The black effect

Darth Vader wore black. Wearing black, one supposes, intimidates others, particularly one’s opponents in athletic contests. How else to explain the burgeoning popularity of  black uniforms being worn by teams whose principal school colors are red, blue, green or gold?

A scientist would tell us that black isn’t a color, really; it is the absence of all color. A black object such as a bottle cap or a pen absorbs all colors equally and appears black to our eyes. 

From the Internet (everyone’s popular source of crucial information), we learn that black is associated with power, fear, mystery, strength, authority, elegance, formality, death, evil, and aggression, authority, rebellion, and sophistication.


That might explain why visiting athletic teams whose members normally wear uniforms in their school colors have been showing up wearing black lately. It’s a trend worth noting. The custom in basketball is for the home team to wear white or a light color such as beige or gray. Traditionally, the visiting team dresses in its school colors. But not lately. Black is in.

This black-wearing trend first came into my notice several basketball seasons back when the Blue Devils of Duke (note the color in the name) showed up for a game with the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill wearing black uniforms, albeit with a token bit of blue trim. Were they trying to show power, instill fear, demonstrate strength or aggression? Maybe. Duke teams historically have struggled to identify their shade of blue, which has kept changing  through the years. Maybe they’ve given up trying. Other teams have caught the black uniform bug, though, and it has become a trend.

As we watch the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, notice how many teams, whose seeding identifies them as the visiting team, take the court wearing black. Take notice, also, of the black-wearing teams’ rate of success. So far, not so good, but of course the fact that they have been facing higher-seeded teams affects this.

This weekend, teams surviving the Sweet 16 games will become the Elite Eight, then the Final Four. Exciting.

Will black uniforms make a difference? This is doubtful. I, for one, am not intimidated. My preferred colors are Carolina Blue and white.

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