As a native of Cleveland and thus a fan of the teams that call the city home, my wife Molly has quietly grown accustomed to sports suffering. Not for Indians – she thinks baseball is about as exciting as lawn darts – or even so much the Cavaliers. It’s the Browns, once the greatest professional football franchise, now something of a quaint piece of history.
The Pittsburgh Steelers mock the Browns. Any Browns fan knows this. The Steelers have a lovely, loyal owner, coaches who stay for a long time and quarterbacks who generally pan out. They play a fun, aggressive brand of defense.
Anyway, we’re used to it. But Tuesday, I got ticked. Nay, steamed. ESPN’s football writers, twiddling thumbs during the lockout, decided to rank NFL helmets. Pittsburgh was No. 1. Now, we’re being told, that a dull black helmet adorned – on just one side! – with a white circle, three concave diamonds and the word “Steelers” is suddenly the best helmet in the NFL?
My wife and I hashed this out, actually, more than a year ago, over wings and mozzarella sticks. All the helmets, first to worst. And our list was honorable. We ended up selecting Miami and Philadelphia for co-No. 1.
The better helmet debates exist on the college level, where the guapo-to-feo range is vast. Especially in the Big Ten, home to the most iconic head gear (Michigan) the plainest head gear (Penn State) and the school that can never make up its mind (Michigan State).
According to The Helmet Project – a site of total awesomeness – the Spartans have used 16 different helmets since 1960. That’s the most in the league (although far less than Iowa State and Kansas in the Big 12). The Wolverines have used just three different versions since then, and one of the changes simply involved the color of the facemask.
In the interest of starting a rather middling debate here in the month of May, here’s how I’d rank the Big Ten helmets. (The point of this, obviously, is for you to strongly disagree and say so in the comments section).
- Michigan – Obvious, right? Here’s the history of it for Big Blue.
- Nebraska – A clean, memorable look. That N is still a masterpiece of typography.
- Ohio State – With a full helmet of Buckeye stickers, of course. Chris Spielman style.
- Purdue – It’s hard to go wrong with gold, but I also like that fast-moving P.
- Iowa – Nothing else like it. Extra points for the “America Needs Farming” sticker on the back.
- Indiana – Liberace’s favorite helmet: The IU looks like a candelabra.
- Penn State – I’m guessing some will rank the Nittany Lions last.
- Michigan State – Its Spartan is no USC Trojan, that’s for sure.
- Northwestern – Good colors, but did a mouse nibble away at that N?
- Illinois – Illini fans must need to be reminded what team they’re supposed to root for.
- Minnesota – Hard to read the trapezoidal-looking M.
- Wisconsin – Let’s face it: The W looks like Clip Art.