After this weekend’s football game against UCLA, it became apparent to me that Stanford needs a lesson in how to black out correctly.
No, overeager freshmen, this isn’t another part of AlcoholEDU. I mean that Stanford football needs to make better use of those fantastic black jerseys. Everyone knows that black jerseys are popular nowadays–even teams without black in their color scheme are adopting dark uniforms–but even though the Cardinal has now worn black uniforms two years in a row, it hasn’t been using them correctly. Therefore, we need to establish some important rules for blacking out.
The first rule of wearing alternate jerseys is this: the team that’s dressing up needs to use them for an important game. The entire idea of wearing cool alternate uniforms is to get the team pumped for a big game–that’s why Nike makes pro combat uniforms for rivalry games like Pitt-West Virginia last season and adidas made brand-new uniforms for Michigan-Notre Dame this season.
Take the Georgia Bulldogs for example. Back in 2007, No. 10 Georgia played host to No. 17 Auburn at home in a rivalry game so big that it’s called “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.” The Dawgs came out wearing black uniforms for the first time in school history and rolled to a 45-20 win on their way to a 10-2 season. The players were so pumped up about wearing new uniforms that they took their excitement out in a big game, not a game they were going to win anyway.
The two times Stanford has worn black jerseys, it’s been against Wake Forest and UCLA. The combined scores of those games were 113-43 in Stanford’s favor. Couldn’t that enthusiasm have been better used against USC, Oregon or Cal?
The second rule is that the team needs to make sure the fans actually know about the blackout and participate in it. Again, this is something that the 2007 Georgia Bulldogs did correctly when they did the blackout. Every single fan was wearing black and going crazy–some fans even painted themselves black from head to toe. Do yourself a favor and go watch a few old videos of the game, and you’ll see just how amped everyone in the stadium is was.
The best example of how to get your fans involved comes from Penn State, which stages a “white-out” game every season. All 106,572 fans are decked out in white, and I can only imagine how the opposing team must feel when they run out into a blizzard of howling fans.
Stanford has yet to do this correctly both last season and this season. The entire Red Zone–and everybody else–shows up wearing red and white, and is left looking around quizzically when the speakers blast “Back in Black.” The team just looks dumb when they’re the only ones in the stadium wearing black. It’s like showing up to a pool party wearing a coat and tie. It’s not that it doesn’t look good, it just makes everybody else feel awkward.
The third –and most important –rule of coming out decked in black is that you better back it up. Remember how great that 2007 Georgia game was and how pumped up the fans were? Well, the No. 3 Bulldogs tried it again in 2008 against No. 8 Alabama and got thumped 41-30 in their own house. The Crimson Tide had talked trash all week about how Georgia was wearing black because it was going to be their funeral, and then the ‘Bama fans got to revel gleefully in bursting the Bulldogs’ bubble, leaving Georgia not only beaten but also embarrassed.
So while those fans–and players–who showed up wearing all black felt like James Bond when they walked into the stadium, they undoubtedly felt like the cover of a Twilight novel walking out.
So there you have it–three very simple rules that will enhance your blackout experience. Thankfully, Stanford has followed the most important rule so far and will be wearing cool new uniforms for a big game against Notre Dame later this season (because everyone hates Notre Dame), but there’s still room for improvement. Perhaps next year, and many years into the future, the sold-out Stanford Stadium will be rocking when the Cardinal puts a bow on another blackout win, but this time, it’ll be over USC. How sweet would that be?
Jack Blanchat wears nothing but polo shirts, so while he has some sound fashion advice for the football team, he is also a prime candidate for TLC’s “What Not to Wear.” To schedule a Ralph Lauren mauve-and-burgundy-out, follow him on Twitter @jmblanchat or drop him an email at blanchat “at” stanford.edu.