Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hokies unveil their new look

Nike serves up whale of an outfit to quicken, yet inspire plodding players

BLACKSBURG -- Less than 48 hours before Veterans Day, a hulking, black, military-style vehicle with Oregon plates secured a prime strategic position on Virginia Tech's campus.

They found a spot where students would be eating pizza on their lunch break.

A spot where young and old would pass by and be tempted to stop.

A spot where the thump-thump-thump of their R&B music could be heard and could draw a crowd.

And then, out stepped some true American heroes: Nike representatives.

They were here to save the program.


What on Earth had taken them so long?

For so many years here at Tech, the Hokies had been plodding around in these game-day outfits that might as well have been made from a hybrid of burlap and lead.

So heavy. So unwieldy.

So downright unacceptable.

But don't worry, folks. All is well. The Nike people have changed that now with their state-of-the-art "Pro Combat" line of clothing, a name that shouldn't offend real soldiers, because we all know real soldiers love football and don't mind having their daily brushes with death juxtaposed with the image of some me-first linebacker stopping a third-and-2 and then doing the Pee Wee Herman dance.

Anyway, it's about dang time this happened. You couldn't count the number of times Tech players have walked into that postgame interview room after a loss, looked solemnly out in the eyes of cameras and lamented: "If only these stupid uniforms didn't weigh 1,061 grams ..."

Well, they got their wish.

Now the uniforms weigh only 673 grams. That's a 37 percent decrease, the Nike people say (although they're rounding like a point-five fiend).

Here are a few things the Nike people didn't say, but thanks to the new uniforms, we safely can:

  • Tech's offense is now 37 percent less likely to run the ball on third-and-6.
  • Tech linemen are now 37 percent less likely to leg whip somebody, and
  • Tech coach Frank Beamer is now 37 percent less likely to say a game got "out of whack."

Several hundred people gathered Monday to witness this milestone moment, which was headlined by Beamer, former Hokies greats Bruce Smith and Antonio Freeman, and current players Tyrod Taylor and Cody Grimm.

As Taylor and Grimm modeled the gear -- which the Hokies will wear Saturday at Maryland -- the luminaries could barely contain themselves.

Freeman: "I'd sure like to wear it. These guys look sweet. Sweet in a good way, that is." [Cue laugh track]

Smith: "I just wish we'd had uniforms like this when I was playing."

Beamer: "If you get a chance to deal with Nike, buy their products."

Not one of those quotes is made up.

Neither is this: In an unbelievably classy move, Nike incorporated the school motto -- "UT PROSIM" -- into the uniform. As every good Hokie knows, that's Latin for "That I may serve."

But considering Nike placed it just above the player's rear end, it's sending a newer, more exciting message to tacklers pursuing from behind: "You just got served."

And the best part of the uniform? On the inside of the neckline, Nike has stitched "BEAMERBALL." Viewers at home might never actually see it -- it would require one whale of a horse-collar tackle to make it visible on TV -- but at least they've given credit where credit is due.

These are two great American entities, working together to make the world a better place.

Godspeed, Pro Combat vehicle.


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