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Pirates Follow Suit

At least they're natty dressers ...

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I saw something nasty in Cleveland last month. I went to watch the Pittsburgh Passion women's professional football team take on the Fusion, and I saw something so horrible as to defy description. Even more shocking than the sight of film crews shooting Spider-Man III in downtown Cleveland. (I'm not sure what is more shocking — that they're filming in Cleveland or that Sony Pictures is filming a third Spider-Man movie at all.)

What shocked me, what shook me to my very core, was the sight of the Cleveland Fusion team entering the field.

If anybody is paying attention — and actually more than a few people are — the Fusion uniforms may end up in the pantheon of all-time worst uniforms. The design is just the tip of the iceberg: The Fusion sport purple from helmet to cleat. And not just any purple: the exact same shade of purple as the Baltimore Ravens' uniforms. They even went so far as to use a font eerily similar to the Ravens' for their jersey numbers.

What could they have been thinking? Could there be any franchise for which Cleveland fans harbor more antipathy than the Baltimore Ravens? What conceivable reason could there be to put any Northern Ohio team in those colors?

Why not take a page out of Pittsburgh's book and use the colors sported by the other football team in town? The Passion suits up in black and gold. It's just one more reason that Pittsburgh's sports franchises kick Cleveland's ass.

This is where Pittsburgh has just about every other city beat. There is no way on earth Pittsburgh fans would tolerate one of their own sporting Ravens colors or Browns colors. At least not without a few IC Lights and pierogies hailing down onto the field.

At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, the wave of the present has been for NFL and NCAA teams alike to adopt progressively more hideous uniforms — all in a desperate attempt to increase swag sales. If it's not added swoops and stripes, it's complete monochrome unis, or the rare single sleeve in a different color. It's all just so overwhelming. And nauseating. Marketing types should probably apply Coco Chanel's mantra of "less is more" to their field.

Because all the Pittsburgh teams market well and rely on very simple uniforms. Is parochial little old Pittsburgh actually on the vanguard of something? Can it be that the land of hair scrunchies will lead the way to sartorial splendor?

Say what you will about the listless road crews, atrocious weather (just one more sunny day per year than Seattle!) and the ever-present threat of economic collapse: Pittsburgh's professional sports uniforms, taken collectively, kick butt.

Quite simply, the city is black and gold, from the official crest and flag to the professional sports teams. All of them. It's our signature and maybe — just maybe — it makes us all identify with each other, and with our city, a little bit more. You're not just a Steelers fan or a Penguins fan or — God help you — a Pirates fan. You're a Pittsburgh fan. The uniforms unwittingly foment a sense of unity and continuity, because image is everything, or something like that. And in some strange way, the color scheme binds the teams together, regardless of their on-field potential, achievement or performance.

Black and gold is to Pittsburgh what Hubert de Givenchy is to Audrey Hepburn.

I wonder why other cities haven't followed our lead.

We're not perfect. There have been some missteps along the way, like the eye-popping gold Pirate unis of the "We Are Family" era. But right at this moment, the bottom-feeding Pirates have something in common with the world champion Steelers … even if it is just their colors. And that's a little something the lowly Pirates can hang their caps on. Their record is certainly uglier than the Indians', but Ms. Hepburn and Mr. Givenchy would approve of their uniforms.

I'll take that elegant P on the cap any day over the offensive Chief Wahoo.

Now if we could just find a decent starting pitcher to wear it …

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