Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Titan Up

As many of us know, during week 6 against Philadelphia, our New York Jets will be sporting the New York Titans throwbacks. For a logo and jersey geek like me, this is going to be more enjoyable than I care to admit. When I told him about it, my father asked me how anyone really knows what Titan uniforms look like. "Did they consult the 500 people who went to their games at the Polo Grounds?" he asked. Until recently, I didn't even know what they looked like, and I'm the kind of guy who can discern the differences among the lettering of names on the back of the Jets' uniforms between 1970 and 1975.

According to lore, Sonny Werblin chose the Jets' green in 1963 when he bought the club because he himself was born on St. Patrick's Day. This was an improvement over the Titans organization and their aesthetic choices. Their owner Harry Wismer must have thought that if he cheaply packaged the Giants, then he'd cash in the way the Giants had. The Titans had chosen the Giants blue, Big Blue. To distinguish them from the primary football team of New York City, they added the flourish of...well, mustard yellow. Certainly an intimidating color. Ask the New Orleans Saints. This might explain why the recent revision of the Titans uniforms are the Giants' blue with Steelers' yellow, a harsher "tougher" yellow.

The current Titans of Tennessee are lead in the field by Vince Young. The mythological Titans were a race of figures who were precursors to the Greek Olympians. Eventually, they were replaced and imprisoned by the mighty gods themselves. Let's not remind Giants fans the fact that in many traditions, the original Titans were, of course, giants - especially since the Jets as Titans will be playing the Eagles in Giants Stadium.

Without an actual logo on their helmet, the Titans always looked like the team that the hero's team plays during a regular season showdown. Sort of like the Washington Generals or New Jersey Reds, whichever team was forced to play the Harlem Globetrotters. "I'm still unclear about this," Dad continued. "Are you telling me that the Jets are going to celebrate a legacy of mediocrity?"

Where to begin? First of all, I just saw the Complete History DVD of the Jets, and one could answer that question with a direct reference to the Jets' history itself. Yes, everyone deserves an historical appraisal on DVD, but in order to do so, Jets fans must admit that a celebration of that history must include a considerable examination of mediocrity, not to mention 1995 and 1996. In the first two years of their existence, the Titans were 7-7, only then to drop to 5-9 in 1962. They managed mediocrity. The Jets squads of the 70's could hardly claim the same.

Sure, there's plenty of humor in the Titans' history surrounding how Harry Wismer bounced his players' paychecks. As Larry Grantham once said, "We played like guys that would have played for nothing because we were guys who played for nothing." However, what interests me is the Jets' motivation for doing this throwback thing for the benefit of fans who know the history of their football team better than they know their own country's history. Who was the United States Supreme Court Chief Justice in 1963? "Whizzer" White? No. Who was the New York Titans coach in their final season of existence? "Bulldog" Turner? Correct. (Earl Warren was the Chief Justice)

This was somebody's idea in a marketing meeting. It's better than the idea the franchise had a couple of years ago of exploring as many of the diverse aspects of the color green as possible, an idea that did not hold together as anything other than a fancy proposal to Woody Johnson. New York Jets fans are not the kind of people for whom a dissertation on hues will be of any value. FIT spectrum analysis is best suited to erudite Giants fans. By the way, if you're wondering why the Titans logo on the Jets' website features the name "Titans of New York," it's probably because the actual, present-day "New York Titans" are the National Lacrosse League's representatives from New York. You can see them at Madison Square Garden, wearing blue and orange. They are not to be confused with the previous NLL team New York Saints, whom you could think of as the Titans' Titans in the same way that the Titans are the Jets' Saints. Got it? Great.

Since I live in Philadelphia, I will certainly enjoy how strange the response will be to the blue and yellow powerhouse that will play the Eagles in week six - that is, unless the Eagles choose to wear their beautiful 1940's baby blue and yellow throwbacks, in which case, the Titans may play in someone else's shadow again.

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