Monday Musings: Not Terrible Alternate Uniforms Edition

This is a college football blog first and foremost, but obviously I have lots of interests. I do a lot of reading, and I have a lot of thoughts from around the sports world that might not fit into 140 characters. 

I’ve been thinking for a long time I needed to get into the habit of blogging on these types of things, but I always let something get in the way. I had a few, “This Week in Big Ten Football” posts last year that were fun, but I still never made them as much of a habit as I should have. 

We’ll see how long this one sticks, but that’s a primer for what we’re doing here. 

BREAKING: Ohio State Planning Potentially Not Terrible Alternate Uniforms 

I was going to lead with LeBron, but Ohio State takes the top spot thanks to a little news item that dropped this afternoon.

In a general news update emailed to reporters, the school confirmed what was reported over the weekend: The Buckeyes will wear an alternate uniform at some point this season that pays homage to Chic Harley, one of the team’s first All-Americans and the star of the first Ohio State team to win a Big Ten championship and the first to beat Michigan.

Harley scored all of the points in a 7-6 win over two-time defending league champion Illinois as the Buckeyes went undefeated in league play in 1916.

Three years later, the Columbus Dispatch front page blared, “Harley-led Buckeye gridiron warriors bring back to Columbus town that long-coveted Wolverine scalp” after he was a dominant force in a 13-3 win in Ann Arbor that ended 21 years of futility for OSU against Michigan.

If the leaked pics are to be believed, the uniforms will be both A) Reasonably true throwbacks and B) Awesome-looking. And if they wear them any day besides Nov. 26, they’ll really have something.

I’m generally a fan of true throwbacks (as opposed to something like those hideous black uniforms they wore last year) but prefer to see them worn any time except against Michigan, when part of the allure is the familiar visual of winged helmets clashing with silver ones full of Buckeye leaf stickers. That’s the way it’s looked for the better part of 50 years, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask to try to preserve that when there are 11-14 other weeks to try on something else…

… Although I must admit a Harley tribute is one case they could potentially get away with pulling out a road version of an alternate because the most famous game of Harley’s career arguably came in 1919 against Michigan in Ann Arbor when he scored a touchdown, excelled at punting and intercepted four Wolverine passes. Afterward, legendary Michigan head coach Fielding Yost reportedly told Harley he was, “one of the finest little machines I have ever seen.”

Columbus Dispatch front page from 1919 when Ohio State beat Michigan for the first time
Columbus Dispatch front page from 1919 when Ohio State beat Michigan for the first time (not the split headline).

In other news: 

The NBA Finals are 2-0 in favor of the Warriors.

I went into this series debating about how closely matched the teams are, leaning more toward close than the way they looked for most of the season.

I was skeptical but impressed, if that’s possible, with how the Cavs marched through the East. Covering college football for a living offers good training for interpreting that type of thing. Obviously they did a lot of good stuff, but level of competition matters. It doesn’t invalidate dominance, but it does raise the possibility the dominance is invalid.

Then of course the Warriors were coming off a Jekyll and Hyde series as they looked very human for the first four games against Oklahoma City then roared back to win.

I thought while OKC didn’t rise to the occasion, Golden State more won that series than the Thunder lost it. Basically the Warriors reached down and found something extra, and OKC failed to match it.

So at the end of that series, the Warriors had re-found themselves, but how good the Cavs are was still an open question. And it still is, but perhaps not for long.

I think we will see the Cavs go home and play better, but of course better might not be good enough considering how competitive the series has been so far. The Warriors’ depth is just outstanding while the Cavs’ bench seems to only show up on occasion.

Cleveland’s inconsistency is interesting in what it might say about LeBron James. While he obviously in a literal sense makes his teammates better the way he sees the floor and sets them up, there are more questions about how effective he is at getting his teammates to raise their actual level of play.

LeBron makes the game easier for his teammates, but do they play better than usual when they are on his team? I’m not sure there is a lot of evidence on the positive side.

With the exception of one season, all his trips to the Finals have also come with teams almost literally built from scratch to be title contenders as opposed to put together in an incremental way where a squad gets better as it learns to play together and add parts until reaching its potential or being rebuilt.

If we really drill down, the whole idea with each “Decision” seems to be to skip the difficult process of building chemistry and collecting role players (who usually need to raise their level of play for a championship squad) and instead just put together a team so talented it can’t lose. LeBron has surrounded himself with more all-stars than Jordan or Kobe usually had, and yet his teams have failed more of than they have succeeded when it comes to the ultimate goal. Something to think about…

All that said, I’m not writing off the Cavaliers entirely here. I am pretty sure the Warriors are just a better team overall, but I don’t think we’ve seen all the Cavs can do, either. Their best might still be enough to make this a competitive series — if they can show actually figure out how to play their best.

And there were times in Game 2 where LeBron went into Eff You Mode, something that could change any series if he deigns to do it for longer periods (or, you know, an entire game). That’s another puzzling part of the LeBron James experience so far, the tug of war between his sense of being a great teammate who keeps everyone involved and when to just go into Jordan/Kobe mode and put a team on his back.

Nobody I’ve seen balanced when to lead from the front and when to lead from the back better than Jordan, who could run the show without stealing it — at least until it needed to be stolen. Kobe could be a good passer and he could be a cold-blooded scorer, but he had no sense of how to balance those things. If he was dominating, everyone else was left behind and it usually caught up with him by the end whereas Jordan had a knack for knowing when his team needed a 20-point quarter and when it needed seven or eight assists.

LeBron is closer to Jordan, but he doesn’t engage that domination gear nearly as often. And it seems like his teammates are more comfortable with losing than Jordan’s or Kobe’s ever were (though LeBron and Kobe have both endured being blown out in Finals close-out games). Is that LeBron’s fault? Is it generational? Is there just less talent around him? I don’t know about the first two, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the third.

This generation’s greatest player has 2-4 more games to turn those perceptions on their head or have to wait another year…

Maybe this will have a different result after last night, but apparently Ohioans are an optimistic bunch

The Ohio State baseball team rallied to beat Wright State on Friday afternoon in a walk-off, but OSU was decidedly the wrong college two days later when the Buckeyes were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Louisville…

No Bengals made Pro Football Focus’ list of the NFL’s most unstoppable (sic) forces, but two guys from Ohio did: Luke Kuechly and Le’Veon Bell…

And finally, Chris Ash has left Ohio State, but the rugby tackling legacy endures in Columbus while the new Rutgers head coach is spreading it to the East Coast in an effort to preserve the game (I think he’ll succeed).

Here’s a video I shot of him talking about making that transition two years ago.

Thanks for reading. Y’all come back now, ya hear? 

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