At this NCAA tournament, Orange is the new bracket

[See our complete guide to March Madness.]

INDIANAPOLIS – This year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is a metaphorical color wheel. Green for the hundreds of millions of dollars it will reap, even without fans. Red for the anger some players express about the fact that they are generating their winnings. And blue for the isolation others feel in a hotel at the start of the 68-team, three-week game of Survivor.

Chromatically speaking, however, those pale in comparison to the Midwest bracket, where there is – in a vibrant color – a pigment that is not often a primary one in the sports world: orange.

And there are a lot of them.

There’s Illinois orange. There’s Oklahoma State orange. There is Clemson orange, which is very orange. And there is the Syracuse Orange, which is also orange. And when Tennessee play in a first-round game in Oregon State on Friday, there will be real orange pressure, a spectacle that is only dampened by the limitation on the number (in this case orange-clad) fans allowed to enter the tournament. attend.

There is only one other team in the tournament that wears orange as a dominant color. This is Texas – although roasted orange can be considered the red-headed stepchild of oranges, which may explain why the Longhorns were thrown to the Eastern region. (Virginia and Virginia Tech have orange, but as an accent color.)

Orange may be the color of a Buddhist monk’s robe or a sunset in California, but there’s a reason college teams or sports franchises prefer more classic colors – colors and garnets, royal blue and navy blue – and prefer to use only splashes of orange.

“It’s a statement color. It’s a strong color, ”said Todd Radom, a writer and graphic designer who creates logos for professional sports teams, including the Los Angeles Angels, who play their games in Orange County. ‘Orange is a very polarizing color. You love it, or you hate it. ‘

To make it clear where he stands on the gorge, Radom, a New York resident, is talking on an orange iPhone and with some electric orange Chuck Taylor high tops in his closet. And for those who might question his taste, he notes that orange was the favorite color of an undisputed referee, Frank Sinatra, who called it the happiest color.

Orange, of course, does not carry everyone well. When Dee Andros, the former Oregon State soccer coach, carried on the sidelines wearing an orange windbreaker in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a sports columnist dubbed him “the Great Pumpkin.”

Orange is rare as a dominant color in professional sports. The Denver Broncos and NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers wore orange jerseys during their formative years before redesigning uniforms. (The Broncos wear it quite a bit, out of tradition.) The NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder occasionally wears orange uniforms, and the Baltimore Orioles and Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants wear orange jerseys. The Houston Astros had a notorious drop in orange in their tequila sunrise uniforms, and won a World Series Game 7 in orange jerseys in 2017.

Hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers are the rare team that regularly wore orange uniforms.

That so many New York teams incorporate orange into their color scheme – the Knicks, Islanders and Mets (who took their orange from the Giants after the team left for San Francisco and paired it with Dodger blue after the Brooklyn club moved to Los Angeles left) wears it as an accent color – is not accidental. It can be traced, Radom said, to the Dutch colonial roots of the city, and the House of Orange-Nassau, as well as Stuyvesant, Harlem, Nassau County, and that of Knickerbocker.

However, colleges are more likely to adopt orange as a dominant color.

This is largely due to tradition, Radom said. In the late 1800s, Syracuse wore light pink with sea green and then turned blue as an accent color before students revolted to claim something bold. Clemson copied Auburn’s purple and orange (along with the nickname Tigers), but switched to orange as the primary color. And the state of Oklahoma has chosen orange and black as a tribute to Princeton – or an attempt to brand itself as the Ivy Leaguer of the prairie.

“The aesthetics of college sports differ from the benefits,” Radom said, noting that when Red Grange matriculated at the Chicago Bears in Illinois, the young franchise found the colors of the colleagues yellow, orange and blue. ‘It’s easier to break with tradition if you’re a professional franchisee. There is not much reason for colleges to break away from these traditional colors. ”

These traditions often precede a modern understanding of color, transformed by the “Interaction of Color”, a book from 1963 by the Bauhaus-bred art theorist Josef Albers, who departed from color theory to methodically explain how color to the soul speaks, according to Ann Field, who leads the undergraduate illustration department at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California (the school’s long-standing logo is an orange dot.)

In the world of design, orange, which has deeper roots in Asia, has been adopted more in recent decades in Europe (especially Italy) than in the United States, where it is considered more of a use color. Think of traffic cones, Home Depot stores and the Golden Gate Bridge, painted International Orange. And an airplane’s black box is not black at all – it’s painted orange.

“When I think of orange, it has not yet had a good ride that had pink,” Field said. “We say, ‘Think pink.’ In Europe, orange is hardly elegant. In the US, it’s practical. ”

Somewhere between elegance and usability, Field adds, orange brings eternal joy and positive power. (It depends on whether it applies to Dutch football fans.) The color can also be a trigger to arouse the spirit, she added. (This may explain the feistiness of Dabo Swinney, the two-time national champion football coach at ‘Little Ol’ Clemson. ‘)

Of course, not all oranges are the same.

Illinois orange, with blue cut, speaks of tradition. Oregon State Orange, shared with black, shouts rebelliously. Tennessee’s ubiquitous orange says softly.

“Like sorbet,” Radom said.

If, as he suggests, orange is really a polarizing color, there is at least one person who has made peace with the separation – Rick Barnes. He is in his sixth season coach at Tennessee. Prior to that, he spent 17 seasons in Texas. Prior to that, he spent four years in Clemson.

“The fact is that orange has a good color,” Barnes said. “I like it. And the one I wear now is my favorite.”

However, his closet does not have the orange spectrum of sports jackets and ties, from cantaloupe to carrot to coral. He got an orange jacket from Clemson that he no longer wears. He got a burnt orange in Texas that also sits idle. And in Tennessee, he has never had one – he draws on a tradition of volunteer coaches wearing oranges for rival games. Nor did he do like Bruce Pearl, the former Tennessee coach now at Auburn, and paint his chest orange and sit in the student section for a women’s game.)

It is not so deep inside that he is tired of the color. Barnes said he does not like to draw attention to himself. He would rather have people keep their eyes glued to the court. In this distinctive bracket, in which Tennessee may have seen nothing but orange until the Final Four, it can be hard to look away.

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