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Maryland Unveils Controversial State Flag-Themed Unis; Instantly Builds Buzz, Draws Criticism


It feels sort of ridiculous to discuss a team's football uniforms on the same night they won a thriller on national TV and landed a big-time basketball recruit.

But I roll with the punches, and when Maryland shocked the world with their colorful and unique state-flag themed duds, the punches landed in quick succession. Social media blew up. LeBron James made fun of them. SportsCenter keeps talking about them. In truth, they shared top billing with the Terrapins for much of the game, until it became a thriller in the final quarter.

Almost all of the commentary - and there is lots of it - is negative. They're ugly. They're hideous. They're a disgrace. They're tacky.

And you know what, you uni-snobs? I really don't care. I don't care if you hate the helmet, if you think it's too garish, if you think they're the ugliest things in the world. It doesn't matter, Paul Lukas, or any of you Paul Lukas wannabees: rip 'em to shreds. But don't expect me to take you seriously with your pithy, snarky comments about how appalling they are. I don't care, and it doesn't matter if you think they're ugly: they did what they were supposed to do.

Before getting too far in, I should say: if you don't think the unis are good-looking, that's cool. You're entitled to that. So long as you moderate yourself in the criticism, whatever. I don't think they are, either. But after hearing mountains upon mountains of criticism, I thought it prudent to state some things. To everyone who thinks the jerseys being ugly means something:

Are the uniforms aesthetically beautiful? Eh, probably not, though that's more a personal thing. But here's the thing: they weren't made to be.After all, a win in Toledo's space-age look is just as much a win as a win in Texas' classics. When Kevin Plank's minions thought up the idea of slapping the Maryland state flag on a football jersey, they didn't do it because they thought it was the next coming of Michigan's helmet. They aren't blind. Whether it was aesthetically pleasing or not was probably the last thing on their mind.

No, they did it for a variety of reasons, none of which was "It'll be a classic, understated, accepted look." Under Armour (and Maryland) wanted to create a buzz, excite players, and excite recruits, and more importantly do it all in a unique and meaningful way. It was a success on every count.

As far as "unique and meaningful": it doesn't get any better than this. This is all about state pride, without a doubt. Marylanders love Maryland, and perhaps its flag most of all. It's a wonderful connection, and if you don't get, well, it's not meant for you. If you want to hate on them then hate on them, but if nothing else they aren't Georgia's Power Rangers look: that is, they have a reasoning, a purpose, an inspiration, meant to inspire. And I guarantee you: no one else has jerseys that come anything close to these. Distinctiveness is a check.

Of course, they check off the buzz creation, too. This is getting near-top billing on SportsCenter. "Maryland" was trending on Twitter almost before the kickoff. People will talk about these at work on Tuesday. Maryland needs buzz, and this definitely got it for them. Much the way Oregon created their own tradition with the crazy uniforms, Maryland is doing the same.

As far as exciting players: well, uh, did you see them run out of the tunnel? The guys were amped, and while most of that is thanks to the fact that they're playing Miami on ESPN on Monday night, you'd be wrong to think that seeing those jerseys, cleats, gloves, and sleeves awaiting them in the lockers had nothing to do with it. And it certainly got the fans in the stands hyped. If you need more evidence: the alumni of the team was excited about them.

Lastly, if even a single football recruit watched tonight's game and thought "Man, those are cool," - odds are at least one did - then mission goddamn well accomplished.

If you're still not sold: I challenge you to watch this and not get at least a little bit excited.

And let's be honest: if you still are deathly opposed to them, you probably won't have to deal with them anymore. Trust me, UA and Maryland didn't go to the trouble of creating a ton of combinations just for a smokescreen for these. This was almost certainly a one-off, and if they're used again it won't be until next year. Though I think that's a shame.

So go ahead, call them ugly, call them tacky, call them retina-burning monstrosities. I don't care, and neither does Under Armour. They did what they were supposed to do. And I love them.