The best and worst all-star duds.

The stadium scene.
Feb. 16 2004 4:00 PM

Uni Watch

Which sport has the best all-star duds?

February is a slow time in the sports world—football is over, baseball hasn't started yet—which may explain why three of the four major sports leagues recently clustered their all-star games within an eight-day span. From an aesthetic perspective, all-star games are tricky: Do you let the players wear their regular uniforms, as Major League Baseball does, resulting in a crazy quilt of conflicting designs, or do you put the players in generic all-star unis and hope nobody notices that they're even worse than last year's? Here's how the three just-completed all-star contests stacked up.

NFL Pro Bowl: The first problem with the Pro Bowl is that that NFL always dresses the AFC in red and the NFC in blue while letting the players wear their regular team helmets, which results in some serious color-coordination problems—players from the Packers, 49ers, and Eagles, among others, may as well stay home. Then there's the uniform itself, which seems to get sillier each season. This year's version was so garish, Uni Watch hardly knows where to start—the unsightly piping on the jerseys and pants? The Broncos-style "horns" of color on the rear of the jerseys? The NFC's solid-blue look? The carnival of jersey patches that made everyone look like Arena League players? And that's not counting the, uh, authentic Hawaiian fashions worn by the coaches. The saving grace, of course, is that nobody actually watches the Pro Bowl. Grade: F

NHL All-Star Game: Classy job all around. This year's basic All-Star unis were gorgeous in their simplicity. No crazy typefaces, no wacky blocks of color—just basic, tasteful designs. Lots of nice little touches, too: the lace-up collars, the little "HB"
stickers that the American-born players wore on their skates in honor of Olympic coach Herb Brooks, the throwback wheat-colored jerseys worn by the refs and linesmen. The only teeny-tiny flies in the ointment were that players wore their usual gloves and goalies wore their usual leg pads, which created some minor color clashes. All in all, though, this game was easy on the eyes. Kudos to all involved. Grade: A-

NBA All-Star Game: The NBA has flip-flopped its all-star approach in recent years. For decades the game featured generic "East" and "West" unis, which over the years ranged from simple to tacky to disconcertingly corporate. In the late 1990s, however, the league began letting players wear their regular uniforms, which Uni Watch rather liked—the visual jumble created a cool melting-pot effect, and it was easy enough to tell one team from another because all the players on the home team wore white. The NBA still uses that format for the Rookie Challenge game but has gone back to generic unis for the All-Star Game itself. This year's design was nothing to be embarrassed about, but it was nothing to get excited over either—Uni Watch pleads indifference. Meanwhile—enough, already with the footwear shenanigans (Tracy McGrady wore one blue sneaker and one red; Ron Artest wore one yellow and one white), an All-Star Game tradition that's now officially annoying. Grade: B

As for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, we'll deal with that when it comes up in July. The way the off-season has been shaping up, though, it looks like the entire American League squad might be wearing Yankee uniforms.

Questions or suggestions for Uni Watch? Send mail here.

Paul Lukas writes about food, travel, and consumer culture for a variety of publications.

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