It’s hard to know exactly who coined the term “sports jacket.” And it’s an incongruous term today, since nobody today actually participates in any sort of athletic competition while wearing one.
Sometime in the 1960s, at the dawn of sports televised in color, a number of sartorially-challenged newspaper reporters started becoming accidental television stars through their use of some very colorfully-patterened blazers and suit jackets. Lindsey Nelson, the original radio voice of the New York Mets, was every bit as colorful as the original Mets were. Heywood Hale Broun brought plaid jackets and his film camera crew to document everything from Joe Frazier’s career to Secretariat’s Triple Crown in 1973.
There is former hockey player and coach Don Cherry, whose mid-game weekly commentary on the state of the National Hockey League during Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts sometimes gets higher ratings than the game itself. For some viewers, it’s because of what he says. For others, it’s because of what he wears.
And then, there’s Craig Sager, the Turner Sports broadcaster who made a name for himself as an incisive sideline reporter, especially for NBA games. He wore the occasional colored sports jacket at first as a lark, but eventually made it part of his trademark sartorial look. It was a took a lot of the flashy urban wear sold in stores in African-American communities nationwide and made it his own.
Sager was a fixture at NBA broadcasts until 2014, when he contracted a particularly rare form of leukemia. He fought harder than most people, undergoing three bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy treatments that sometimes lasted 24 hours a day for up to two weeks.
The NBA community rallied as one around him, and Sager responded as only a fearless journalist could. He raised awareness, accepted the awards and accolades, and sent a message of defiance in the face of death.
Craig Sager lost his battle with cancer today, and the sports universe is less colorful without him.
Your Founder has not been below wearing the occasional colorful item of clothing to field hockey and lacrosse games, if you have seen some of this site’s recent videos. But it wasn’t because of the men in colorful sports jackets that we’ve started doing it.
Instead, it started during the indoor field hockey season of 2008. It was weeks after Todd Broxmeyer had been arrested on a sexual assault charge in New York, and I felt I needed to start wearing bright green to be visible at the tournament. Not only was it a beacon to allow people to find me, but it was kind of my way of throwing light into an environment which had a lot of shadows for the unscrupulous to hide in.
These days, I’m known for striped sports coats reminiscent of the rowing, cricket, and rugby blazers worn in Commonwealth countries.
Mr. Sager would, I’m sure, approve.