Ugly yellow sleeves suit this blue-collar team
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
You will notice a different vocabulary in this column. Like “apparel” and “fabric” and “style.”
I don’t usually write about clothes. I generally write about layups, home runs and performance-enhancing drugs. You’ll also notice “symbolism,” that dreaded word from Freshman English.
So, bear with me, because I’m writing about the Warriors’ T-shirts, the shocking yellow ones they wore Friday night when they beat the San Antonio Spurs, the best team in the NBA, 107-101 in overtime. It was a statement game for the Warriors after they had lost six of their previous seven and seemed headed down the drain. It was also a fashion statement.
The Warriors players wore shirts made of light fabric and with short sleeves, as opposed to the tank tops everyone else wears in the NBA. The Warriors will wear the short-sleeve T-shirts their two remaining Friday night home games.
I am not saying the T-shirts made the Warriors win. I am not saying the T-shirts are good luck. I am not even saying the T-shirts have a special style. Well, actually, I am.
They have no style. They are pug ugly. They look like summer pajamas.
But the sheer ugliness, the geekiness, the total nerdiness of the T-shirts is a good thing. It says something fundamental about who the Warriors are, a team that puts winning before glamour.
The T-shirts have no style because they are athletic shirts, not designer apparel. They are anti the total hipness of the NBA. They remind you of when you were a kid. You put on shorts, your Keds — or your Chuck Taylor Converse — and ran over to the schoolyard and played hoops for the love of it. And you didn’t care how you looked.
The T-shirts remind you how it felt on a sunny Saturday morning when you played half court on asphalt and the hoop had no net, and the next group waited to play the winners and you played for ownership of the court so you wouldn’t have to sit and wait. And you wore a T-shirt and maybe the T-shirt didn’t have a logo. It was eye-fracturing white and it was Fruit of the Loom or Hanes or some cheapo brand your mom got at the Dollar Store. And you played.
Everything about ball and your clothes was basic because it wasn’t about styling, it was about the game. T-shirts came before famous players got called only by their first names and before Show Time and monster slam dunks. Admittedly, some of the Warriors looked embarrassed to be wearing those goofy shirts, like they took a sartorial step down — and they did. But that’s OK. In fact, it’s the whole point.
A year and a half ago, when Adidas pitched the clunky T-shirts to the Warriors, they stressed kids can’t wear a tank top to school. They would need a T-shirt underneath it. But they can wear the Warriors T-shirt anywhere except, say, the Black and White Ball. A shame. And one other thing — Chris Mullin wore a T-shirt the whole time he played at St. John’s. Mullin always was cool in his uncoolness.
Saturday morning, Warriors coach Mark Jackson said, “I’m a guy that practices in shirts with sleeves.”
Bless his heart.
When he grew up in Brooklyn and then Queens, he never wore a tank top when he played basketball. “I would be wearing a T-shirt,” he said. “If I say, ‘Let’s go work out in the gym,’ you’re going to get a shirt with sleeves. We’re going to go play and have some fun. How many guys do you see in a rec center with sleeveless shirts?”
When he was too young to play with the big kids, he’d go to Foster Park in Brooklyn and watch Bernard King and Albert King and World B. Free.
Did they wear T-shirts?
“Absolutely,” he said. “There were some crazy guys with no shirts on.”
Now we come to the symbolism part. The T-shirts are about fitting in, downplaying your ego, being a team. They are about playing ball because you love it, not because it makes you famous or trendy. They represent the spirit of what the Warriors need to be.
The Warriors have lost Andrew Bogut to injury yet again. They have no superstar — although Stephen Curry is close. Each player has a role and the Warriors win with grit and sweat, and they never give up, certainly didn’t give up against the Spurs. They are a team.
They need to play up or down to their uniforms, depending on what you think of the uniforms. But the Warriors face a tough schedule with no guarantee Bogut will contribute, and they need to keep winning. While the uniforms express the perfect team philosophy, symbolism will take you only so far.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.
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