NFL Vomit: Why Pink Jerseys Need to Be Burned

Joshua HayesCorrespondent IIMay 17, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 10: Cancer survivors are welcomed before the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Players wore pink in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Ravens defeated the Broncos 31-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Anybody with a sense of history realizes that the pink jersey is an abomination of football culture and team identity.  It's fine for a good cause, but not for a jersey.

Every great identity has a counter-identity to deal with.  Abraham Lincoln had to fend off a yield of confederates and their ideology for emancipation.  Before finishing his famous invention, the general public felt that the Thomas Edison had blown a bulb in the brain!  In a basic analogy, for every person or thing that seems to make sense, there's a "Johnny Cochran" out there ready to argue that the glove doesn't fit.  Obviously, these keynote events are more important than most other things, but isn't it true that in life the purest, most classic things rarely go without being messed with or adulterated? 

For my rant, let's consider the Steelers jersey—black for the team's grit and gold for its championships—as the identity.  A perfect, meaningful, historic garb that immediately evokes the emotions and memories of years of tradition.  It would be easy to leave alone the NFL's jerseys, acting like badges of honor.  So, what is the counter-identity?  The unnecessary, ridiculous hypocrisy that only the combination of fake fanaticism and American marketing can create: the PINK JERSEY. 

Here in Pittsburgh, being a Steelers fan is an identity predicated on an appreciation for a blue-collar team that shows its colors with pride and actions.  Nouns such as tenacity, grit and perseverance come to mind.  The pink Steelers jersey, as any sane person can already tell you, counters this belief set all together. I can't conceive of a pink Bears, Giants, Packers or Eagles jersey either.  And a pink Browns jersey—that's just asking for a frontal lobe to burst!!

I question the concept, not the consumer when I discuss my perspective.  While I am serious about my points, the article is intended with a certain level of playfulness, so I'll trust that if you continue to read (given this warning and explanation), you consent to being reasonable and not easily offended.


Wearing a Pink Steelers Jersey Requires the Act of 5 Different Sins, in This Order:

1. Acknowledging the jersey's existence. (Which isn't so bad. I'm technically doing this by talking about the jersey.  Don't relax, yet....the acts get progressively worse.)

2. Touching the jersey. (Historical recounts seem to show that Johnny Tremain's hand was burnt not by a workplace metal-shop accident, but by touching a pink Steelers jersey)

3. Considering purchasing the jersey. (Tsk, tsk)

4. PURCHASING the jersey.  (Tsk-er, tsk-er)

5. Wearing it. (Possibly the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity!   But, then again, this action is infidelity of sorts!)

Before I go any further, let me clarify key points:  Fair or not, the reality is that Americans condition the concept of pink being for girls and blue for boys.   I'd be almost as against a key lime jersey if the team wasn't associated with that color in any way.  I'm not going to tell you that pink isn't a bit more bothersome to me.  To defend myself more clearly:  There is a reason that pink is not a part of any team's standard color scheme, and it has a lot to do with connotation. 

Likewise, I realize the NFL players wear pink gloves, shoes, etc., during Breast Cancer Awareness month, but note that there are no fully pink jerseys worn.  I'm all for wearing pink, especially in support of a great cause. It's not a good rebuttal to explain why the ultimate jersey abomination exists.

And—most importantly—nobody is a bigger freedom of expression advocate than myself, and I'm all for wearing pink if it suits anyone.  But to wear a pink Steelers jersey doesn't make sense.  I know that things in life don't have to make sense, but when it comes to Steelers Nation, nothing makes more sense than Black and Gold!   

I was walking down Philadelphia Street in a town near Pittsburgh (the irony of that statement is not lost on me), and I saw a woman who was wearing a Jack Lambert jersey.  The name Lambert evokes images of that toothy snarl, that menacing stance and his passionate tenacity, and play the image of his dominance again and again in your head.  The iconic linebacker wore his team's jersey proudly, playing for the team as much as himself—fact.  There was one problem with this young lady's choice of attire:

The jersey was pink.

I repeat:  Jack Lambert.

I repeat: It was pink.


Replay those Lambert slides in your imagination, but put him in pink.  Don't worry if you can't do that.  I failed as well.  I think a mental defense mechanism kicked in...

The concept of a pink Steelers jersey is a complete oxymoron traditionally and utter marketing sell-out stylistically.  Those who love pink should wear pink, but teams have colors to create an identity and sense of tradition.  Tradition should be honored.  Jerseys should not be pink.

The sales market is a place for trends, and the trend today is glamour.  The perfect solution for those too caught up in their own identity to wear team colors?  The pink jersey.  The great answer for those who want to fit in at the tailgate but not wear black and gold (or whatever color may apply) because it draws attention to their pale skin due to contrast (or any number of reasons that shouldn't matter).  I see this jersey, and it makes me say, "fan fake."

By now, true fans already understand the hypocrisy that comes with wearing a pink Steelers jersey.  For those who understand and therefore do not wear them, continue to read for fun.  For everybody else, continue to read for education.  It's time to take a trip backwards, to the beginning of the team's existence. 

Once upon a time, team colors were chosen.  Some teams, like the Vikings, chose manly purple.  Other teams showed some pride.  One of these franchises was Pittsburgh. They were Black like grit and Gold like a championship.  They chose a mascot to represent a work ethic and a blue-collar attitude.  The team resembled that image: tough-nosed, gritty, hard-hitting, rocking, knocking, START BLOCKING or GET WALKING.  Period. 

It wasn't pretty.  And for a long time it wasn't successful.  Until the 1970's, of course.  You know those images, don't you?   Mean Joe looking across the line with those piercing eyes.  Underrated Jack Ham finishing off the tackle.  The images, memories and legacy that are associated with the Steelers illustrate a history of toughness and commitment to that image.  Black with grit.  Gold with success.

Yet, people choose to wear a pink Steelers jersey.  In fact, I shouldn't even use the term pink jersey;  it's really a pink mesh shirt designed to capture the effect of a jersey without being one.  To this date, I haven't seen an authentic jersey that takes this color scheme, which probably represents the line designers are not willing to cross.   Why make such an expensive oxymoron?  Then again, if I did a search for an authentic "pinky" what would I find?  I'm afraid, and I won't do it.

I suppose thre's no stopping anybody.  Freedom of expression is a wonderful dynamic that our society embraces, but my issue isn't with wearing pink.  It's just...why the jersey?  Is the color palette of the home team really that bad?  (Okay, exclude Seattle from my disposition!)

I recently mused over the manner in which the color pink remotely can be associated with the Steelers or any NFL team.  Newsflash:  NONE!  ZERO!  NADA!  Yet, fan-fakes insist on foregoing the traditional jersey and wearing this ill-advised random color scheme for their complexion (apparently). If I wore a pink jersey in Jack Lambert's presence with his name on it, I'm almost certain that I'd get discipline dealt to me.  It's just not identifiable with the team in any way whatsoever.  A name is a name and a number is a mere numeral; the colors are the coat of arms of team tradition! 

And as I speak, in my ears ring the rebuttal of the wearers:

"But I don't look good in Black n' Gold."

In my opinion, those jerseys can be made black and gold again in a hurry...  by dumping some oil on them and topping with gasoline. 

Then, droves of fans have the nerve to show up to GAMES in them! TO GAMES!  At Heinz Field, the place where a Steelers atmosphere is supposed to be created!  You don't find it embarrassing?  Imagine if everyone took on that outlook.  Heinz Field would become a little pink punch bowl and boy,  wouldn't that be great....."And now the starting line-up for your PITTSBURGH PINKIES!"

What's next?  "I don't think light colors look good on me!  Let's wear black to the wedding!" 

Sometimes, colors just fit an event.

So, for those of you who own or have worn a pink Steelers jersey, remember:  Mistakes are okay so long as we learn from them.  Do the right thing.

Oh, and I think green ketchup is stupid, too.......