Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Maryland's ugly uniforms: the Catholic connection

Those of you who watched the Miami-Maryland game last night have hopefully, by now, had time for your eyes to heal from the pure ugliness that is the Terrapins' new football uniforms. (More ugliness here). Now usually, if I have something to point out about ugly it would have to do with vestments. Luckily for us, there's an entire blog dedicated to that particular topic, so we can spare a few minutes to talk about Maryland.

How does this topic fit within the scope of our blog (which is, self-admittedly, Southern Catholicism)? Well, first of all, Maryland is actually considered a southern state. Secondly, while Catholicism is not to blame for the uniform design that the Terps debuted last night (thank the Lord), we do have a deep connection with Maryland (the state) and with it's odd-looking flag (which was the basis for the uniform).

George Calvert, Lord Baltimore
The colony of Maryland was actually originally chartered as a haven for English Catholics who were not welcome in the other colonies. George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, was an English politician and colonizer. He led efforts to establish a settlement for English Catholics in the New World. He requested a royal charter to settle the area that is now Maryland, but he died just before the charter was granted.

The original settlers of the area now called Maryland arrived on two ships (the Ark and the Dove), landing at what's now called St. Clement's Island on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th) in the year 1634. According to tradition, the group planted a cross in the sandy soil of the island and the Jesuit priests led the group in celebrating Mass. This was the first known Catholic Mass to be celebrated in the original 13 English colonies. Interestingly, owing to the reproach they felt from their fellow Englishmen on account of their Catholic faith, the Catholic founders of Maryland created the first government in the New World which recognized freedom of religion. Unlike the other colonies who had officially-recognized churches, Maryland codified religious toleration. An American first.

When the Catholic Church decided to establish an American hierarchy of  bishops in 1789, Maryland was, therefore, the natural place to start. The Diocese of Baltimore (located in the capital city of Maryland, named after George Calvert, Lord Baltimore) was established that year with a Jesuit, John Carroll, as its first bishop. Under Bishop Carroll's guidance, construction was begun on the Basilica of the Assumption of Mary - the first Catholic cathedral in the U.S.

Maryland adopted a state flag in 1904. When they did, the chose a design which used the elements of the coat-of-arms of George Calvert, the founder of the Maryland colony. That flag still flies today over Maryland. It looks great on a flag pole.

It doesn't, however, look so great as a football uniform. What were they thinking? I think even Oregon was laughing.

And I might add, if UnderArmour is keen on making uniforms based on state flags, Ole Miss might want to steer clear of choosing them as a provider. I mean, can you imagine an Ole Miss helmet based on Mississippi's current state flag? And they thought Colonel Reb was a problem...