Nice bit of Uni Watch coverage in today’s New York Times, as reporter John Gill profiles the Ditch the Black campaign. The web version of the article is here, and a scan of the printed version is available here.
I know many of you are sick of the whole black/blue debate, and I’m not trying to rekindle any of that here. But the article includes two really annoying quotes from Mets executive VP Dave Howard that shouldn’t go unchallenged, especially since they could just as easily apply to any team’s uniform and merchandising programs, not just the Mets’.
The first one is when he says that “our traditional hats and uniforms were selling hardly at all” at the time the team added black to the color scheme. Now let’s think about that: The Mets added black caps and jerseys in 1998. Based on MLB’s usual lead times for uni changes, that means the decision to add black took place in early 1997. Now let’s look at how the Mets were doing on the field in the years just prior to that:
- 1996: 71-91
Gee, ya think maybe merch sales had been tanking because the team, um, sucked? Just askin’.
Howard’s second whopper comes toward the end of the article, where he says, “If you look around the building, you’re seeing a lot of the black, so it’s clear fans vote most effectively with their pocketbook.”
How utterly bullshit is this statement? Let us count the ways:
• First of all, keep in mind that there are lots of fans who are in no position to “vote with their pocketbook” for blue, black, or anything else, simply because they can’t afford to spend $200 on a jersey. Maybe those fans love black, maybe they don’t. But Howard’s statement suggests that they simply don’t matter, because they can’t afford to “vote.” And you thought the poll tax was dead.
• Let’s also remember that plenty of other fans simply aren’t in the merch demographic. A 55-year-old is unlikely to buy a jersey, regardless of whether it fits into his budget, because 55-year-olds simply don’t spend money on stuff like that (maybe because they’re too smart to waste $200 on a piece of polyester). But I guess there’s no reason to care what they think, because they’re not spending cash at the pro shop. What a wonderful message to send. This is the most offensive aspect of letting your uniform design be driven by merchandising concerns: It effectively puts the team’s design aesthetic in the hands of a particular (read: young) subset of the fan base.
• When I look around the stadium, I see plenty of people “voting with their pocketbooks” by wearing crazy hip-hop-inspired caps, pink jerseys, and a lot of other outlandish stuff. I suppose we should start having the team wear those designs too?
Okay, I’ll stop. Big thanks to John Gill for the coverage, and no thanks to Dave Howard for helping to turn sports uniforms into a race to see who can sell the most crap at the mall.
Logo Fossil Found!: At the risk of being still more Mets-centric, here’s an interesting item. As many of you know, the Mets’ skyline logo used to feature an “NY” to the left of the “Mets” script, but the team eliminated the “NY” in 1999. At the time, I wrote a short article about this for the Village Voice (the full text is available here), in which a Mets exec said, “The ‘NY’ on the logo never matched the one on the caps. The one on the logo was more primitive-looking, sort of a stick-figure ‘NY.’ At the end of last year we wanted to dress it up and have it match the ‘NY’ on the caps, but then we said to ourselves, ‘Why do we need it on the logo anyway?'”
Yesterday, however, uniform designer and all-around swell guy Todd Radom brought this 1961 article to my attention. It shows the team’s original logo design, as chosen in a design competition. And the “NY” back then, while not quite the same as the one on the caps, was a lot closer — the letters had those flared flourishes (like the symbol for Aries [no, I’m not into astrology, but I know a bit about symbols]) at the end of each stroke. Why did the team eliminate them from the finished logo?
Actually, they didn’t — at least not at first. If you look at the team’s 1962 yearbook cover, you’ll see that the “NY” still has the flourishes. It’s not identical to the cap logo, but it’s a lot closer than this. Apparently some of the logo’s finer details were lost over the years.
Alright, no Mets content tomorrow, except maybe a small item in my roundup of Division Series oddities. Promise.