Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back to the Future

The Philadelphia 76ers unveiled their “new” jerseys yesterday at Wachovia Arena in front of a small crowd of diehard Sixer fans who are hoping that the physical look of the team isn’t the only thing to change this season. The jerseys, a red base with white lettering for home and a white jersey with blue stitching for away, sported by Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand respectively, were introduced along with the hope of an improved season by GM Ed Stefanski. Stefanski kept the unveiling short, stating simply that the team needed a change and that such a jersey switch had been requested by Philly faithful for years. The jerseys themselves are clean and crisp, if uninspiring, and certainly represent a welcome change from the oft-criticized threads that Sixer players have donned for the past decade. The jerseys were welcomed with a warm applause from the crowd scattered throughout the arena for the unveiling, as many were quickly purchased from the Fan Gear store (along with countless other items) in order to be signed by Elton and Thaddeus following the event. The warm reception received by the jerseys was nice, however one cannot help but to wonder if Sixers fans are just looking for anything to cheer about at this point. After almost a decade of being stuck in mediocre mode, with no imminent improvement in sight, especially considering the powerful state of the Eastern Conference, the franchise was in need of a change and a return to the old uniforms will serve as a starting point.

With this new look the team hopes to simultaneously move in two directions at once, if that is possible. The team is looking to the future with high expectations, and as Ed Stefanski put it, “they have high expectations of themselves, and have the potential to be very, very good.” These new uniforms are a way to signify that new direction and hope, while working to dissociate from the jerseys (and thus the mediocrity and turmoil) that has become associated with the team for the past several years. To the team it seems that these fresh uniforms are equivalent to a fresh start, and for now, we as fans have no choice to believe it; the players certainly do. “We have the chance to be something special this year,” Thaddeus Young stated. “We have a lot of talent and the players are working extremely hard to improve upon last season.” Thaddeus himself stated that he started working towards this coming season the day after the 76ers first round series loss to eventual Eastern Conference Champ, Orlando. Brand, whose first campaign with the Sixers was cut short due to injuries, says that he “feels great, and can’t wait to add his piece to the already dynamic team they have in place.” With such votes of confidence from two of the team’s best players, coupled with the buzz surrounding the new uniforms and potential playoff run, the outlook heading into this season may be filled with more optimism than usual.

The second direction captured by these new uniforms is back in time. With the “new,” old-look jerseys, the Sixers look to reassociate themselves with the winning tradition of the past. As Stefanski put it, “we want to add to the tradition of the uniform,” as he then went on to list some of the all-time Sixer greats to wear the uniform, from Wilt and Dr. J to Moses and Charles. The Sixers past was one of glory and success, and the team is looking to recapture these feelings by redonning the uniforms that so many greats have worn before.

With these new uniforms the team is looking to merge the promise of the future with the glory of the past, and excite fans with the promise of fantastic future. The jerseys themselves may not be a symbol of hope, as they are duller than most of their NBA counterparts, but rather it is what they stand for that has Sixer fans quietly excited. The combination of the new look, the return of much of the team’s talent, and the addition (or return, however you like to view it) of Elton Brand has Philadelphia fans excited about their Sixers (which will hopefully take some pressure off the Phillies and Eagles). The jersey unveiling was a nice moment, a fun event for fans, and a chance, for once, to be excited about the quickly-approaching season. However, all this buzz and excitement will fade quickly if the team cannot perform on the floor, because as we all know, Philadelphia fans care about performance, not fashion. But for now, the new uniforms and look of the team give the fans something to be excited about as we approach another season, praying that the success of the past merge with the future, clinging to a new sign of hope, a sign disguised as a basketball uniform.


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