Uni Watch bids farewell to NFL's Pro Bowl
April, 27, 2012
By Paul Lukas | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesLeroy Hoard rumbles upfield as John Randle feigns pursuit during the 1994 Pro Bowl in Honolulu.If you felt a shudder rumbling through the uni-verse yesterday, there was a good reason for it: It looks like the NFL is doing away with the Pro Bowl.
Ah, the Pro Bowl -- so many memories. The awful uniforms, the half-hearted tackling, the awful uniforms, Don Ho performing at halftime, the awful uniforms, the coaches wearing Hawaiian-patterned shirts, and did we mention the awful uniforms?
The Pro Bowl had clearly outlived its usefulness, but it's still a shame to see it go, if only because of the comic relief it provided each year. And really, wouldn't you like to see what Nike would have done with the Pro Bowl uniforms? It would have been the perfect venue for their designers to go crazy.
Most fans probably don't realize that Pro Bowl uniforms used to be boring, not wacky. That basic uni format -- the NFC wearing blue over white, the AFC wearing white over red, and both squads wearing generic-looking helmets -- was the standard Pro Bowl look from the time of the AFL-NFL merger until 1979, when the look of the game started to change. Here's a selective timeline of what happened after that:
1979-1988: The "A" and "N" helmets are scrapped and players begin wearing their own helmets, creating a crazy quilt of headwear that sometimes color-coordinates and sometimes doesn't.
1989-1994: In a foreshadowing of things to come, the NFL decides to jazz things up by adding stars to the pants striping and patches to the jerseys.
1995-1997: This is where things get seriously weird, as the league rolls out the most bizzaro uniforms in NFL history. This marks the birth of what we think of when we make fun of the Pro Bowl.
1998-2000: After peering into the abyss, the league backs off and goes with a much more sedate design.
2001-2002: The Pro Bowl once again becomes a laboratory for design innovation, as the NFL experiments with gradation-faded uniforms and a blizzard of jersey patches.
2003-2004: Things start to get seriously weird, as the conference logos appear on huge, splotch-like pants panels and the NFC wears a solid-blue uni.
2005-2006: The splotch on the pants is replaced by a dagger-stripe of stars. And in an inspired move (or, if you prefer, a very Arena League-esque move), the Pro Bowl logo is included underneath the uni number on the back of the jersey.
2007-2008: How can you squeeze even more stars onto a jersey? Sublimate them into the fabric.
2009-2010: "Hey, you know what we haven't tried yet? Stripes that wrap around the players' butts!"
2011: "You know what else we have tried? Long pants!"
2012: "OK, scrap the long pants. That was a dumb idea. But keep the stars that look like a necklace. We'll come up with something new for next year."
But now it appears that there won't be a next year -- too bad. Farewell, Pro Bowl. You'll be missed.
Paul Lukas still holds out hope that the NBA and NHL will continue to come up with crazy all-star uniform designs. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch website, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.