Throwbacks and Fauxbacks

The Indiana Pacers announced their alternate jerseys for the upcoming 2015-16 and following season, and the Hickory Huskers uniforms from the movie Hoosiers took the sports media world by storm, with positive and negative feedback. Most of Indiana seems to support the maroon and gold threads, but those outside the state consider it an ill-advised choice over the actual 1954 Milan Indians uniforms. The proper response shouldn’t be Olbermann calling Indiana the world’s worst or other writers citing history over fiction. Instead, understand the Indiana Pacers and the NBA are in the sports ENTERTAINMENT industry. Pairing the hardwood with Hollywood is inevitable as the two industries use performance and tie-in items to increase profits.

I think the uniforms are a brilliant choice, and finally are a good marketing campaign in sports. It could have been worse. You could see the “Indiana Pacers Presented by the MGM film Hoosiers” play games against the “Warner Brothers presents the Charlotte Toon Squad” this season. Instead the marketing is less in your face, and better incorporated into the sport and culture of Indiana basketball.

It’s not meant to take literally. The Pacers are paying homage to Indiana basketball, and the film “Hoosiers” represents the impact the sport has had on the state throughout history.Homage’s are meant to be metaphorical. If the Pacers instead chose the actual team of Milan, they fail to represent the entire state’s fanbase. “Hickory” is as much alive in Indiana, through tradition and the actual filming location being a must-visit destination for basketball fans.

However, this is far from the worst fauxback uniform to exist.

The Tampa Bay Rays premeired their 1970s uniforms recently, despite never having existed as a team in the 1970s.

An entire hockey team was created and inspired by a movie franchise for most of its history.

The NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies wear throwbacks honoring the Memphis Sounds ABA franchise, which met it’s demise in 1975. The Sound’s legacy instead travelled to Nashville and minor league baseball when copyright lapsed.

Minor league baseball is the best place to find fauxback uniforms. Last week the Fresno Grizzlies traded it’s claws for a food truck delicacy becoming the “Tacos.” The team is no considering a permanent switch to the name because of marketing dollars. According to ESPN, the team sold nearly 900 hats with the new logo, compared to just 16 with the Grizzly since the month began.

Even the Fort Wayne TinCaps made the fauxback jump, becoming the “Octane” for the promotional “What Could Have Been?” Night. When the team changed names and stadiums in 2008, the “Octane” name finished runner up to “TinCaps.” The alternate reality came with a new mascot and new video board graphics.

The NFL might be even more notorious for changing history with throwbacks. The Bears, Redskins, and Packers all have some classic throwbacks, complete with vintage look from the league’s early years, and a brown helmet. Historical accuracy would put modern day players in leather, open-faced helmets, and trade the high-tech Nike uniform materials for knit sweaters.

Throwback and fauxback uniforms aren’t going away as they become money-making machines in the team stores. But what other teams could incorporate some Hollywood magic into their threads?

Detroit Tropics (Pistons) – Semi-Pro

Give Will Ferrell the whistle to coach the defunct, fictitious ABA team. We already know he can play any sport and any position, so why not see his coaching talents with grown-ups? He already schooled Ditka. Just imagine the notoriety from all the in-game promotions? The only other choice is to throwback to the original Pistons: the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons who happened to host the 1953 NBA All-Star Game.

Los Angeles Sandlot (Dogers) – The Sandlot

Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez is already a household hero across America, so why not make the Dodger’s the most nostalgic team in baseball? Now they can have local heroes change the fortunes and bring a World Series to Chavez Ravine, and a mascot is built in already with a lovable dog.

New York Knights (Yankees) – The Natural
Imagine if Derek Jeter came out of retirement for one last shot at the majors when he turns 40. Then his final game ends with in ecstasy as fireworks reign down from the stadium lights. Just hope he doesn’t bring the drama of a lost love interest and night sweats as he remembers his most infamous injury.
Charlotte Toon Squad (Hornets) – Space Jam
Michael Jordan came out retirement to help the Looney Tune apocalypse, so why can’t he do the same to the Hornets? No one in their right mind wants a LeBron sequel to Space Jam when the legend still walks the earth.
Gotham Rogues (Pittsburgh Steelers) – The Dark Knight Rises 
Hopefully a mad villain doesn’t try to blow up Heinz Field again, but if it does happen, Hines Ward is there to rescue the victory with another opening kick-off touchdown.
Chicago (Rockford) Peaches – A League of Their Own
The Cubs or White Sox could help break the baseball gender barrier and uniform barrier with this throwback game. However, Tom Hanks is required to coach the team, and every player must wear skirts.

Most needed throwback:

Indianapolis Flyers (Colts)

One of the NFL’s founding members played right in Indiana: The Muncie Flyers. What better way to honor the heritage of Indiana pigskin than honoring Indiana’s original team, rather than wearing throwbacks from the days in Baltimore?

Author: Alex Kartman

I am the Director of Digital Sports Production and Ball State Sports Link. I produce, direct, and film sports ranging from feature stories to live broadcasts. I freelance as a technical director for the Indiana Pacers, ESPN, Fox Sports and other regional TV. I also love film and attempted to be a critic in a past life.

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