Have you ever been forced to do something you knew would make you look silly? In front of a lot of people? Then you might sympathize with the Seattle Seahawks who played Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams in their new "Action Green" uniforms. That's a euphemism for Day-Glo green.
They didn't have much of a choice. The uniforms are part of Color Rush a charitable joint effort between Nike and the NFL, and the league made them mandatory for Thursday night games this year. And so the Hawks took to the field dressed in eye-numbing green from head to foot. I happened to be at a neighbor's where the game was on in the background and I kept staring perplexedly at the screen wondering what the heck had happened to the team's classic blue-and-green uniforms. If you haven't seen it yourself, it's hard to explain how visually jarring it was to watch them play. I can only imagine how distracting it must have been for the players themselves. Meanwhile, the Rams played in relatively boring white uniforms. They do have a Color Rush color of their own but it's yellow, and the league has learned that certain color combinations, including yellow/green, are indistinguishable to the color blind. That left the Seahawks to stand out alone in the glaringly bright duds. (If you're wondering, this YouTube video of the game will give you a taste of what I mean.)
Within moments, the team became the butt of a thousand Twitter jokes. Several tweeters noted that the Seahawks were dressed in precisely the same shade as the green Teletubby. Others complained of temporary blindness, or posted pictures of limes. Quite a few complained that they thought their televisions were malfunctioning. The collective reaction was a great big thumbs down, with a few nostalgic nods to the color schemes from TV game shows of decades past.
So how did the team itself react? With its usual class. Instead of complaining about the color they'd been stuck with, or even acknowledging that they were being mocked, in the locker room after the game, the players explained how much they liked their new look. "When I went to college we were more traditional so we didn't get to wear all the fancy different colored uniforms but I liked being able to switch it up like this. It's awesome. That action green looks real nice on everybody," running back Alex Collins told reporters.
The Hawks were likely in an excellent mood, having crushed the Rams 24-3 and secured their slot in the playoffs. But they were also doing two very smart things. First, they chose not to respond to the outpouring of negative comments they were undoubtedly aware of. There are some times when it's important to respond to complaints and others when that serves little purpose and you're better off just acting like you don't hear them. This was definitely the latter. The second thing they did was to keep their eye on the big picture, which is that Nike and the NFL are hoping to sell boatloads of Color Rush items to fans, with all the proceeds going to the NFL Foundation's good works. They knew a lot was riding on their reactions to the uniforms, and that anything other than a show of enthusiasm could hurt those sales.
So even those who had misgivings about the color expressed them in the most positive possible terms. "Personally, I loved them. I like green. I don't know about Action Green, but I like green so I love 'em," said linebacker Bobby Wagner. And offensive tackle Garry Gilliam, while acknowledging that they might look "loud" on television, said he loved them too. "Down on the field it's different," he explained. Still he said, "Every week, no."
I'm sure it's a sentiment his teammates shared.