An Oklahoma-based fantasy football player invited readers of espn.com's UniWatch column to submit designs for a hypothetical Oklahoma City NFL franchise, since there's been some chatter that Oklahoma City is emerging as one of the more viable homes for a re-located or new team. The organizer has picked a team name, the Oklahoma City Roughnecks, but I decided right off that I was going to violate the rules of the contest because I just don't like that name much and I've had an Oklahoma City team in my mind for 45 years.
So behold, your Oklahoma City 89ers...
The name probably sounds funny to most ears, but the old minor league baseball team from Oklahoma City used to be called the 89ers (after the people who rushed into the state when it was opened to settlement in 1889) and I actually saw that team play at the Tacoma Cubs in old Cheney Stadium in the summer of 1968 as a field trip with my Colt League baseball team. For whatever reason, I was fascinated by that visiting team, the city and the name, so that fall, when us Bierbaum kids decided to "add" expansion teams to our pretend pro football league, I came up with the improbable idea of creating an Oklahoma City 89ers in the pro ranks.
As was natural back then, we thought the new teams should have unique color schemes, and the previous 14 teams we'd created had covered most of the familiar combinations and we only had one purple team thus far (the reddish purple-and-yellow Seattle Submarines), so I came up with a more usual purple hue combined with an orange-ish yellow, a scheme that to my eye really hits the bull's eye. It felt exactly right for this small-market team to fit into the ranks of our league with this unusual, distinctive color scheme.
And over the years, it has stuck with me as my image of what an Oklahoma City team should wear, to the point where the NBA's OKC Thunder just never looks right to me because they should be wearing purple and an orange-ish yellow.
This is close to the design we came up with back in 1968, but with an improved helmet logo, better stripes and a mascot on the shoulder instead of more stripes. The design is kind of an adaptation of the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons of that era (the original Falcons uniform is one of my all-time favorites). I know this isn't what the contest organizer is looking for, but it's certainly what I would put an Oklahoma City NFL team in.
I should mention that my dislike of the team name "Roughnecks" is multi-faceted -- though it's an oil-industry term that's appropriate enough for oil-rich Oklahoma, to most people it will sound like a thuggish nickname that to me reflects what's wrong with modern sports rather than celebrating what has traditionally been appealing to me about sports. Beyond that, it virtually demands black as a primary color and for my taste, there is way, way too much black in the NFL these days. In my mind I can see the black and silver uniform with red trim that seems almost inevitable given today's uniform trends. I'm personally really tired of squinting at the set and not being able to tell apart teams like the Texans, Falcons, Ravens and Jaguars apart in their black-white-black uniforms (the Texans are navy blue, but look virtually the same on TV), and when you throw in the black-and-silver Raiders and Panthers, the navy, silver and red Patriots and the red, black and dark-silver ("pewter") Buccaneers, you get a big portion of the league that's just visually monotonous. I cringe at the thought of a new or relocated team adding to this trend.
And here's the link for the OKC Roughnecks competition: http://www.okiraqi.org/2/post/2014/02/announcing-a-logouniform-design-contest-for-the-roughnecks.html.
OPPOSING TEAMS: For the opposition, I created two new NFL entities, the first one facing the home 89ers being a St. Louis Knights team to replace the Rams when they rightfully send that team name (if not the franchise itself) back to L.A. The scan did not come out well, but I gave them a fluorescent orange color that looks great on the original but scanned poorly. As kids, we envisioned a Crusaders team that we kind of modeled after the great race-car paint jobs of favorite driver Jim Hurtubise, who painted his cars fluorescent red and put on gold numbers. Not especially logical for a team named the Knights, but I think it looks very cool.
The road 89ers are squaring off against the team that I envision if the NFL doesn't get the name Rams back to L.A., a modern version of the AAFC's Los Angeles Dons. Red and blue like the old team and on the helmet a cartoon kid in Mexican regalia taken from late 1940s team logos. The overall uniform design is closely based on my favorite-ever Denver Broncos uniform from 1965-66...