"MORE HELMET REFLECTIONS"
MORE HELMET REFLECTIONS June 2005
By Dr. Ken
When freshmen were not eligible to play varsity football in college, their uniforms often differed from that of the varsity. At Cincinnati, the varsity wore bright, polished white helmets, red center stripe, what was referred to as the “hanging UC” logo on both sides of the helmet, and the player’s uniform number at the back of the helmet. The UC logo was distinct relative to anything I had seen previously as it was two-colored and the two letters were not lined up next to each other but rather, the C sat lower than the U. Multi-colored logos may have been the norm or commonly seen in Ohio high school circles or in other parts of the Midwest, but in the New York metropolitan area, solid or single colored helmets were the usual, sometimes with a contrasting center stripe, rarely with any type of distinguishing logo. Block numerals on the sides or in the front and/or back of the helmet were sometimes seen also, but multiple colors on the helmet shell were considered to be “different.” The UC logo displayed a red “U” and a black “C”. This simple two-toned logo was very new to me and very “cool.” The numerals in the back of the helmet flanked the center stripe and were larger than what I thought was “normal” relative to what most high school teams had at home. In total, it was a great looking helmet, augmented by the standard gray colored facemask.
The varsity helmets were neither numbered nor striped during pre-season practice. The logos and other ornaments were placed upon the shell prior to the opening game and worn through practice for the remainder of the season. Before each game, the equipment men would touch up the paint and stripes. The freshmen team began with an all white unadorned helmet and finished the season the same way. Believe me, I was disappointed as I couldn’t wait to have the great UC logo on the side of my hat. We also wore a number of different jerseys, obvious leftovers which were for the most part in good condition but different from the varsity shirts. As a marginal player who more than anything wanted to be a part of the team, I was hopeful that our uniforms would be the same as those worn by the “big guys” on the varsity. They wore red jerseys at home, with white sewn tackle-twill numbers and black and white sleeve stripes. The television numbers were also white. The away jersey was white with red sewn numbers and a black and red sleeve striping. As freshmen, we wore a number of older jerseys. We had white jerseys with sleeve stripes, black jerseys with shoulder stripes, and red jerseys with white trim. Just having more than one jersey to wear was, to me, very exciting. If it seems that I was “hung up” on the various aspects of helmet and uniform construction, I was! Throughout my life, there have been a few things, a few activities that interested me but whatever I placed my focus on, received one hundred plus percent of that focus. The idea of playing college football was one of the goals that drove me to finish high school, to do most of “the right things”, and maintain grades that were good enough to allow me to attend college in a milieu that did not particularly encourage academic excellence. Everything about the possibility was exciting and mysterious. Certainly there was a definite amount of anxiety and self-doubt but the level of excitement overrode any trepidation. Loving every aspect of high school ball, from the bonding with teammates and coaches to the pageantry of game day to the beauty of the uniforms, I saw nothing unusual about looking forward to and spending “daydreaming” time wondering about my prospective college uniform. From the “small things” like shaving our ankles at the beginning of summer practice to the type of facemask to be worn to the major aspects of playing such as memorizing what to me was a very extensive offensive and defensive playbook provided almost overwhelming enthusiasm and anticipation.
I was just as quick to note the many
aspects of our opponents’ uniforms. I used my compulsiveness and insomnia to
study our playbook and look at more film in the coaches’ office than most
players did. I was “taken” with the various offensive formations and defensive
counter maneuvers, all of which were far beyond the simplified game we played in
high school. I was just as taken with our opponents’ uniforms. This came in part
in trying to “picture myself” playing against them. Long before “imaging
techniques” became standard fare for new-age psychologists, I would attempt to
visualize myself on the field, carry out my assignments, and doing so against
opponents who were clad exactly as I had seen them on film or in the various
football annuals. I felt that the more detail I put into my visualizations, the
more accurate would be my understanding of assignments. Most of this behavior
was borne of compulsiveness and a fear of failure but it served the positive
purpose of insuring that I was always adequately prepared and reinforcing my
focus on football uniforms. As always, every opponent’s helmet held a certain
fascination as it was the helmet that truly was representative of the team.