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New CFL Jerseys Just Flashy Marketing: Currie

August 23, 2014 10:00 AM | Columns

By Roger Currie

Drew Willy - Jason Vega - Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Drew Willy and DE Jason Vega model the new signature jersey. (CHRISD.CA FILE)

We’re nearing the halfway mark in three-down football, and some strange clothing is appearing at Mosaic Stadium and Investors Group Field, and all the other venues in the CFL. They are called third jerseys, and the reviews have been mixed to say the least.

Winnipeg fans are not at all pleased that the Blue Bombers have eliminated gold completely from their ensemble. They also think the helmets that Drew Willy and the boys were forced to wear, look more like the last bowling ball on the rack.

Rider Nation has similar concerns. Their helmets are reminiscent of the hollowed out watermelons that have been common in the stands for years at Taylor Field. This began in Vancouver last year when the Lions came out of the gate one day looking like they had been swimming in crude oil.

What it’s all about is a marketing opportunity, surprise, surprise. Reebok, the huge multinational, controls most of the major merchandising involving CFL teams, and they’re the ones who are driving all this.

A few years ago the third jerseys and helmets were historic in nature. The football cards I bought with bubblegum in the 1950s, matched what the Bombers wore on that occasion.

This year’s version seems to be driven by a very different set of values. The good news is, it will soon be over. The Roughriders may wear their funny outfits one more time. I’m assured that the Winnipeg players have already endured their only outing in solid blue.

We know that merchandising is huge in professional sports. For the Bombers and the Riders, it’s worth many millions of dollars every year. I can’t help wonder if the players get a piece of the action.

This year they had to almost go on strike to get a bigger share of the CFL’s new and richer TV deal. As the guys who model these temporary outfits, they should at least get some appearance money.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.