Dressing the Part
by James R. Miller
One of the oft-overlooked keys to success in any field of endeavor is dressing the part of the winner. It is a sad but true reflection on the superficiality of much of human interaction that the competitor who has the look of a champion will often be treated like one–even if he lacks the accompanying abilities that make a true champion. By the same token, the competitor with a losing appearance will be treated with less respect by his fellow competitors, a situation with the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
With that in mind, it is at the very least heartening that the Buffalo Bills have chosen to introduce new uniforms at this time. The old uniforms had come to be associated not with the four straight trips to the Super Bowl back in the franchise’s glory years, but rather with the four straight losses in those games–and even worse, with the team’s gradual decline thereafter into the lower realms of the NFL power structures.
As was hinted in last issue’s column, the arrival here in Buffalo of a rejuvenated Drew Bledsoe at quarterback makes this an opportune time to change other aspects of the team’s fortunes, and the uniforms would certainly fall into that category. Of course, with the NFL’s strict guidelines, the new uniforms were in the works long before the Bledsoe trade was even a dot on the radar. Even so, the timing must be viewed as a fortuitous coincidence: an extremely successful off-season (not only owing to the Bledsoe trade) has given the team the renewed confidence of a winner. The right uniforms could possibly give them the confidence of a champion.
But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves here. Note that I said “right” uniforms. For if history has taught us anything, there is a right and wrong way to change. Whereas the freewheeling liberal changes haphazardly, often simply following whatever is the latest fad, the pragmatic conservative changes naturally–that is, gradually and logically, in just the same way that our planet and all life upon it have been evolving over these many eons.
It is this self-evident knowledge that causes me some degree of concern when I consider the Bills’ new uniforms. On the one hand, the new home uniforms do seem to reflect the sensible path of pragmatic conservative change referred to above. The overall look remains the same, with the changes being subtle ones that have a sound logical basis (such as the more fearsome deep blue color chosen for the jerseys’ primary color). Overall, they recall the past without dwelling unnecessarily on it and seem to represent a more efficient and modern costume suited to performing on the modern field of battle.
The same cannot be said, however, of the new away uniforms, which it pains me to say reflect a certain base element of pandering to the latest fads. As has been much commented on in the media, these new uniforms are reminiscent of the Tennessee Titans’ uniforms, the team from which Head Coach Gregg Williams arrived here in Buffalo. Coach Williams achieved a great deal as a coordinator in Nashville, they say, so it is only natural that he should wish to bring certain elements of that winning tradition with him here.
But what I have not heard commented on is the fact that the Titans’ championship run two years ago came up just a bit short. In fact, just like the Bills back in the their first Super Bowl, Tennessee came up just a yard short (a yard right in the Bills’ case, of course) on the game’s final play against the NFC opponent.
It is a universally held view in the world of business–and indeed, in all competitive fields–that when copying one’s competitors, one should emulate those who have achieved the greatest successes. Thus, it does concern me somewhat that the Bills appear to be following in the footsteps of a team whose near-triumph mirrors its own. Furthermore, the Titans’ decline following that Super Bowl heartbreak has been far more swift than the Bills’ a decade earlier. Thus, as the season approaches, we should take pains to remain rational and not succumb to overly optimistic giddiness.
But that does not mean that we cannot still revel somewhat in what is certainly an exciting time in Buffalo sports history. After all, it is not as if we are fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. Unlike that woeful franchise, ours is a team that–despite its many setbacks–I believe still possesses the heart of a champion.
Soccer: The “Other” Football?
What with the mild case of soccer fever that is now sweeping the country in conjunction with the American team’s unprecedented success in the current World Cup tournament, I think this would be a good time to say a few words about that piteous sport that dares to share a name throughout much of the world with our beloved American game.
Why, even some of my self-proclaimed “conservative” colleagues have of late taken an inappropriate interest in soccer. In their defense, they argue that it makes good conservative sense for a dedicated football fan to learn to enjoy the game from which our American football derived. This is pure nonsense, of course. Far from representing a conservative approach, this fashionable obsession with soccer stinks of the worst kind of reactionaryism. And certainly the tumultuous events of the 20th century have clearly demonstrated the hell to which that kind of reactionary mindset leads. Those who now find themselves indulging their atavistic interest in a game forbidding the use of the hands would do just as well to cease walking upright and return to the miserable level of dumb beasts.
The civilized majority, on the other hand, will be attending to personal matters and waiting patiently for that glorious day when the football season begins anew.
Born and raised in Hamburg, James R. Miller is currently completing post-doctoral work at London School of Economics.