At precisely 7 p.m. Eastern on Monday — and, thus, precisely five days before kickoff of Florida’s game against Texas A&M this Saturday — the Florida Gators football program sent out this tweet, with a nine-second video.
The video’s swampy sound effects and alligator — uh, bellow? Is that a bellow? — were not what had people talking, though.
No, the immediate reaction to the video, which is now @GatorsFB’s proudly pinned tweet and which prominently features a Nike swoosh, was “...oh, no, please not alternate uniforms.”
And then we found out that Nike has produced alternate uniforms.
I happened to be on the Nike Store looking at Florida stuff this weekend. Can confirm these first three weren't there then. pic.twitter.com/NhyWlsMmnL— Alligator Army (@AlligatorArmy) October 9, 2017
Those links confirmed that the olive-colored shirts and shoes, at least, are very much real things that you can pay real money to Nike or to other stores to purchase — and anecdotal reports confirmed that they were also available in person on Monday via at least one Gainesville-area retailer and the University of Florida Bookstore.
Additional sleuthing would suggest that whatever Nike had cooking for the Gators was unique to the program: Sorting Nike’s shirt selection by newest items turns up a bunch of NBA jerseys, more streetwear, and nothing else for a collegiate team.
Then, at 7:46 p.m. on Monday, Florida followed up with another tweet with a video — this one featuring an alligator apparently stalking its way out onto the field of The Swamp.
That video — which we know features footage taken literally last Saturday, thanks to the shot of fans with a score update for the Virginia-Duke game in the background — is far less heavy on the olive drab, though clearly still working with motifs of light and dark.
And even with all of that, we could talk ourselves into this not happening.
Florida didn’t have to be wearing alternate uniforms against Texas A&M — notably, an adidas-supplied school, and one of the rising, Nike-challenging brand’s flagship collegiate programs. Nike has churned out alternate uniforms and uniform-like tops for Florida fans that never ended up being part of football uniforms before, and Nike’s hyped up simple retail releases of apparel that will never be worn before, too.
This could all be a hoax, right?
But then, at 8 p.m., Florida confirmed the news: The Gators will wear alligator-themed “swamp green” alternate uniforms against Texas A&M.
Twenty-five years after Ben Hill Griffin Stadium became "The Swamp," the University of Florida football team will take the look of a Gator when they take the field on Saturday.
As the only Division I school in the country named the Gators, UF and Nike officials saw a unique opportunity that has been in the works for over two years. This marks the first time in school history that the Florida football team will stray from its traditional Orange and Blue look that is synonymous with its storied program.
Nike Football designers created and delivered a new alternate look for the team (incorporating the Nike Vapor Untouchable Speed uniform) that takes after an alligator's armored body and channels its ability to be a master of camouflage.
That release dropped with spaces for “quotes” “from” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin and football coach Jim McElwain in it, but no actual quotes, and with the wrong home record for Florida under McElwain in it, suggesting a rush job. It has many more pictures and capitalized nouns and neat adjectives that are supposed to make this feel special — the uniform is “swamp green”; the helmet has a “satin finish”; there’s a “tonal gator print” on the top — and really do nothing to explain how a billion-dollar athletic corporation and an athletic department with a nine-figure annual budget came up with something this damn ugly.
I mean this sincerely: These uniforms, aside from “stray(ing) from (Florida’s) traditional Orange and Blue look that is synonymous with its storied program” in a way that literally no one I know of was asking for, also rank among the worst alternate uniforms I’ve ever seen, regardless of sport, team, or league. The “swamp green” is an olive/gray color that looks like amateurish jungle camouflage, and clashes hideously with both Florida’s royal blue and bright orange. The helmet has the Gator Head on it — for the first time ever — but doesn’t have Florida’s customary logo, but an alternate one with more black. The cleats and shoes look like Nikes made for mudding, which is a misread of at least one and maybe two major constituencies of Florida fans.
Nothing about this strikes me as cool. Nothing about this seems like it actually honors the naming of The Swamp. No part of me wants to buy any of the products Nike and Florida are trying to sell. Only a very, very small part of me thinks that Florida’s players actually think this color scheme — which, based on the pictures we’ve seen, suggests an alligator is apparently smoke gray, not dark green — is dope.
And yet, I’m gonna have to watch this Saturday’s game anyway, and grit my teeth as I try to ignore the abomination that athletes I root for — athletes who aren’t paid fair market value for their labor — are being made to model hideous athletic wear to sell product.
I won’t be happy about it. I hope you won’t be, either.
And I sure as hell hope you’re not buying this crap.