Pitchers and catchers are reporting to camp, and Spring Training will soon be underway in Arizona and Florida. What prompts me to write this week, though, is an article by Sarah Lyall in the New York Times on Saturday, February 9th. Accompanied by a roundabout of photographs, Ms. Lyall discusses the sartorial splendor, or lack of it, among the coaches of the English Premier League. In honor of “Fashion Weak”, Ms. Lyall’s editor cheekily titled her article, “Give That Coach’s Outfit a Red Card” (players ejected from the match get red cards).
First let me say with some satisfaction that my “cousin” Roberto Mancini, coach of Manchester City, looked dashing and was rated by Ms. Lyall as the “leading contender” for best-dressed coach (among an overall unsightly lot, of course). I first encountered mention of “Cousin Robby” during a trip to Europe in 1984 when he was a member of the Italian Youth Club (for those aged 18-22, kind of minor leagues). He went on a fine playing career at the club level, winning four Coppa Italias. He has gone on to greater acclaim as a head coach, guiding Manchester City to its first Premier League title in 44 years in 2012. I am not a regular fan of “The Beautiful Game” (and especially not with the revelation that hundreds of games over the past several years may have been “fixed”), but I do follow “Cousin Robby”.
I bring this to your attention for the additional reason that last week before the Super Bowl when the Harbaugh brothers held their press conferences, John (the older) wore a suit and tie and requested, while Jim wore his on-field sweats. It reminded me of the days when NFL head coaches prowled the sidelines dressed like businessmen, in coats and ties, in overcoats, scarves, and hats when the weather turned cold. Vince Lomardi, Allie Reynolds, Buck Shaw, Tom Landry, the great names looked more like chairmen of the board. Those days are long gone. NHL and NBA head coaches still maintain some decorum, but more frequently, especially in the NBA, ties are being abandoned. It is too bad as it is an easy visual cue to separate the management from the players.
In baseball, of course, managers and coaches dress exactly like the players, and this has been the case for quite some time. Connie Mack, the Tall Tactician of the Philadelphia Athletics, and Burt Shotton, skipper of the Brooklyn Dodgers, were the last Doyens of the Dugout to wear street clothes; Mr. Mack often topped off his outfit with a natty skimmer during the warmer weather.