Commentary

Uni Watch: Best foot forward

Updated: January 30, 2014, 12:43 PM ET
By Paul Lukas | ESPN.com

Marshawn LynchAP Photo/Elaine ThompsonSometimes the best uniform options aren't allowed on field, such as Marshawn Lynch's Skittles shoes.

By now you probably know that this Sunday's Super Bowl uniform matchup will feature the Broncos wearing orange over white and the Seahawks wearing white over navy. But what about the game within the game? Here are 10 uni-related things to watch for and think about as the game unfolds:

Uni Watch

1. The Nike Bowl: This Super Bowl represents a showdown between two of Nike's most notable signature designs. Denver's uniform was a revelation and a revolution when it debuted in 1997. The NFL had never seen anything like it, and it also marked the first time a major pro team had worn a uniform designed by its sportswear outfitter. Sixteen seasons later, there's still nothing else like it in the NFL.

Meanwhile, when Nike took over the NFL uniform contract in 2012 after a decade-long exile, the company's showcase team was the Seahawks, who were given a significant overhaul and immediately became the face of Nike's renewed relationship with the NFL (although the Jaguars supplanted them in that regard in 2013).

So when Denver and Seattle face off this Sunday, it won't just be AFC versus NFC -- it'll be Classic Nike versus New Nike. Let's call it the Nike Bowl.

[+] EnlargeSeattle Seahawks fans, 12
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesThe Seahawks' green accessory color has been fully embraced by the fans.

2. Green Scene: Although the Seahawks' primary team color is navy, their look is really defined by their secondary trim color, that intensely bright shade of lime green. Call it neon, fluorescent, electric or just loud -- by any name, it certainly makes a statement. And although it officially appears in only a few parts of the team's uniform (number outlining, pants striping, collar trim, the Nike logo), the Seahawks have increased the color's visual presence by using it for all sorts of accessories, including gloves, shoes, visor tab decals and even shoelaces. Love it or hate it -- there appears to be no middle ground -- it's the most distinct color in pro sports today.

3. Patchwork. The NFL is using ChromaFlex jersey patches (instead of the more traditional embroidered style) for the Super Bowl. This patch style isn't new -- it was used for last year's Super Bowl and is also starting to show up on the baseball diamond -- although it hasn't yet gained widespread acceptance throughout the sports world. On the plus side, ChromaFlexes provide a much more accurate reproduction of a logo design's details and nuances. On the other hand, they feel synthetic and are generally less tactilely satisfying than an embroidered patch. As always, you have to take the good with the bad. (Meanwhile, to see a good slideshow of the patches being applied to the Broncos' jerseys, look here.)

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesThe green-line design is composed of 12 graphics to represent Seattle's loud and faithful fans.

4. Putting the "Foot" in Football: You probably remember that Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch wore shoes adorned with Skittles a few years back. What you might not realize is that Lynch's teammate Golden Tate has been wearing socks with a Seattle skyline design. Would either of them risk the massive fine that would likely result from engaging in Super Bowl footwear shenanigans? Hmmm.

5. Better by the Dozen. You know that stripe pattern that runs down the side of the Seahawks' pants? Look closely and you'll see that the little butterfly icon appears 12 times, which is a shout-out to Seattle's famous "12th man" -- the loud fans in the stands.

6. And Speaking of Pants Striping ... When the Broncos' current uniform template was unveiled in 1997, conspiracy-minded observers noticed something interesting: The curved, pointed pants stripe on the pants looked a lot like a Nike swoosh when a player got down in a three-point stance. The Broncos and Nike have always denied this, but the myth of the pants swoosh has stubbornly refused to die (as has the lesser myth of a swoosh being subliminally embedded in the nostril of the team's logo mascot). Meanwhile, many fans haven't noticed that the stripe received a slight modification in 2012, when its tail end was extended to wrap farther around the knee area.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Tom HauckIs there a subliminal swoosh in Denver's pants design? You be the judge.

7. Meet in the Middle: The Seahawks had an odd little helmet quirk for the first 36 years of their existence: The two logo decals on the sides of their helmet both wrapped around toward the back but didn't quite meet or touch. One of the lesser-noted aspects of their 2012 uniform overhaul was that the logo decals were connected to form one continuous graphic.

8. The First to Be a Third: Seattle defensive back Earl Thomas III is poised to make Super Bowl history: When he steps onto the field for his first play, he'll become the first player ever to wear a RNOB -- that's Roman numeral on back -- in the Super Bowl.

9. Where's the Rest of Me? The Broncos and Seahawks both have familiar animal-head logos. But many fans don't realize that both teams have also had full-body versions of those logos in their portfolios -- a horse for the Broncos (which is technically still one of their secondary logos, even though it's almost never used for anything) and an osprey for the Seahawks (which was retired last season after barely being used over the preceding decade). Odd to see two teams with such underused secondary marks.

10. Let's Play Uni Watch Trivia: Uni Watch reader Jay Braiman has crunched the numbers and come up with some great uni-related trivia regarding this year's Super Bowl. For example, the Broncos are 0-3 wearing orange in Super Bowls, 1-1 in white, and 1-0 in navy. The only other team to wear three different jersey colors in Super Bowls is New England, which has worn red, white and blue. Also, the uni-numerical spread between Russell Wilson's No. 3 and Peyton Manning's No. 18 will set a Super Bowl record for the largest gap between the starting quarterbacks' uniform numbers, exceeding the previous mark set in Super Bowl II by Bart Starr (No. 15) and Daryle Lamonica (No. 3).

That should be enough to keep everyone busy until kickoff. Just don't get so bogged down in uni-related minutiae that you forget to lay in enough beer and chips to get through the game.

Paul Lukas, a lifelong NFC fan, will swallow hard and root for the Seahawks, neon green and all. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, 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.

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