LA, Buffalo as a city is hurting for money, and thus the Bills are significantly affected by the situation as well. Bringing in TO has a lot of people getting excited about what he can do to boost the profile of the franchise he has now dubbed "North America's Team."

No one can tell whether or not this deal will work for either side, but there are compelling reasons to believe one or the other. Ultimately, I'm gonna say the same thing now that I said the when he signed with the Cowboys: "well, let's wait and see." Hopefully it ends a little better this time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It's Not a Question of Wanting, but Earning

It's now publicly known that Vince Young wants his job back as starting QB of the Tennessee Titans. Thanks for telling us, Capt. Obvious. It didn't take a referral to your psychiatrist to figure that one out. But he's not the only one wanting the job: Kerry Collins made it known to the Titans that he wouldn't re-sign with the team unless he was assured of being the starter again next year. He's now signed up with Tennessee again, so I guess we have our answer there. (Of course I'm sure Chris Simms would've loved a fair shake at the job too).

Don't get me wrong, Vince is an amazing talent. He single-handedly took the Titans to brink of the playoffs in his rookie season and into the playoffs in his second. But the guy has a documented attitude problem. He thinks he can do what he wants (first paragraph), he pouts, and he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer (he scored a 16 on the Wonderlic test). The guy has succeeded at all levels of football and thinks the NFL and the Titans (even the University of Texas) owe him something for it.

From what I've seen, there's no way Young should be starting with his current attitude. At least not yet. He may turn out to be a championship-winning QB for the Titans (or someone else), and kudos to him if he does. But winning the Super Bowl takes a team effort from a team that has complete faith in each other, especially in their team leaders, like the QB. Vince won't be that guy on that team until he stops acting like a child. I think another couple years or two behind an ultimately successful QB with his own list of past problems (Kerry Collins) can only do him good.

Hopefully Young will come out of his time on the bench as a more humble athlete ready to do whatever it takes (not whatever he wants) to win.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Big Day

Yesterday (Wednesday, March 4, 2009) had some big news involving a couple prima donnas.

If you've seen any sort of news today, you know that the Dodgers signed Manny Ramirez and the Cowboys finally cut Terrell Owens loose. All within a 24 hour period.

The Manny story broke first thing in the morning (at least here on the West Coast). I was in class at the time, but I was able to see the large flat screen TV in the new Outpost here at CSULB tuned to ESPN with all the Manny clips playing over and over again with Dodger logos scrolling across the bottom. I didn't need to see or hear anything, it was that obvious.

As a casual Dodger fan, I'm happy to see him back. Everyone (especially the Dodgers) know that LA is a better team (and has a better shot at the World Series) with Manny in the lineup. However, I'm a little nervous. Now that he's signed, all the "he quit on Boston" stuff is coming back up. I just hope it doesn't happen again. At least not before the Dodgers get a World Series win. This article is encouraging, but we've been burned as sports fans before.

And as for TO, good riddance. As a former Cowboys fan, I still have a soft spot for the team, and it's exciting to see them do well. Guys like Romo, Witten, Barber and occasionally TO made it that much better. But TO eventually became TO again. From the minute the Cowboys signed him, I knew it wasn't a good move. I was won over a little bit once I saw he seemed committed and relatively tame, but it was a matter of time before his true feelings character came out.

There's all kinds of talk out there about where he'll go next. Someone will inevitably take the bait. Personally, I think he'll end up with the Raiders. He just seems to fit with the attitude of the culture and the team needs a public face to get some attention as well as some skill at WR. And we all know Al Davis isn't afraid to make a splash. But we all know this. It's the idea that he could land somewhere else that gets me thinking. Would anyone else take the risk? I doubt it. He's eventually torn down every team he's been on, and it's no secret that he has a severe case of the dropsies and the I-don't-care-enough-to-make-an-effort-sies. It's different from Manny where he's been a good player on two out of his 3 stops (Cleveland and LA) with a lot of positive years in Boston (again, we'll wait and see what happens after a championship). Randy Moss is a similar case. He had his moments with the Vikings and got frustrated with the Raiders but he was still an amazing talent in his prime (arguably still) who sucked it up when it came time do so. TO's had his chances and blown them all.

On both fronts, I'm just tired of hearing about both... let's get the season under way!!!