It’s almost time for this year’s edition of the Shamrock Series, the game Notre Dame started several years ago to bring the Fighting Irish on display at a so-called neutral (Chicago probably has more Irish fans than Notre Dame) site. Of course, with this new tradition now comes an all-new set of uniforms, which indeed are very…new.
At first glance, these twenty-first century sci-fi versions of the time-honored Notre Dame uniform seem little more than a plug for uniform-designer and huge Notre Dame sponsor, Adidas, as their logo is on display at least a dozen times on the various sleeves, socks, wristbands, etc.
And Irish head coach Brian Kelly does little to dispel this notion. “The Shamrock Series is a great opportunity for our football program to play in an exciting venue located in an area with so many Notre Dame fans,” Kelly gushes. “This year’s game at Soldier Field will be part of an incredible weekend…for our team. The players absolutely love the uniforms designed by Adidas for this game and they will help make it a memorable night.” But notice his assessment of the situation contains the “A” word too!
Although I’m glad the players like the uniforms, I tend to agree with the thumbs down opinion on this version, as expressed by J.R. Francis of SportsLogosNews:
But this is an absolute slap in the face to generation after generation of tradition and honor at Notre Dame. No matter what your personal rooting interest may be when the Irish are on the field, but any sports fan must genuinely nod to the program’s deep and rich history. These uniforms puke all over that in a shameful act of capitulation to the mercurial concept of “youth appeal.”
In other words, while new college football powers without a long rich tradition such as the Oregon Ducks might have to resort to such gaudiness to attract attention, one would think Notre Dame is beyond that. But if the Notre Dame grotto is busy 24/7, so is the University’s marketing department, and the uniform, especially the helmet with its half golden dome and half out-of-control logo, seems to capture Notre Dame’s clash between commercialism and religious tradition.
Although the opponents of the new unis usually sigh with relief that these novel additions (or subtractions) to tradition will be gone after this game, Francis’ comments about their “youth appeal” make me wonder if that’s true. To me, these uniforms are even too “youthful” to truly appeal to college kids, but are really geared to pre-teens and younger. They remind me of the outfits of the fictional heroes my sons once followed; maybe the Teenage Mutant Ninja Leprechaun, or the long-lost Power Ranger with a brogue.
Maybe these uniforms are more than a quick buck for Adidas, but include a wider marketing campaign including putting action figures of Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert (clad in their Shamrock Series uniforms of course) into Happy Meals. And while I’m not suggesting Notre Dame marketing should go in the Burger King/McDonald’s direction, if they do then I surely deserve a cut.
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