A few weeks ago I explored the topic of whether throwbacks and older uniform designs were really better than current designs by asking a simple question: “How many teams’ current uniforms are their best uniforms ever?” I began by answering that question for all 30 MLB teams. Today we’re going to turn our attention to the NFL.
One ground rule, which I alluded to last time: I preferred football uniforms when the jerseys had sleeves, but that’s more of a performance/style issue, not a design issue. So I’m not going to hold today’s tailoring styles against today’s uniforms. I think it’s entirely possible (if not common) for a modern uniform with almost no sleeves to look better than one from 30 years ago, when the jerseys had sleeves — it all depends on the overall design.
Again, here’s our operative question: Is the team’s current uniform set — for the sake of this exercise, we’ll stick to primary whites and colors — the best the team has ever worn?
Here’s my team-by-team answer to that question:
Cowboys: Yes, but it’s an old design that they’ve been wearing for decades.
Washington: Yes, but it’s an old design that they’ve been wearing for decades.
Bears: Yes, but it’s an old design that they’ve been wearing for decades.
Packers: Yes, but it’s an old design that they’ve been wearing for decades.
Panthers: Yes, but it’s the only design they’ve ever had. I guess you could say that some of the new mix/match combos they’ve worn this season have improved things, so that would be sort of like being a “Yes” with a new design.
49ers: Yes, but it’s essentially an old design that they moved away from and then revived.
Bills: Yes, but it’s essentially an old design that they moved away from and then revived.
Jets: Yes, but it’s an old design that they moved away from and then revived.
Ravens: Yes, but it’s essentially the only design they’ve ever had (the short-lived “lawsuit logo” helmet design notwithstanding).
Colts: Yes, but it’s an old design that they’ve had forever.
Texans: Yes, but it’s the only design they’ve ever had.
Chiefs: Yes, but it’s an old design that they’ve had forever.
Raiders: Yes, but it’s an old design that they’ve had forever.
So from my perspective (which I realize may not necessarily match yours), not a single NFL team is currently wearing a new or new-ish uniform set that qualifies as its best ever. The only one that sorta-kinda comes close is Carolina, which has sort of reinvented itself this season with some new mix/match combos, most of which I think have been net positives.
Most of the other teams fall into one of four categories: Either their current look sucks (Falcons, Cardinals, Browns), or they got it right decades ago and have been smart enough to stick with it (Packers, Colts, Raiders), or they got it right, then veered off-course, and then saw the error of their ways and righted the ship (Jets, 49ers, Bills).
So again, the reason throwbacks often look better than current uniforms is that the older designs are better than the current ones. At least to me.
I realize many of you may disagree. Once again, feel free to debate any or all of this in today’s comments, but with one condition — for today, please restrict the discussion of “Is the current uni the best uni?” to the NFL. We’ll cover the remaining Big Four leagues shortly.
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Cast a shadow in my direction: We have lots of stray cats in our neighborhood, and a few of them will occasionally visit our porch. This one, which the Tugboat Captain has named Jackface, stopped by yesterday morning, casting a silhouette on one of our (very dirty) living room windows. A nicely spooky way to start the day.
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The Ticker By Yianni Varonis
Baseball News: Yesterday there were multiple sightings, at different locations, of the same design that could be the Marlins’ new logo (from multiple readers). … The Cardinals may be hinting that they’ll wear powder-blue throwbacks next season, and this writer isn’t pleased. … From Phil, here is a short video on the evolution of the Cardinals’ logo … Amateur teams adopting logos from the professional ranks is common, especially if the club is local. But Chipola, a Junior College in Florida, used not one, but two professional logos from Cleveland—the Indians’ Chief Wahoo and the Cavs’ “C,” in its baseball national championship rings (from Matt Burgess). … Speaking of which, here is a photograph of a baseball recruit whose high school mimics the logo of the college (BYU) he is signing a letter of intent to play baseball for (from Matthew Salt). … The Green Bay Bullfrogs, a collegiate, summer league baseball team, will now be renamed the Green Bay Booyah and have new colors and logos (from local reporter Brian Kerhin). … Here’s a piece on the history of Korean baseball team names (from @wetcasements).
NFL News: The Seahawks will go mono-navy against the Packers tonight. There had been some speculation that they might wear their neon alternates. … Recently acquired Saints WR Brandon Marshall will wear No. 15 for his new team (from Mike Chamernik). … Steelers players raided the locker of former teammate Le’Veon Bell, who will no longer report to the club this season (from our own Brinke Guthrie).
Hockey News: Michigan Tech will wear “Copper Country Strong” jerseys on Nov. 23, with the jerseys being auctioned off to benefit the victims of devastating floods that took place earlier this year. All the jerseys will have the nameplate “Thatcher” to honor Thatcher Markham, a 12-year-old boy who died in the floods (from Dave Ellis). … The Blackhawks’ home ice still has the season-opening “NHL Face-Off” logo, which other teams have removed. … Here’s an old shot of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury wearing a Canadiens cap (from Alan Kreit).
Soccer News: English Premier League clubs will support the LGBT community by featuring multiple rainbow-themed pitch and uniform elements during games between Nov. 30 and Dec. 5 (from Mark Johnson). Here is a list of other participating leagues (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … Which teams have worn the most kits in a single season? Look here (from Mark Coale). … New uniforms for the Kansas City Comets of the MASL (from Marc Viquez). … Adidas has accidentally revealed the ball for the 2018 Club World Cup and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (from Josh Hinton). … Like other Polish teams, Lech Poznan will wear a jersey commemorating the 100th-anniversary of Poland’s independence (from Ed Zelaski). … An English referee has been suspended for using a game of rock/paper/scissors to determine which team would kick off a women’s Super League match after he forgot the coin he was supposed to flip (from Alex Hider). … Manchester United MF Marouane Fellaini has cut off the afro he’s famously worn for more than a decade (also from Alex Hider). … Steve Ramsey has been traveling in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, where there’s been an exhibit of uniforms worn by the local soccer team, Ascoli Calcio, which plays in the Serie B Italian league. He took a bunch of photos. “What interested me was the evolution of their logo, and their mascot — the woodpecker,” he says. “Ascoli was settled six or seven centuries BC (way pre-Rome) and legend has it that the Piceni people were led to this area by a woodpecker.”
Grab Bag: Amid the wildfires that have devastated communities throughout Northern California, there have also been countless acts of kindness, including a local high school that sought donations to pay for an opponent’s volleyball uniforms and gear before a playoff match. … The North Melbourne Australian-rules football club will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a commemorative uniform featuring elements of the club’s past eight logos. More photographs here (from Will Pike). … For the next six months, American Airlines will field test flight-crew uniforms from its new vendor, Lands’ End. … Louis Vuitton will now let you customize its menswear and sneakers for the first time.
A few weeks ago we raffled off a print by artist Dan Duffy, who specializes in doing awesome sports-related illustrations comprised of words, which he sells under the brand name Art of Words. You can see him describing his work in the video embedded above.
I wanted to learn more about Duffy and his work, so we recently did a phone interview. Here’s how it went:
Uni Watch: Let’s start with some basics. How old are you and where do you live?
Dan Duffy: I’m 38, and I live just outside of Philadelphia. I grew up near here, too.
UW: Do you make a living from your artwork?
DD: Yep, yep. In fact, we have two full-time employees as well, which is kind of mind-boggling.
UW: Did you go to art school?
DD: I did, after a failed rugby career at a state school. Actually, the rugby career was going well, but my academics weren’t. So after two and a half years — and I think I may still have been a freshman — they said maybe it was time to move on. So I went to Hussian School of Art, a very small school in Philadelphia.
UW: Did you have a particular specialty there?
DD: Graphic design. Making logos, brochures, playing around with Photoshop and Illustrator — that was gonna be my career. I was lucky because I had an aunt who worked for Golf World magazine, which was associated with Golf Digest, and I designed their special four-page pullouts for the Masters, the U.S. Open, all of that. It was a lot of drop-shadows, lots of pie charts showing birdies to bogies to double-bogies. That was my first gig.
UW: How did you start doing your word art? That’s what you call it, right? “Word art”?
DD: I do. I kinda thought I invented it, but it turns out that there’s a whole category of art called calligrams, which are basically what I do. When I found out, I was like, “Oh no, people have been doing this forever!” But I figured I’d come up with my own style, my own focus.
UW: How did you make the shift from graphic design to word art?
DD: I got a job as a magazine designer, and it wasn’t a great of a life as I imagined it would be. I had this beat-up car, and I wasn’t making much money, and I realized my boss wasn’t going to retire anytime soon, which meant I’d be stuck making that same amount of money, and I was trying to date this girl. She was from the rich part of town, and here I am with this beat-up car, and I was trying to impress her. This was in 2008, and the Phillies were really good. So I did my first “Road to the World Series” piece, with the date, opponent, and score of every Phillies game that year. And she was like, “Wow, this is cool. You should make prints of this. You could definitely sell them!”
So that’s how it started. In 2009, we’d go to Phillies games and sell ’em to people who were tailgating in the parking lot for 10 bucks. At one point we got busted by these guys from Major League Baseball who were looking for people selling bootleg caps and stuff like that. They said, “Just so you know, you can’t really be selling this stuff. You have to pay licensing fees.” And I said, “What do you mean? This is my artwork?” And they said, “You see that ‘P’ on the cap?” And I said, “That’s not even a ‘P’ — it’s like 18 other letters in there!”
UW: Did they confiscate your art?
DD: Nah. I mean, these guys weren’t the police. They’d kind of harass us and we’d go on our way. But it worked out in the end, because it led me to look into how that stuff worked and now we do have an MLB license.
UW: When I look at your work, it reminds me of pointillism, and it also reminds me of a halftone, with all the screened dots of varying sizes that form an image, but it also seems to be very much its own thing.
DD: I like the concept of small things that get revealed when you keep looking closer. And truth is, one of my favorite movies is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and there’s that scene where he’s in the museum looking at that famous pointillist painting by [Georges] Seurat, and he realizes it’s all dots.
So yeah, that was definitely an inspiration. I’m also a big fan of Chuck Close, and there’s some influence there as well.
UW: Did you know from the start that this type of art was something you could sell as prints, as opposed to something that could hang in a gallery?
DD: Yeah, pretty much, and that’s what I’m more comfortable with anyway. I’d rather sell to electricians, teachers, middle-class people, like those tailgaters in the parking lot.
UW: You’re a man of the people!
DD: It’s not that I’m opposed to fine art, but I wanted my work to be affordable.
UW: Can you describe your process? Like, do you start with a photo and then write on it, or what? How much of what you’re doing is digital and how much is analog? Also, when you decide you’re going to do a piece that includes, say, the name of every player who ever played for the Cubs, or the score and date of every Houston Astros game from 2017, how do you block it out that it all fits? Like, how do you know how big to make the letters so that the amount of content you want to include actually fits properly in the space? Do you ever miscalculate and have to start over?
DD: I don’t like to duplicate an image that everyone already knows. So I try to find different photos of a player, or a stadium, from several different angles, and try to take the best parts. I’ll use three to four photos that are similar but different, and use the best part from them to create a composite that I then draw from, if that makes any sense.
So for a stadium piece, maybe I like the sky in one photo, but I prefer the field in another photo, and the crowd in a different photo. Same with batting stances. Maybe the player’s face looks great in one photo but his swing was a little low because that’s where the pitch was, so I find another photo where his swing was perfectly in balance.
Then I do a pencil drawing. And then the tough part is taking all the words and then dividing them up — how many words do I need per line, how many lines are there gonna be.
UW: So there’s some math involved. A lot of calculations.
DD: Yeah. Right now I’m doing the University of Maryland basketball team’s 100th anniversary. It’s going to include the names of every player who’s ever played for them. I have a printout of all the names — it’s 39 pages! So I mark the points where it’s a quarter of the way through the list, halfway through, and then I kinda check myself to make sure I’m on track. Sometimes maybe I have start writing a little smaller or a little bigger.
UW: Are you doing all this in paint, or markers, or pens? And what’s your “canvas”?
DD: I use a nice bristol board, gouache paints, acrylic paints, lots of different markers and pens, some regular old Bics — so it’s really a mix.
UW: How big is the original art?
DD: Most of my originals are 28″ x 22″.
UW: And how long does it typically take you to do one of these?
DD: For the first five or six years I was doing this, they usually took about 40 hours. Recently, I’ve been doing more ambitious pieces, which seem to get more reaction, and those have taken 150 to 200 hours.
UW: And then do you clean things up digitally, or correct any mistakes? Do you “fix it in post,” as they say in movies?
DD: One time I did a piece where the words were things that people loved about Philadelphia. And one of those things was Bill Cosby. So that had to be Photoshopped out. Got replaced by “Pork Sandwich.”
UW: Do you do other kinds of touch-up?
DD: Not unless it’s a really blatant mistake. I think one time, in my Yankee Stadium piece, I misspelled Joe Girardi’s name, so that had to be fixed. I felt bad about that — but not really. You know, 2009.
UW (suddenly flushed with anti-Yankees hatred): Yeah, fuck those guys! But aside from fixing errors, you don’t do any digital touch-up?
DD: Maybe if the paper isn’t the brightest white, I’ll do the classic photography adjustment of making the whites white and the blacks black. Just playing with the levels to make it pop a little bit more.
UW: When you were a kid in school, did you have good penmanship?
DD: No, definitely not. And I couldn’t spell, either!
UW: So did you have to refine your lettering technique?
DD: For a little while I used to work for Starbucks, and they let me do the chalkboards, so I worked on my lettering there. But I’m an artist, so I learned to draw a font. I basically started trying to draw Arial, because it’s simple, easy to read. Sometimes I’ll mix it up — like for my Wrigley Field piece, I thought cursive would be better for the ivy on the outfield wall. That’s definitely something I can expand upon — more kinds of lettering.
UW: I’ve seen in photos and videos of you that you’re right-handed. Do you think this would be a much harder thing to pursue for a lefty, because of the classic lefty problem of the hand dragging behind and smearing the ink?
DD: Without a doubt. You’d have to go really slow, so the ink would dry before the hand got there. So yeah, I’m really thankful I’m not left-handed. Those people can’t be trusted anyway.
UW: Careful, man, I’m left-handed!
DD: Figures. Only a lefty would have thought of that question!
UW: True! Here’s a question anyone could ask: Do you get writer’s cramp?
DD: Yeah, that’s kinda my biggest fear — like, old rugby injuries messing with my hands. My right middle finger really takes the brunt of the pressure from the pen — that top joint. I’ve experimented with putting little Nerf balls on top of the pens, to provide a cushion. And there are these things you can buy, probably for people much older than me.
UW: What’s the most challenging piece you’ve done so far, and also your favorite piece that you’ve done so far?
DD: They’re one and the same: the Eagles championship parade, which features the date, opponent, and score of every Eagles game in team history. That one took over 200 hours.
UW: You mentioned earlier that you have an MLB license. So I assume that explains why your MLB pieces show team logos, but you don’t show team logos in your NFL, NBA, or NHL pieces.
DD: Exactly. I’d love to get those other league licenses eventually, but for now my goal is to focus more on the stadiums, which people really seem to like.
UW: Do you want to keep doing word art for the foreseeable future, or do you have other goals, or what?
DD: This is it, man — the rest of my life. I can’t do anything else! I don’t even remember enough of Photoshop to go back to being a graphic designer, so this is it.
UW: One last question: The girl you were trying to impress when you started doing this, how did that work out?
DD: Married her! So I guess it worked.
Great stuff. As you can probably tell, Dan appears to be a peach of a guy. Check out more of his stuff at his website.
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Cap company can no longer be bothered to have cap factory: When I criticize the recent addition of the New Era maker’s mark to MLB caps (or when I applaud someone who’s removed the logo with a seam ripper, as shown at right), I sometimes hear from people in the Buffalo area who say, “Stop picking on New Era — they employ a lot of people around here!
New Era will employ a lot fewer of those people come next March, when their factory in Derby, N.Y., will be shut down, putting 219 people out of work.
According to that Buffalo News story (which is excellent, by the way — worth reading all the way through), the Derby factory produces between 2 and 4.5 million caps per year, including all of MLB’s on-field caps. The company’s contract with MLB specifies that the on-field caps must be made in the USA, so production of those caps will shift to a New Era screen-printing facility in Miami. (No, this doesn’t mean the caps will suddenly be screen-printed, although it may mean that the on-field caps end up being made by employees who’ve never made caps before.) The rest of the Derby work will be outsourced overseas. Interestingly, the Derby plant is unionized while the Miami facility is not, and of course the overseas outlets also are not. Hmmm.
New Era is a good example of what’s happened to the uniform business in recent years. For many decades they were essentially a sportswear manufacturer, much like the legacy sporting goods brands (Spalding, Rawlings, Wilson, etc.). But as the world of retail merch has grown, they’ve reinvented themselves as a lifestyle brand, more in line with Nike or Adidas.
The Buffalo News article says the shuttering of the Derby plant “represents a ‘pivot’ in New Era’s business model.” Here’s the key passage:
[Company officials said] New Era is shifting more focus to social marketing, e-commerce and quick turnaround times for customer orders. They expect that orders will be shifted around their global supply chain — “from whomever can make it,” one said. In that context, they said, a plant with a fixed capacity and a single product line — baseball caps — was no longer viable.
So a cap company having a plant devoted to caps is not viable. But that same company buying the name of the Bills’ stadium is viable. Mm-hmmm.
By ridiculous coincidence, I happen to be attending a New Era media event later today. I’ll try to find out more about the production of the on-field caps.
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Too good for the Ticker: Got a note the other day from longtime reader Don Schafer, who wrote: “As part of my daughter’s day care for the Thanksgiving holiday, she has to ‘hide a turkey’ from the turkey hunters. So I turned it into a Uni Watch project, complete with Stargell Star and a Clemente memorial patch. Her initials, ‘CWS’ (Charlette Watts Schafer), received their own personalized font for the jersey and cap.”
Oh, this is just too awesome — check it out (click to enlarge):
Nice job, Don. I think I speak for everyone reading this when I say that Charlotte’s future appears to be in very good hands.
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Also too good for the Ticker: This video is nearly a year old, but I just saw it yesterday. It’ll probably be the best three and a half minutes you spend today — trust me. (And it’s just as good even without the audio.)
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ITEM! Queen City trip in the works: Normal people go someplace warm in the winter, but the Tugboat Captain and I have decided to make a late-December visit to Cincinnati — a town I haven’t been to since 1997.
This trip will be a bit different than the ones I’ve documented in my various travelogues over the years. I usually like to spend a lot of time on the road, preferably in rural areas, but for this trip we’ll mostly be in one city (although I imagine we’ll explore the surrounding area a bit). We have a busy itinerary planned, and our Google map is already filled with more virtual pins than we’ll probably have time to pursue.
Anyway: We have a bunch of longtime readers in Cincinnati (Hi David! Hi Patrick! Hi Trent!), plus Cincy is home to Ticker assistant Alex Hider (who I’ve never met in person, amazingly enough), so I’m thinking it would be good to convene a Uni Watch party while I’m in town. It will likely take place on Sunday, Dec. 30, in the late-ish afternoon. The venue hasn’t yet been finalized, but I have a few places in mind. For now, save the date.
I look forward to seeing lots of you Cincinnati folks there. And Columbus, Indianapolis, and Louisville are all less than two hours from Cincy, so maybe we’ll attract some readers from those burgs as well. A good way to ring out 2018!
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The Ticker By Lloyd Alaban
Baseball News: OF Bryce Harper recently became a free agent. SI did a good job of photoshopping him into different uniforms (from our own Brinke Guthrie). … Here’s another teaser of the Marlins’ new uniforms (from Mike Chamernik). … Also from Mike: This Cubs-related image lampoons the cringeworthy trend of today’s uni-marketing mumbo-jumbo. … This ESPN writer wonders (as some of us also might have): Why are baseball managers so short? (From John Muir.) … The Astros announced their new radio deal with KTRH using a custom logo incorporating Houston’s 1977-93 logo (from Ignacio Salazar). … The new minor league team in Amarillo, Texas, slated to be a Padres Double-A affiliate, will be known as Amarillo Sod Poodles. Here are all their logos). … A local radio station debuted the Nashville Sounds’ new logo ahead of Thursday’s official reveal. The Sounds are the Triple-A affiliate of the Rangers. … The High Point Rockers, a team that will begin play next year in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, unveiled their inaugural season logo (from Jason Gray). … A rare sight, but it occasionally happened: The great Pirates OF Roberto Clemente wearing a batting glove (from Jerry Wolper).
NFL News: Interesting note from @Champs8690, who wrote: “Not sure if you saw the end of the Monday night’s Giants/49ers game, but postgame jersey-swapping is taking a turn. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. was carrying out jerseys with him to hand out. Saw him and 49ers CB Richard Sherman taking a picture with a blue Giants jersey — but the Giants wore white that night!” … Saints head coach Sean Payton lost a golf bet to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson during the offseason. Their betting stakes were their home colors, so this Sunday when their two teams face off, the Saints will be wearing their gorgeous white Rash uniforms at home. So I guess in the end, we all won (from several readers). … The Seahawks invited military members to their facilities on Monday to place Salute to Service decals on players’ helmets ahead of this Thursday’s game (from our own Phil Hecken). … This article about technology in football includes several uni-relevant items (from Joe Werner). … Pro Football Journal found this old photo of the Dolphins bench with inconsistent number fonts and number outlining. … According to this football writer, the future of football helmet innovation lies with startups (paywalled link) (from our own Alex Hider). … Here’s a look at the Steelers helmet car for the upcoming Steel Curtain roller coaster coming next year to Kennywood Park, an amusement park in Pennsylvania. Additional details here (from @DarinWithOneR and Mike Rosenberg). … Several black military veterans and police officers offered their perspectives on the NFL protests during the national anthem. … The Rams and 49ers will be auctioning off game-worn jerseys to benefit victims of the California wildfires (from Phil).
College Football News: Notre Dame will be wearing their Yankees-inspired uniforms costumes for this Saturday’s game against Syracuse in Yankee Stadium (cue audible groan). Meanwhile, Syracuse will go mono-white (both from our own Phil Hecken). … Ohio State will be wearing these fauxbacks against arch-rival Michigan Nov. 24. The uniform will follow the same design as the one worn during the Buckeyes’ run to the 2014 national title (and as an alternate during the 2015 and 2016 seasons), but on the Vapor Untouchable template instead of Mach Speed (from @Believeland1994). … @mikeobs found this fabulously-detailed wedding cake featuring models of the stands of Texas A&M’s stadium and Florida’s stadium.
College Hoops News:New unis for Miami men’s (from Adam Apatoff). … New unis for Quincy men’s. … Arkansas men’s will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of their national championship win by featuring their old “slobbering Hog” logo at their center court this season (from our own Phil).
Soccer News: The Poland men’s national team will wear some gorgeous throwbacks to celebrate the Polish centennial (from multiple readers). … Mexican League club Chivas introduced a new shirt for the FIFA Club World Cup (from Ed Zelaski). … Here’s every Premier League match ball since the 2000-01 season (from Josh Hinton). … Great detail catch by James Gilbert: UNC’s men’s team has two stars for their two NCAA national championships above the Tar Heel logo on the back of their shirts. Soccer teams often wear stars on their shirts to signify how many championships they’ve won.
Grab Bag:New logo for the ATP (from our own Brinke Guthrie). … Top Fuel driver Steve Torrence won all six Countdown races to win the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Top Fuel Championship. He received a title belt for his achievement (from David Firestone). … Virginia Tech developed a new system to test bike helmet effectiveness. … Here’s the sneaky way clothing brands hooked men onto stretch jeans (from Jason Hillyer).
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What Paul did last night: It’s been about two and a half months since I moved in with the Tugboat Captain, and we’re not totally sick of each other yet and I’m still exploring my new environs. One place I’ve been meaning to check out is a bar called Michelle’s Cocktail Lounge, so last night the Captain and I agreed to meet there after she got off work.
Michelle’s is about a mile and a half from Uni Watch HQ. I could have taken the bus or my bike, but I decided to walk because the route would take me down some blocks I hadn’t yet checked out, so I figured I’d see some interesting stuff along the way. Sure enough, at about the 10-minute mark I passed an exterminator with this great sign (click to enlarge):
I love all the illustrations and their accompanying captions, like it’s a textbook or a manual or something.
After another 15 minutes or so, I passed this old Sears. It’s in a somewhat overlooked neighborhood, so it’s not as famous as it deserves to be (click to enlarge):
Is that gorgeous or what? Kinda blows my mind that this kinda thing still exists in Brooklyn (although probably not for long). So beautiful!
I eventually made it to Michelle’s, where I had that tense/exciting feeling of walking into a promising bar for the first time. It’s like unwrapping a present — you don’t know what you’re going to find inside. Michelle’s, like most bars that interest me, is a place where I “don’t belong” (in this case because I was the only white person there), but the barmaid welcomed me warmly and the woman I sat down next to quickly said hello and let me know that I could get free chicken wings just by asking at the kitchen. A few minutes later, the Tugboat Captain arrived and we settled in for a few rounds.
By the time we prepared to leave about an hour and a half later, we’d had some beers and some chicken wings, made some new friends (one of whom even offered to give us a lift home, although that seemed overly generous, so we politely declined and took the bus instead), and decided that we’ll definitely be back. A very nice evening!
Reader Kyle Seely got in touch the other day to raise an interesting point. He noted that we all seem to agree that the Rams’ current uniform setup is a mess, thanks to the gold trim on the jersey but the absence of gold on the helmet. But then he pointed out that the Chiefs have a similar situation, with lots of yellow trim on their jersey (and pants, and socks) but not even a touch of yellow on their helmet. Both teams even have white facemasks. And yet most of us, myself included, have no problem with the Chiefs.
“Why do I get that fingernails-on-a-chalkboard feeling when I look at the Rams, but I see a harmonious symphony of design when I look at the Chiefs?” Kyle asked me. “Is it because the Chiefs have secretly snuck black into their helmets with the outline of the arrowhead and the lettering? Is there some other logical explanation?”
Good question! I’ve been puzzling over this one for a few days now. For whatever reason, the Rams situation bugs me but the Chiefs situation does not. Why is that?
Maybe it has to do with the colors involved. The Rams’ helmet shell is dark navy while the horn decals and facemask are white. So to me, it almost feels like the Rams’ helmet is appearing in black-and-white while the rest of the uni is in color. The Chiefs’ setup is different, because the shell is red.
Or maybe, as Kyle suggested, it has something to do with the use of black trim on the Chiefs’ helmet. Does that change the equation somehow?
One additional note: Yellow hasn’t always been quite so prominent on the Chiefs’ uniforms. If you look at large photos from Super Bowl I and Super Bowl IV, you’ll see that the yellow outlining on the jersey numbers was so thin as to be barely visible (although there was still plenty of yellow on the sleeve stripes, pants piping, and socks). According to the Gridiron Uniform Database, the outlining on the numbers was thickened in 1970 and has remained thick ever since. In any case, the assorted bits of yellow in KC’s uniform have never bothered me, even though they’re not repeated on the helmet.
(P.S. As long as we’re talking about the Chiefs, I’m going to refer you back to an entry I wrote back in 2014, about the great Chiefs logo-inconsistency mystery. If you didn’t read it back then, or if you just want a refresher, check it out — it’s pretty amazing.)
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FC Cincinnati Gets New Badge and “New” Name By Alex Hider
You never want to be the new kid on the block with old duds. So FC Cincinnati, poised to jump to MLS next season, held an event to unveil its new badge and branding last night.
The event took place at a theater-turned-concert venue about a half-mile from where the team’s new stadium will be built — and the club dressed it up in orange and blue, inside and out.
Notably, the new badge keeps the winged lion from the old logo, and adds a new color to the palette — navy.
Of course, this is modern sports branding we’re talking about, so there’s plenty of storytelling to go around. Some of it works — the “C” in the lion’s tail is clever and easily my favorite element of the logo. Other parts — not so much. As Adam Eargle pointed out to me on Twitter, the crown atop the male, maned lion represents the “Queen City,” which doesn’t quite make sense (click to enlarge):
In addition to the new badge, the FCC also announced that it was changing its official name from Fútbol Club Cincinnati to Football Club Cincinnati, something that will probably go largely unnoticed, considering the team rarely refers to itself by its full name.
All in all, the new logo is a significant upgrade from the old crest. The new winged lion logo is active and dynamic (it always frustrated me that the old lion had his hands full), and the new badge eliminates the annoying floating chunk that hovered over the old badge.
Flyers fans will want to have their box of Crayola crayons handy for this (probably) early-1970s Flyers coloring book. The seller says “This book includes Rick MacLeish, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, and more. There is a word search, connect the dots and find the differences puzzle along with the coloring pages. This coloring book has been used. Not sure of the year, I’m guessing early 1970s. Includes Bernie Parent with the number #30 which he wore prior to being traded to Toronto. Also, includes Bill Flett, a player traded after the first Stanley Cup in 1974.”
• This 1970s NHL thermal mug includes all the team logos of the period, including the ones for the Atlanta Flames, California Golden Seals, and Minnesota North Stars.
• The seller for this auction says this is a 1970 Cleveland Browns playbook binder for their offense. Just the binder by itself, as “the contents were donated to the football HOF.” It would still make a nice souvenir for that die-hard Browns fan (is there any other kind?) out there.
• Remember Nutmeg Mills? They had an NFL license for awhile and were the makers of this vibrant L.A. Rams sweatshirt. Seller says 1970s but I don’t believe that is correct. More like mid- to late 1980s.
• This is obviously a 1970s Atlanta Falcons jersey from Rawlings, though for some reason the seller doesn’t mention the team.
• Kellogg-Citizens National Bank gave away these 1960s plastic Packers mini-footballs, to “lighten your life and brighten your future.” Open up a new passbook savings account, and get a free toy football!
• Someone in Miami made up a batch of these “Zonk ’Em Dolphins” buttons in honor of running back Larry Csonka during his Dolphins heyday.
Finally, a quick programming note: Collector’s Corner will air on the Uni Watch Facebook page next Tuesday, Nov. 20. Back here as usual after that.
Seen an item on eBay that would be good for Collector’s Corner? Send any submissions here.
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Click to enlarge
Chain-stitch update: I just received a couple more chain-stitched Uni Watch logo patches from master embroiderer Amy Bengtson (who I interviewed back in September). These patches will ship out today to the readers who ordered them.
If you want your own patch, the price is $35 apiece (80% of which goes to Amy). That includes shipping. They’re hand-embroidered, so no two are quite the same. If you’re interested, give me a shout and I’ll make the arrangements.
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Naming Wrongs reminder: In case you missed it on Monday, we’ve added some new Naming Wrongs shirts for the Bradley Center. They’re available in green, purple, and green with purple lettering. We’ll be adding some Marquette-themed Bradley designs as well.
’Tis the season: Someone asked me the other day if we have a Uni Watch holiday sweater. No, I told him, but we do have the Uni Watch Ugly Sweater T-shirt (which is also available as a long-sleeve tee and a sweatshirt). Designed three years ago by Bryan Molloy, it’s still one of our best products. Perfect for you, or as a gift. Order it here.
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KRC update: The latest installment is about a Swiss Army Knife whose red outer casing has fallen away. Check it out here.
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The Ticker By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Seattle’s baseball stadium currently does not have a name, as workers have removed the “Safeco” lettering from the stadium’s facade (from Jay Danbom). … The Rockies gave away a bunch of stuff on Twitter yesterday, including champagne corks from postseason celebrations, bottles of Coke with player names on them, and a pack of special weekend uniform socks (from Rob Montoya). … The Green Bay Bullfrogs of the Northwoods League — a college summer league — will get a new nickname on Wednesday. The seven finalists for the new nickname: Booyah, Cheese Curds, Old Fashioneds, Supper Clubbers, Tailgaters, Under Dogs and Wurst (from Brian Kerhin).
Pro Football News: The Packers are wearing their all-white Color Rash uniforms this Thursday, and the team published a video of the equipment staff preparing the uniforms for the game (from Damon). … Thanks to a trademark filing, SportsLogos.net has all but confirmed what the Montreal Alouettes’ new logo will be (from Moe Khan).
College Football News: Florida State is wearing their alternate helmets, black jerseys and garnet pants this weekend against Boston College (from College Sports Design). … In an ESPN power rankings column, someone accidentally used Bemidji State’s logo instead of the University of Cincinnati C-Paw (from Joel Benjamin Clark). … The ACC Tracker has been updated for Week 11. … In this very short video clip, you can see Nebraska’s 1917 football team wearing their very stripe-centric uniforms as they march in support of America’s involvement in World War I (from Brian Hansen).
Hockey News: This season’s outdoor game between Notre Dame and Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium has its own logo (from Joseph Lombardo). … Friend of Uni Watch Rob Ullman has published the latest issue of his hockey comic zine, Old-Timey Hockey Tales. … The Penguins are selling the “Stronger Than Hate” patch that they wore on Oct. 30, with the proceeds going to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to benefit Tree of Life victims and families (from Jeffrey Jacobs).
Soccer News: Sporting Kansas City has a bunch of uniform displays representing notable years in its history throughout its stadium, Children’s Mercy Park (from @GuacBowlsForAll).
Grab Bag: The Pac-12 Conference has signed an apparel deal with Nike, meaning conference broadcasters, staff, and volunteers will wear Nike apparel at conference events. Seems like this will be awkward for the several Pac-12 schools that have apparel deals with non-Nike companies (from Griffin Smith). … On Veterans’ Day, it was reported that the U.S. Army is bringing back the old World War II-era “pinks and greens” uniform as its new service uniform (from Tim Dunn). … Police in Washington, D.C. are getting new uniforms (from Andrew Hoening).
Amidst all the G.I. Joke nonsense, the Chiefs did something interesting yesterday. They partnered with the National World War I Museum and Memorial, which is located in Kansas City, to wear a patch during pregame warm-ups to mark the centennial of the WWI armistice. You can see it there on Patrick Mahomes’s left sleeve. Here’s a closer look (click to enlarge):
Would’ve been nice if they’d worn it for the game, instead of just for pregame, but it’s still a nice gesture.
In other news from around the league yesterday:
• The Chiefs’ opponents yesterday, the Cardinals, wore their white jerseys with red pants — the first time they’ve worn that uni combo since Dec. 19, 2010:
• From that same game, I don’t usually get too worked up about footwear, but check out what Cards safety Antoine Bethea was wearing:
• Also from that same game, the Chiefs’ cheerleaders didn’t just wear G.I. Joke costumes — they also saluted Sigh:
• The Titans wore navy blue over powder blue — the first time they’ve worn that combo since adopting their new uniform design (click to enlarge):
• The Bengals wore their orange alternate jerseys (click to enlarge):
• In L.A., the Rams wore their throwbacks and the Seahawks wore their gray alternate pants:
• In that same game, Rams defensive back Marcus Peters appears to have played bare-legged:
• The Eagles wore their mono-black alternates:
• The Browns beat the Falcons while wearing brown over orange:
According to reader Joseph Bailey, it’s the first time the Browns won while wearing that color combo since Dec. 18, 1983, when they beat the Steelers. “It was Brian Sipe’s last game,” says Joseph. “I was there, and after the game I got onto the field and grabbed a clump of orange grass. I still have it in a baggie in my attic.”
• Typo alert! Bears defensive back Prince Amukamara had his name misspelled on his NOB, prompting him to change jerseys midgame (screen shot via @ajj421):
(My thanks to all contributors, including Michael Bochum, Frank McGuigan, Pro Football Journal, Robert Turning.)
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Poppy Roundup By Jamie Rathjen
Remembrance Sunday is now marked in a variety of uni-related ways, invariably poppy-themed, in many different sports. Here’s a rundown of some of the poppy action, starting with soccer, where almost every English and Scottish top-tier team wore poppy patches this weekend:
• Leicester City only wore the poppy for half of their game, because the first half featured shirts honoring owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
• Scottish team St. Johnstone wore their own patch instead of the standard Scottish patch, and added the insignia of the Black Watch military regiment as well as a military decoration, but which one wasn’t immediately clear.
• Also in Scotland, Celtic and St. Mirren did not wear the poppy, while the first picture shows that Celtic’s opponents Livingston wore the English poppy.
• Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane posted a picture of an actual poppy pin — the kind people buy to commemorate the holiday — pinned to his England shirt. Whether the four British national teams would be allowed to wear the poppy was controversial in each of the past two years, when Remembrance Sunday fell during international breaks.
• England’s women’s team played yesterday and wore a poppy on black armbands, which was the compromise FIFA and the national teams came up with last year to circumvent FIFA’s ban on political statements on national teams’ kits. Some of opponent Sweden’s players wore plain black armbands.
Gift guide reminder: I’m currently working on my annual Uni Watch Holiday Gift Guide, which will run on ESPN.com later this month. If you know of any cool uni-related items that might be good for me to include (aside from the usual mass-market retail slop, of course), please feel free to send tips my way. Self-promotion is fine, so if you have an awesome product or project that might make the grade, don’t be shy about telling me.
Also: Next month I’ll be doing my annual year-end raffle, where I give away the freebies I’ve accumulated during the year. If you have any goodies that you’d like to contribute to the raffle (one reader has already donated something very, very special), get in touch and we’ll discuss. Thanks.
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The Ticker By Jamie Rathjen
Baseball News: Nationals OF Juan Soto has been wearing the team’s home cap with their road uniform while he is with the MLB all-star team touring Japan (from William F. Yurasko). … “Did we know that the clean-shaven Pirate of the ’70s had a family?” asks Mike Ortman. That is, that picture appears to show female and child versions of that incarnation of the Pirates logo.
Hockey News: The OHL’s Flint Firebirds did camouflage night Friday (from Wade Heidt). … Also from Wade: Canucks G Jacob Markström has a new mask. … Good luck telling Latvia’s B team (maroon) and Japan (black) apart in this picture. That was the final of a tournament called the Baltic Challenge Cup, which also featured Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, and Belarusian top-tier team Metallurg Zhlobin (from @CT4_LV).
Soccer News: England women’s center-back Steph Houghton made her 100th international appearance, which was commemorated on the bottom and inside collar of her shirt. As Houghton captains England, she wore two armbands yesterday, including the poppy one. … Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has a phone case with a picture of himself in United’s second-choice pink shirt (from Josh Hinton). … Also from Josh: All the lights at Sporting KC’s stadium were tinted sky blue the night before yesterday’s playoff game, despite that the game was in the afternoon and SKC wore black at home, as they have done several times this season. … New third kit for the English Championship’s Leeds United.
What Paul did last night over the weekend: Sometimes you manage to pack a punch of really good stuff into a short time frame. That’s what happened to me during a 24-hour flurry that began late Saturday afternoon, when the Tugboat Captain and I drove to another part of Brooklyn and had dinner at Fan Fried Rice Bar, a new-ish Taiwanese place that, as its name implies, specializes in fried rice. We got (clockwise from top left) Taiwanese sausage fried rice with edamame, popcorn chicken, and pastrami fried rice with peanuts and Sichuan peppercorns, all of which was really, really good (for all of these photos, you can click to enlarge):
From there we went to a screening of Boiled Angel: The Trial of Mike Diana, a documentary about the cartoonist Mike Diana, the first (and I believe still the only) American artist ever to be convicted and jailed on obscenity charges, thanks to his notorious early-1990s underground comix zine, Boiled Angel. The case remains one of the major low points in recent U.S. legal history. Here’s the trailer:
At the screening, which took place at a Brooklyn soundstage space, the film was introduced by its director, Frank Henenlotter. He made his name decades ago directing B-level exploitation flicks like Basket Case and Frankenhooker but has more recently moved into documentaries:
The film was hilarious, fascinating, upsetting, excellent. It doesn’t yet have a distributor, so screenings are rare. Definitely worth seeing if you have the chance.
After the screening, there was a panel discussion with Henenlotter and Mike Diana himself, moderated by Caitlin McGurk, who’s an associate curator at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University. That’s Diana — convicted purveyor of obscenity — second from the right:
I was doing my own zine in the 1990s (a copy of the first issue is briefly shown in the movie, in fact, which was a fun surprise) and was following the Diana case as it unfolded at the time. It was really important to those of us in the zine world, and to anyone who cared about First Amendment issues. Personally, I always thought the content in Boiled Angel was pretty juvenile, but it certainly wasn’t criminal and was ultimately just drawings on paper, printed in a zine with a circulation of just a couple of hundred copies.
Twenty-five years later, it was really interesting to see the infamous Mike Diana in person. He’s very reserved, not all that articulate, and seems to have little interest in the larger political issues surrounding his case (according to Wikipedia, he also doesn’t vote), all of which makes him an unusual poster boy for the First Amendment. He mostly seems to want to be left alone to pursue his art career — fair enough. The kicker, of course, is that he probably wouldn’t have a career to begin with if prosecutors hadn’t gone after him and effectively turned him into a free speech martyr, so he gets the last laugh.
So that was Saturday. Yesterday I went to Comic Arts Brooklyn, an annual comics expo. Walked around, bought a few comics, bumped into a few friends, and mainly absorbed the fun feeling of being surrounded by interesting, creative people and their creations. The best part was this guy who was doing drawings with a gigantic fountain pen:
I had to leave after about 90 minutes because I was due to meet up with the Tugboat Captain at a Manhattan art gallery, where our friend Robert was showing his work as part of a group show. First he had a bunch of very small paintings of rayguns, each with a different design and a different name — and, if you happened to be standing near Robert, a different explanation for how each one worked (for all of these, you can click to enlarge):
Robert also makes these super-intricate dioramas. Photography doesn’t really do them justice, but you can still get a sense of what an endearing weirdo Robert is from this shot:
And then there’s this one, which is a fairly conventional film noir-ish tableau, but still plenty enjoyable:
From there, the Captain and I went off to the Corner Bistro for burgers and beers, and then we went home, where I spent the next couple of hours putting today’s entry together.
Now that, people, is a full weekend. Hope yours was just as good.
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Today is the observed date of Veterans Day. If you are a military veteran, please accept my thanks for your service.