Mar 022003
Authors: Reed Saunders

Meet the newest member of the endangered species list. Not a sea mammal or tastefully dressed female pop singer, but a color.

Yes, observing the CSU-Wyoming women’s basketball game Friday night, it became blaringly obvious that no one color is closer to extinction in the sports world these days than yellow.

CSU and Wyoming are just two of several schools and professional teams that have given yellow the boot in recent years in favor of a sexier gold color.

When did this suddenly become acceptable to switch out yellow for gold? What about the proud tradition of yellow as a sporting color? Why’s everyone so down on yellow?

For the answer, we must delve deeper into history and look at the world through a more powerful microscope than the world of sports alone can provide.

From the mid-1800s or so onward, the term “yellow” bore a very negative connotation. No one wanted to be “yellow” or have a “yellow belly,” and implying such led folks to do crazy things to prove otherwise (see: the undoing of Marty “Clint Eastwood” McFly in “Back to the Future III”). As a result of its namesake, the color yellow suffered.

As times progressed, yellow remained beset by a bad reputation, even when good things involving yellow came about.

For every yellow brick road to follow, there was a mosquito-borne case of yellow fever to fear. Every hit Coldplay song was overshadowed by the increasingly disturbing phenomenon of yellow snow.

Gold, on the other hand, has always carried with it a sexy, powerful image. No miners were rushing out to California in 1849 to dig up mysterious yellow nuggets in streams and mountains, and if James Bond had starred in “Yellowfinger,” most would have believed the movie was about one man’s battle with mustard addiction.

By contrast, yellow got off to a great start in the sporting world. Some of the most dominant franchises of the modern sports era — namely the Los Angeles Lakers, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers — did and still do showcase yellow as a dominant color.

Not long ago, the Border War with Wyoming showcased two teams in yellow. Between them, the two schools displayed some of the grittiest competition and the ugliest uniforms in the West – none of which, by the way, will ever be topped by Wyoming’s brown jerseys/yellow pants combo for football. Was this the bodily function special?

Though it took nearly 50 years, CSU, Wyoming and other schools began realizing that fashion did take some precedence over tradition. Wyoming now lists its official colors as brown and “Wyoming Prairie Gold,” while CSU remains simply “Green and Gold,” both of which probably best “stale urine” in the merchandising department.

Why stick out like “Event Staff” jackets when you could have the cool, powerful look of an Academy Award?

In a gradual and essentially unofficial transition, yellow was weeded out of the CSU image like an unwanted houseguest. You can still see it around campus and on logos from time to time if you look closely. For the most part though, it’s gone, left only in our memories and cornmeal stains.

Conversely, professional sports have seen an encouragingly small number of teams trade in their yellows for golds. The Lakers still wear their yellow home uniforms just like Packer fans don bright yellow “Cheese-head” hats and Steeler faithful wave their plain old yellow “Terrible Towels” every game day.

Maybe yellow just isn’t subtle enough. Maybe the constant image of taxi cabs and school buses will always drown out talk of a yellow comeback. Maybe it doesn’t really matter to us enough to care either way.

But the next time you see a yellow hummer, notice a butter stain on your pants or call someone a chicken, remember the struggle and hardship the color yellow has endured on your behalf.

And when you hear about the “Green and Gold” here in Fort Collins, remember just what color that gold used to be.

Reed is a senior journalism major.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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