Thorn: The color of sport

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on December 1, 2016:

Why does a fireman wear red suspenders? Every kid knows the answer: to hold his pants up. But the better question for curious adults may be why he wears red at all, or why brides wear white and kings wear purple. Color speaks a secret language that our generation hears as white noise, an indistinct hum that we decipher unconsciously. The traces of these ancient meanings have come down to us most clearly in sport, which retained some of the mystical, hierarchical, and military trappings of old, even as society advanced beyond the guild, the village, and the governing church. In the colorful pageant of sport we may see rulers and revolutionaries, capitalists and tradesmen, even valorous firemen and, if not brides, baseball annies.

While the proliferation of sports teams over the past fifty years has created some startling color choices in uniforms and logos (what’s with those Florida boys?), even these must be the product of some thought process, no matter how dubious. The Florida Marlins’ hideous teal surely is meant to represent Miami waterways, as the Colorado Rockies’ purple signals the nearby mountains’ majesty. The New York Mets’ blue and orange echo the official colors of the 1939 World’s Fair as well as the tinted gowns of the damsels Liberty and Justice, respectively, on the New York State Seal. There are animal associations (Lions, Tigers, Bears, and more), but team colors are not always consonant with life in the wild. And there are frontier motifs (49ers, Spurs, Mavericks) and ethnic lampoons (Indians, Braves … don’t get me started).

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Originally published: December 1, 2016. Last Updated: December 1, 2016.