In the 1990s, the sports world suddenly became infatuated with the color teal. The Florida Marlins, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Charlotte Hornets were founded. Each featured teal in their color scheme, and each found a surprising level of success in their first few years of existence.
Today, these teams have regressed to mediocrity, or worse. How did teal, once regarded as the raddest color in existence, fall out of vogue so quickly? Did it lose its power? What follows is a three-act play that documents the rise and fall of the Color of the 1990s.
A conference room, 1989.
AGENT. My client is fully aware of the value of the color he has just discovered. It's perhaps the greatest technological advance since colors were invented in the 1960s.
AGENT leans forward.
AGENT. And it is precisely for this reason that he is insistent on selling this color to an ethical entity that will treat it with the responsibility it deserves. Teal is not simply a color. It is the most cool and rad color that has ever been discovered.
GENERAL COLIN POWELL. Yes. It is rad as hell.
COMMISSIONER FAY VINCENT. It is really rad. It makes me feel like I'm rollerblading through a laser tag arena.
AGENT. I'm glad we can agree on that much. I will be truthful, gentlemen. There are only two remaining bidders that have the financial backing to compensate my client with the money he deserves. So, then, let's hear from these two. General Powell, why should the color teal be exclusive property of the United States military?
POWELL stands up and straightens his jacket.
POWELL. Preliminary tests from our psi-ops department indicate that there is a quality of radness that is unique to the color teal. On an experimental basis, we have employed the use smoke bombs in Panama that release teal smoke. Upon seeing the smoke, both the American troops and Panamanian troops just wanted to hang out with one another.
AGENT. Hang out with one another?
POWELL. Yes. They dropped their weapons, started telling jokes and high-fiving. American troops requested emergency shipments of Totino's Party Pizzas, RC Colas, Nintendo consoles, and copies of Double Dragon. They spent the remainder of their deployment hanging out and being rad dudes together. And see, this...
POWELL removes his glasses, wiping the lenses.
...this, we believe, could serve as a deterrent to war. Perhaps even a cure. The implications of what we have learned are absolutely staggering.
AGENT. Thank you, General. (turns to CLIENT) Any questions for the General?
CLIENT. Who is the biggest dinosaur?
POWELL. Oh, uh, I... the Tyrannosaurus Rex?
CLIENT. Nope. The diplodocus is way bigger. I have a book about it. Can I have a juice?
AGENT. (to POWELL) I think that will be all. (to CLIENT) Yes, I'll have them send in another juice box.
(AGENT clears throat.)
AGENT. And now we would like to hear from the other bidding party. This is a joint venture between Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and NBA commissioner David Stern.
VINCENT. Indeed. Gentlemen?
VINCENT, TAGLIABUE, and STERN stand.
STERN. Say, pal, what's your favorite insect?
CLIENT. Well, hornets are incredibly fast. They have three parts: a head, thorax, and abdomen. They--
STERN. Yes, great, okay, yes! Let's start a basketball team called the Hornets! They'll be teal!
VINCENT. What's your favorite, uh, fish?
STERN turns and gives a puzzled look. VINCENT shrugs.
CLIENT. Probably marlins. They're like swordfish, only they're bigger and stronger. They have their own Nintendo game too. It's called Blue Marlin, and you--
VINCENT. Fine, yes, don't care. Marlins.
CLIENT. My favorite animal overall probably is either panthers or jaguars, though.
TAGLIABUE. Boom! Two more teams! The Panthers and Jaguars. You got it! They'll have teal! They'll all have teal!
CLIENT. Well then you guys should have it.
AGENT. I believe we have reached a decision, then! We'll fax you paperwork within the hour.
POWELL. This... this cannot be. Young man, we have a chance to end war. No more wars. No more guns.
CLIENT. But I like guns. Sargent Slaughter has a gun. I also have the tank he goes with. My baby brother broke the door off it, though.
TAGLIABUE. Son, out of curiosity... how did you discover teal? You're just a boy!
CLIENT. My baby brother pooped it.
Miami, Florida, Game 5 of the NLCS, 1997.
(The Marlins' LIVAN HERNANDEZ delivers the 1-2 pitch. FRED McGRIFF tenses, then takes the pitch as umpire ERIC GREGG watches behind him.)
ERIC GREGG. Strike three!
McGRIFF. That was in the right-handed batter's box.
GREGG. Sure was.
McGRIFF. The right-handed batter's box is out of the strike zone.
GREGG. Evidently not, because that was a strike.
GREGG gestures to HERNANDEZ, who fires another pitch.
GREGG. Strike 2.1!
GREGG. Strike one on Klesko.
McGRIFF. He's not even in the box yet.
GREGG. Rollover strikes.
McGRIFF. This is insane.
GREGG. Look, it's just... I'm not really interested in seeing the Braves to the World Series again. Nobody is, really.
McGRIFF. Why not? We're good.
GREGG. I mean... (grimaces) ...yeah...
McGRIFF. That's all that matters, right?
GREGG. You know how long "Dinosaurs" was on the air? Four seasons. That's it. "Jeff Blauser Fields Grounders: The Show" is now on, like, season seven.
GREGG. Jeff Blauser! Primetime superstar Jeff Blauser!
McGRIFF. Jeez... all right, yeah. I get it.
GREGG. (nods, shrugs)
McGRIFF. It's just that... I mean, you think the Marlins will be better television? There's no history.
GREGG. I think it's just visually appealing, really.
McGRIFF. It is. I mean, no doubt.
GREGG. The teal's just awesome. It makes me feel like I'm drinking a Squeez-It and jumping off the waterfall, and my fall will be broken by tens of thousands of Squeez-Its.
McGRIFF. It looks like an electric dolphin.
GREGG. I just really like the color. I don't know where it came from. It wasn't around when I was a kid. It's just cool, and it would be cool to see more of it. Wouldn't it be cool if they got to the World Series? It'd be like... I don't know, a bunch of skateboarders getting to the World Series!
McGRIFF. That's a pretty fair point.
(HERNANDEZ places the ball in his mouth, heaves forward, and spits it out. The ball travels three feet.)
GREGG. Okay, dude, come on. We can't make this look too obvious.
Charlotte, North Carolina, Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons, December 12, 2010.
(Panthers quarterback JIMMY CLAUSEN throws an incompletion, resulting in yet another three-and-out. He unbuttons his chin strap and walks to the sideline, head down. Head coach JOHN FOX makes his way over to CLAUSEN.)
FOX. Talk to me, Jimmy. What are we doing out there? What is it we're getting done?
CLAUSEN. Their secondary is just... it's impossible. Gaps close before they're finished opening up. I'd have to be able to stand back there for five minutes before something opens up.
FOX. Tell you what. We're gonna talk to Jeff. We can draw up some more stuff. On Tuesday we'll talk to Jeff and figure all this out.
CLAUSEN. It ain't that. I don't think it's that.
(FOX places his hands on his hips. His eyes narrow.)
FOX. What, ah... what is it, Jimmy?
CLAUSEN. This... is gonna sound stupid.
FOX. No, come on. What's going on?
CLAUSEN. It's... our uniforms. Our colors. Our color scheme looks stupid and crappy. That's why we're about to be 1-12. We look crappy.
CLAUSEN. Yes. Crappy! The Panthers? That logo? It doesn't even look like we're a real team! It's like we're a fictional team. Like we exist only in the first five minutes of some super-shitty episode of CSI or something.
(FOX pauses and looks at the ground, then removes his headset and wipes his forehead.)
FOX. Jimmy, I'm gonna tell you something, and you're not gonna tell anybody.
FOX. It's the teal. You're right. It's the colors.
CLAUSEN. I thought so. I remember teal being so cool when I was a kid. I wore Marlins stuff even though I lived in California. I thought the Hornets were awesome. I thought the Jaguars and Panthers were pretty awesome, too, actually.
FOX. We all did. That was the point. Teal was awesome. It was the coolest thing any of us had ever seen.
CLAUSEN. It made me feel like...
CLAUSEN. Like I was water-skiing on an ocean of pogs.
FOX. That is how we all felt, and that's why we were teal. And at first, it worked!
CLAUSEN. It... sort of did, didn't it!
FOX. Yes. It peaked in 1996, '97, around then. The Marlins won the World Series. The Hornets posted a 54-win season, their best ever. The Panthers and the Jaguars reached the NFC and AFC Championship Games, respectively, in only their second year of existence. Which never, ever happens.
CLAUSEN. Wow. So... what happened?
FOX. We ran out of awesome. We over-did it. We wrung every drop of awesome we could out of the color, until one day, we looked up and saw that there was no more rad. No rad for future generations. We even tried varying the shade of teal to look a little more blue, a little more green. There was no use.
CLAUSEN. You used up all the rad before I could get here. That is why we're about to lose seven in a row. That's why I can't manage a first down out there.
FOX. Yes. I... I'm sorry.
CLAUSEN. That's why nobody goes to Marlins games. It's why the Hornets moved out of town. It's why we're terrible...
FOX. I feel terrible. I wish I could go back in time, I wish I could tell them: "don't use up all the cowabunga. Leave some for our children." But I'm afraid that it is a bogus world I am leaving for my children.
CLAUSEN. I look like...
(CLAUSEN outstretches the bottom of his shirt and stares at it.)
CLAUSEN. ...I look like baby poop.
FOX. And so do we all.
Photo credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images