Lots of ground to cover today, beginning with the excellent time I had last Friday at Giants Stadium, where I spent the afternoon interviewing equipment director Joe Skiba. This will end up as a video column on ESPN.com later this week, but here are some notable factoids:
• As you can see above, your typical NFL team has a lot — like, a lot — of facemasks on hand. (Here’s a larger view.)
• How tight are NFL jerseys these days? So tight that Osi Umenyiora’s jersey and pads fit fairly comfortably on me. Keep in mind that Osi outweighs me by over 100 pounds. For the record, Jared Lorenzen’s jersey was a big roomier.
• Speaking of Umenyiora, it turns out he likes to have his jersey partially untucked in the back (sort of like Wayne Gretzky), so Skiba has the back of his jersey tailored with a diagonal hem.
• Think the Giants’ blue helmet looks stupid with their red alternate jersey? Skiba has something in mind for you. I’m not allowed to talk about it, because team management hasn’t yet green-lighted Skiba’s idea, but let’s just say it would be a pretty revolutionary move if it came to pass. (And no, it’s not a solid-red helmet.)
• Skiba clued me in to a new footwear regulation I hadn’t been aware of: Prior to this season, a player’s shoes had to be predominantly black or white (depending on the team’s official shoe color) but could be accented with team colors. Since the Giants’ official colors are blue and red, this meant that some players’ shoes were black with red accents and others were black with blue. This year, however, the NFL has required each team to settle on one accent color. The Giants chose red (a mistake, in my opinion), so no more blue-accented cleats for Big Blue.
Big thanks to Joe for taking time out of his busy schedule to make himself available. On top of that, he turned out to be a real character in front of the camera, which should result in a very entertaining video. Joe, if you’re reading this, you da man and all that.
NHL Roundup: Meanwhile, a slew of additional NHL unveilings took place over the weekend. I’m just about NHL’d out (it’s only a 30-team league, but it seems like they’ve trotted out about 387 uniforms over the past two months), but protocol demands a full accounting, so here’s a quick rundown, in roughly descending order of quality:
• Coyotes: Plenty to like here — simple, basic, a classic in the making (lots of photos here). The only fly in the ointment: the way the panels and seams have forced the “C” and “A” designations to move too close to the crest.
• Blackhawks: Pretty true to the classic version. But this is probably the best example yet of how old-school waistline striping just doesn’t work with Reebok’s new rounded shirttail hem (additional photos here). Which brings up a question: What exactly is the rationale for the rounded hem? For all the chatter about the new uniform system’s innovative fabrics and streamlined tailoring, I’ve yet to hear an explanation for this particular (and particularly annoying) element.
• Ducks: As of my last writing, we had only seen this, but now a bunch of practice session photos have surfaced (additional views here). Yeah, the wordmark is weak and the stripes are a joke, but I still like the color scheme and the lack of extraneous bells and whistles. Whatever you thought of last year’s version, this update is certainly no worse.
• Stars: I actually love the road uni. And I don’t mind the simplicity of the home design (additional pics here). But like many other observers, I don’t understand why they’re highlighting the city name at home and the team name on the road. Feels like some promising ideas that weren’t taken to full fruition.
• Flyers: Road whites are silly but harmless; home design looks like a black tunic (additional pics here). Oh, and according to an item buried on this page, “Privately, some of the players said the new jerseys were too snug. So the Flyers are ordering them two sizes larger than usual for most players.” Nice to know the Edge system is being subverted before the season even starts.
• Blues: For those who’ve been wondering, this is the design I knew about a few months ago (I got to see one of the jerseys when I was visiting the Liebe factory back in July) but wasn’t at liberty to discuss. Some people in the comments section have said they’re okay with it, which surprises me, because I think it’s a total train wreck. From the idiotic apron strings to the super-annoying Ree-box, it reeks of overdesign — especially when you factor in the way the apron strings are extended on the pants (additional pics here). Embarrassing.
In addition, we now have our first view of the Rangers’ new design on an actual human being. Compare that to this and the new wordmark looks awfully compressed, no? And again, the rounded hemline ruins the non-rounded stripes. I’m starting to think they would’ve been better off going back to the drawing board.
Fuck it, they should all just do this and get it over with.
Raffle-O-Rama: Speaking of the NHL, here’s a little tale that speaks volumes: About 10 days ago I got a note from a PR guy working for the NHL. This wasn’t one the league’s staff publicists — it was a guy from a PR agency that had apparently been retained by the league. He wanted to make sure I knew all about the league’s exciting new uniform system, with its high-tech fabrics and innovative tailoring. Then he asked if I’d like to have one of the jerseys so I could see for myself, and of course I said yes. He didn’t ask which team I preferred, and I didn’t make any special request, but I figured it’d probably be either a Rangers or Islanders jersey — y’know, since I live in New York and all.
A few days later, a package arrived. Can you guess what was inside? Take a look.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful — it was nice gift, after all. But you’ve gotta admit, it takes a special kind of cluelessness to send me a jersey from the one team that features the one color I can’t stand. This kinda sums up everything wrong with the NHL these days, no? (So does this: You’d think a video game would gain its legitimacy from the sport, not the other way around.)
Anyway, I’m gonna raffle off the jersey, and I won’t even make fun of whoever wins it. Specs: Size 52; includes all tagging; blank on the back. And since winning a Kings jersey brings to mind a bunch of old vaudeville jokes (“First prize is a week in Philadelphia; second prize is two weeks in Philadelphia”), I’ll make it more interesting by tossing in some extra goodies: The first prize winner will have a choice of the Kings jersey, a Capitals T-shirt (size L, blank on the back), or a bunch of MLB sleeve patches. A second-place winner will have a choice or the remaining two prizes, and a third-place winner will get the remaining prize.
To enter, send an e-mail to uniraffle at earthlink dot net (please note that this is not the regular Uni Watch address) by this Thursday, September 20th, 10 p.m. eastern. I’ll announce the winners on Friday. I won’t be reading the e-mail entries, so please don’t include messages or attachments. One e-mail per person, but all enrollees in the Uni Watch membership program will automatically get three bonus entries.
Speaking of membership, the recent server snafu put a damper on news from that front, but Scott and I have kept working on applications. With two exceptions (hang in there, Joseph Mays and Charlie Hildbold — we’ll get to you soon), every enrollee should now have his or her membership kit. If you haven’t received yours, let me know. And for all you folks who recently told me you were planning to sign up once the server issues were settled, I look forward to receiving your orders.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Nike and Ohio State have struck a huge deal. And it includes some penalties for swoosh obstruction. ”¦ Reprinted from Thursday’s comments: Awesome Yellowknife jersey at the beginning of this photo gallery. ”¦ Good article here about the Astros’ visiting clubhouse manager, who has a huge bobblehead collection (with thanks to James Poisso and Kevin Gee). ”¦ While researching something else, I came across this photo of Paul Hornung wearing a college all-star jersey — apparently the same design shown in that Mitchell and Ness video that Vince linked to last Friday. ”¦ From 1921 through 1951, the Cubs held spring training on Catalina Island, a small island off the California coast that was owned by William Wrigley. Joaquin Jang has provided me with a link to an excellent half-hour video about the Cubbies’ history on the island, and it’s filled with tons of great visuals plus some nice little uni-related factoids (the Cubs used to leave behind their spring training uniforms each year for the island’s high school team to use, e.g.). The only catch is the size of the video file — my computer took over two hours to download it. But it’s worth it, so just start the download before you go to bed or something like that. The link is here. ”¦ AJ Brandt reports that U.S. Airways has been creating a fleet of NFL-themed jets, with liveries honoring the Eagles, Cardinals, Steelers, and Panthers. Not sure if the flight attendants have to dress the part, but I wanna make it clear right now that I’ll travel on a leaky raft before I fly on a Bengals plane. ”¦ Tyler Kepner wrote a nice little item at the bottom of this page about Ian Kennedy’s stirrups. ”¦ The Padres wore 1990s throwbacks on Saturday — the last installment of their season-long throwback program. ”¦ Small uni number switcheroo for the Mets. ”¦ Things have been suspiciously quiet over at Oregon, but Clark Farrand says that may be changing soon: “On the radio pregame show for the Oregon/Fresno State game, they had a guest ‘insider’ (whose name/title I didn’t catch) who said that the white helmets announced last year were ready and that they should be broken out in the next few weeks. Interestingly enough, they were considered for the Michigan game last week, but the team wanted the focus to remain on the game and not have helmet hype overshadow anything.” ”¦ Todd Davis notes that Pitt is now in the unusual position of having the exact same wordmark on its jersey and helmet. ”¦ Interesting note from Alejandro Macri (writing all the way from Buenos Aires), who notes: “The South African rugby national team is using green and yellow mouth protections as part of their uni design. It’s very disturbing to see green and yellow in these men’s teeth, but it may be the beginning of a new trend.” ”¦ Everyone got a kick out of this over the weekend. ”¦ You probably know Jason Varitek has “TEK” printed on his chest protector collar. But did you know he also has it inscribed on his mask? (With thanks to Corey Paske.) ”¦ Also from Corey: This is a shot of Wisconsin hockey coach Mike Eaves. Anyone know what the “SP” tag logo on the jersey is for? ”¦ Garrett Malcolm reports that last week’s Derek Lee bobblehead giveaway at Wrigley Field depicted Lee with a gray underbrim. ”¦ Dave Lewellen notes that Trent Green’s sleeves had stripes for Miami’s Week 1 game against the Redskins, but the rest of the Dolphins were stripe-free. ”¦ Wish I’d been near a TV for Saturday’s Iowa/Iowa State Game. The Cyclones wore gorgeous throwbacks (lots of additional pics here and here), and the Hawkeyes added an “ANF” decal (that’s for “America Needs Farmers,” don’tcha know), much nicer than the one originally worn during the Hayden Frye era (with thanks to Matthew Lepke for the decal screen grab). ”¦ Awesome collection of game-worn hockey jerseys here (with thanks to Joe Hilseberg). ”¦ Advertising on NFL uniforms? It’s already happening, if you count the Vikings’ cheerleaders. ”¦ The Nationals wore a sleeve patch over the weekend to mark their final homestand at RFK Stadium. … Speaking of the Nats, great article here about how the team’s script “W” logo is imprinted onto the outfield grass. ”¦ Attention A.J. Connelly (and anyone else interested in chinstraps): At the 49-second mark of this video there’s a shot of 1942 Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich wearing a really weird chinstrap. Jeff Lindquist, who brought this to my attention, also found another view, though not as good, here. Anyone know more about this? ”¦ Steven Wyder notes that Julio Lugo usually has a light brown smudge on his left sleeve/shoulder area, a phenomenon that dates back to his days with the Dodgers and Devil Rays (tough to see, but it’s there). “I think it’s pine tar — he must rest the bat there in the on-deck circle or something,” says Steven. ”¦ True, I loved striped socks — but I might make an exception for Billy Corgan (disgusting find by Nate Gruz). ”¦ Speaking of non-sports socks: “I live in Calgary,” writes Steve Francis, “and one of the attractions here is the Family of Man statue downtown. As a part of an arts festival currently underway, one of the artists has knit socks around the legs of most of the statues.” Seems more like leg-warmers, actually, but still pretty cool. ”¦ Derek Lowe risked a fine the other day by wearing a red jersey during warm-ups the other day, to signify “no contact.” Details (plus a revelation about Grady Little being cited by MLB’s uni police) toward the end of this page (with thanks to Eric Borer). ”¦ The Bills wore Kevin Everett T-shirts under their jerseys yesterday. The tees will be auctioned off for charity. ”¦ The Steelers wore their throwbacks yesterday — and sure enough, for the first time since Super Bowl XL, Willie Parker was wearing an American flag decal, although it remains to be seen whether it’ll be there on his regular helmet next week. ”¦ LaDainian Tomlinson’s helmet flag, however, was still AWOL. … Another black chinstrap for Chad Johnson yesterday. ”¦ Several readers have noted that the Longhorns have switched their uni numbers screen-printed to tackle twill this season. … Good catch by Jesse Gavin, who spotted Jon Kitna wearing a crucifix necklace yesterday.