What’s the Proper Response, If Any, to a Non-Sports Tragedy?

Over the past couple of days, there have been at least three teams that have acknowledged real-world tragedies on their uniforms, or at least announced plans to do so:

• The Diamondbacks responded to the 19 fallen firefighters by creating a new black “Arizona” jersey with a “19” patch. They’ll continue to wear the patch on all their jerseys for the rest of the season.

• The Rangers dedicated Saturday’s game against the Astros to the victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas. They wore this sleeve patch for the occasion.

• The Thunder will pay tribute to Oklahoma tornado victims by wearing this (sleeved) jersey in tomorrow night’s NBA Summer League game in Orlando.

Obviously, supporting the victims of a real-world tragedy is a very positive way for a team to engage with its community. But here’s the thing: There’s nothing new about natural disasters or industrial accidents or heinous crimes or severe weather (although I guess we’re seeing more of the latter due to global climate change). Those things have always been with us. What’s changed is the degree to which these events are now acknowledged on sports uniforms.

As I wrote in an ESPN column last December, the bellwether moment for this trend appears to have been the Columbine High School shootings of 1999. Ever since then, teams have come up with uni-related responses to non-sports tragedies with increasing frequency.

I have mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, engaging with your community seems like a good thing, and many of these uniform gestures have been coupled with efforts to raise funds for victims. On the other hand, these gestures often feel like they have a lot of “Me too”-ism (and a fair degree of “Look at me” as well). We’ve seen a new wrinkle on this in the past few weeks, as several Mariners wore the Angels’ memorial patch for Dr. Lewis Yocum, and the Angels wore the Cardinals’ memorial patch for Stan Musial on their BP jerseys. Granted, those patches are standard baseball fare, not responses to non-baseball tragedies, but a team wearing another team’s patch is still a textbook case of “Me too.” At some point this starts feeling like everyone’s competing to see who can be the biggest grief fetishist.

Also, while it’s fine to respond to big-headline tragedies like explosions and hurricanes, what about ongoing systemic tragedies like poverty, income inequality, and child hunger? Should there be sleeve patches and stadium tributes for those too?

What do you all think of this? When the talk on Uni Watch turns even vaguely political, many of you have said, “I watch sports to escape from the real world, to forget about all that crap.” Do you feel the same way when teams remind you about tornado victims and dead firefighters? Why or why not?

Like I said, my feelings on this are mixed, so I have no agenda here, except to spur a good discussion. Go for it.

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Team Merch Turns People Into Idiots: As you may have heard, here’s been a very silly kerfuffle in recent days about 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick wearing a Dolphins cap. Yahoo Sports blogger Frank Schwab got it right the other day when he said Kaepernick has nothing to apologize for, and any Niners fan who can’t deal with him wearing a Dolphins hat should grow up already. (Remember, I’m a Niners fan myself, and I honestly couldn’t care less about Kaepernick’s off-season headwear.)

That prompted reader Trevor Williams to come up with a bunch of similar examples of athletes wearing another’s team’s gear (many of which resulted in bogus “controversies” similar to the Kaepernick situation), including the following:

• Jordany Valdespin of the Mets wearing a Marlins cap

• LeBron James wearing a Yankees cap while the Yanks were playing the Indians in the playoffs

• CC Sabathia in Brooklyn Dodgers cap

• Tom Brady in a Yankees cap

• Chargers draft pick Keenan Allen in a Raiders cap

• Terrell Owens wearing a Michael Irvin jersey (this was before he played for the Cowboys

• Charles Johnson of the Panthers wearing a Falcons cap

In the non-athlete category, we have the following (most of these are from Trevor, although I added a few to his list):

• A reporter was fired for wearing a Florida hat to a University of Arkansas press conference.

• Jim Harbaugh, at the time with the Chargers, refused to talk to reporter wearing 49ers sweatshirt.

• Jack Nicholson refused to wear a Red Sox cap in The Departed; and several people over the years have been fired for wearing the wrong team’s gear.

• A Louisiana high school student was sent home from school for wearing a Colts jersey on the day people had been encouraged to wear Saints gear.

• A Tacoma middle school student was sent home for wearing a Steelers jersey on “Seahawks Pride Day.”

• A Chicago-area car salesman was fired for wearing a Packers tie.

And so on. You know, I’ve been saying all along that the uni-verse would be a better place if we didn’t have merchandised gear (because the merch sales drive all the stupid designs we end up seeing). But now I also think the world at large would be better off without merchandised gear, because merchandised gear makes people behave like idiots. Seriously, take all the jerseys, caps, and the rest of it out of the retail marketplace and leave it where it belongs: on the field.

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’Skins Watch: Here’s the latest on the ’Skins name and related issues:

• Port Townsend High School in Washington has decided to stop calling its teams the Redskins and is now searching for a new mascot name.

•  Rock Newman — the former boxing promoter (he handled Riddick Bowe during Bowe’s heavyweight title period in the ’90s), former political activist, and current DC radio host — was siting near Dan Snyder at Robert Griffin III’s wedding and used the occasion to make it clear how he feels about the ’Skins name.

• Newly crowned Wimbledon champ Andy Murray is coached by former tennis great Ivan Lendl, who’s been wearing what appears at first glance to be a Blackhawks cap. Turns out it’s actually the logo of the Lake Waramaug Country Club in Connecticut, of which Lendl is a member. Interesting. I wonder how many Native Americans have been members of that club.

(My thanks to Markus Kamp, Patrick Lasseter, and Amanda Punim for their contributions to this section.)

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Radio reminder: I’ll be talking about uniforms for at least half an hour today, 1pm eastern, on Connecticut Public Radio’s Colin McEnroe Show. Uni designer Todd Radom and Ebbets Field Flannels honcho Jerry Cohen will also be appearing on the show. You can use the “Listen Live” button in the left sidebar to hear the streaming audio.

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Uni Watch News Ticker: More sleeved jerseys for the NBA Summer League: The Celtics and Magic wore them yesterday, and so did the Pacers (thanks, Phil). ”¦ This is pretty great: a look at Hull City’s long history of hoop socks (from Les Mothersby). ”¦ Amidst all the fuss about the ’Skins, it’s interesting to learn that there was once a rallying cry to keep the Redskins white (from Scott Little). ”¦ Justin Adler has come up with the concept of “business stirrups,” which he describes as “stirrups with a formalwear bent.” … Good photos of this year’s Drum Corps International uniforms here (from Dustin Semore). … Back in 1986, when Dr. J was a free agent, the Jazz tried to curry his favor by making this jersey for him (from Josh, who didn’t give his last name). … According to Richard Strobl, a rep from Majestic says that the Tigers will wear 1960 throwbacks on Aug. 3 against the White Sox. … The Chicago Fire wore flag-desecration uniforms the other day (first-ever submission from Sam Jurgens). … The MLB Fan Cave has dirt from all 30 MLB fields (rom Chris Flinn). … Speaking of ballpark dirt, look at the odd infield cutout pattern at Griffith Stadium in 1933 (from Charles Rogers). … The rock band the Black Keys are sponsoring a Little League team in Akron, Ohio, so the team’s jerseys have BNOB — that’s band name on back (from Phillip Garza). … SI put together their picks for the best and worst looks at Wimbledon (thanks, Brinke). … Here’s a Mariners uni history site, plus they have some good Pilots stuff (from Leo Strawn Jr.). … Dortmund — that’s a German soccer team — did a crazy kit unveiling over the weekend, showing a depiction of their new jersey composed of 80,000 flowers (from Brett Stone). … Here’s a look at some of the oldest company logos in America (from David Firestone). … Unusual look yesterday for Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians, who went with one white batting glove and one red (from Josh Smith). ”¦ Phil already provided detailed coverage of Saturday’s Rays fauxback game in yesterday’s entry. But here’s a detail he missed: The Rays’ high-cuffery was so complete that even pajama pioneer George Hendrick, who now coaches first base for Tampa Bay, went high-cuffed. ”¦ You know how ads are sometimes projected onto the field during televised soccer games? At least one TV network is now doing that for MLB games. Here’s hoping someone puts a stop to that pronto. ”¦ New college hockey jerseys for Providence (from Erik Sundermann). ”¦ Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann’s name is misspelled on some stupid shirt nobody needs to buy anyway (from William Yurasko). ”¦ Some high school in California has over 20 different football uni combos, courtesy of you-know-who. Did I mention this a high school? (Phil again.) ”¦ Recently spotted by Mark Kaplowitz: a portable boiler the with the New York Giants “ny” logo. ”¦ Here are the jerseys for the Korean baseball all-star game (from Dan Kurtz).

148 comments to What’s the Proper Response, If Any, to a Non-Sports Tragedy?

  • Jeff | July 8, 2013 at 7:20 am |

    “Here’s a look at some of the oldest company logos in America (from David Firestone).”

    Is missing a link. Might want to fix that.

  • The Jeff | July 8, 2013 at 7:32 am |

    I, for one, feel that sports teams should stop memorializing everything. If a current or former player dies, sure, wear a black armband or something. That’s understandable, since that person had a connection to the team. When some random tragedy occurs, sports teams shouldn’t need to do anything. People die needlessly every day – but you can’t live in a constant state of mourning. The 19 people that died in a “newsworthy event” aren’t any more or less important than any other random 19 people killed by less notable causes.

    • Dumb Guy | July 8, 2013 at 8:34 am |

      Agreed. Btw, I wonder what the minimum number of deaths that must occur in any single event to warrant a memorial patch. Hmmmm,…..

    • Chris Holder | July 8, 2013 at 8:59 am |

      Well said. Maybe have a moment of silence before the game starts, but that really needs to be the extent of it. Although as you mentioned, there are needless deaths every day.

    • Booger | July 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm |

      What the fuck is wrong with a team memorializing a local tragedy? For instance, when the Columbine shootings occurred, that wasn’t a “normal” event, nor was it a community in “constant mourning”.

      Some of you make me a little sick to my stomach. God forbid a team put anything on their uniform…it might ruin the look. Newsflash: That bell can’t be un-rung. Get over it.

      • Booger | July 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm |

        Let me apologize, I shouldn’t have said “some of you people make me sick”, that was a knee-jerk post, which I should know better than to have made.

        In fact, I do respect your opinions, I just do not agree with them.

        Sometimes, I feel like this site is one big conspiracy theory hunt. Maybe it’s just how I read it. Nonetheless, that shoudln’t (and doesn’t) make anyone’s comment or opinions less valid than my own.

  • Nate Stewart | July 8, 2013 at 7:45 am |

    I’ve been thinking about the proper response to a non-sports tragedy recently. Probably because the recent tragedy in Arizona and ensuing on field memorials coincided with my reading of a book that touched on the Victorian period in England. It would be nice if the leagues would set down mourning rules/etiquette like the Victorians did, so there would be less “Me Too” in memorializing tragedies or the “I care more than you do because I’m still showing my grief/patriotism” singing of GBA during the seventh inning stretch.

    • Jimbo | July 8, 2013 at 9:52 am |

      Nate, I like the idea of a standard for mourning, but since our citizens come from such diverse backgrounds, whose standards would you use? I’ve been to funerals with caskets that were opulent. At the other end of the spectrum, I saw my uncle, a Franciscan priest, buried in a plain pine box that was made by his Franciscan brothers. That casket was absolutely beautiful in its simplicity. Both were expressions of deep grief.

      The memorial patches are all ways of attempting to say, “This person’s life mattered. It was important and should not be forgotten.” I personally don’t enjoy big public displays of grief. It’s not how I grieve. I didn’t like the Mets & Yankees with the FDNY, NYPD & Port Authority hats. To me, it looked like they were trying to out grieve each other. However, I was very moved when the Buffalo Sabres wore a special “New York” jersey at Madison Square Garden, after 9/11: http://s19.photobucket.com/user/spyboy1/media/TSG%20Blog/Sabres911NY.jpg.html I thought it was a beautiful display of unity.

      The important thing is what is done after the initial shock passes. Six months later, do we follow through on our big pledges to “never forget”? What about after a year, ten years? Too often, people move on and forget to remember.

      A couple of years ago my son’s high school lacrosse team had to wear some older jerseys for a game. (They had been in storage for a few years.) The jerseys had a memorial patch, but no one had any idea who it was for. I was shocked & told my son to find out who it was for, or remove the patch. (He found out who it was for.)

      A memorial patch has a limited time of effectiveness. A patch worn today that said, “Remember the Maine” wouldn’t mean much today, but it was a national rallying cry in 1898.

      The initial flame of grief is understandable, but it’s what we do after things cool down that makes a real difference.

  • John | July 8, 2013 at 7:48 am |

    It was an equal tragedy to me when my father suddenly died and the Red Sox didn’t wear a patch.

    • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 7:51 am |

      You can almost see that coming: “Fans, let us know about a personal tragedy that has affected you. We’ll pick one and wear a patch for it.”

      • Dumb Guy | July 8, 2013 at 9:02 am |

        “….for an appropriate fee, of course.”

      • Michael Emody | July 8, 2013 at 9:13 pm |

        Yeah, I wanted top post the phrase “tragedy jersey” a while back, but then changed my mind. Well, there it is.

    • ScottyM | July 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

      Come on, don’t be so jaded. If it’s genuine … i.e., the team showing honest, authentic concern, it’s appropriate.

      I’m not a huge fan of the blue State of Oklahoma outline that Nike “created.” It appears like they’ve branded the tragedy as their own. Though, Durant and OKC appear to be genuine with their ongoing concern/support, so it feels appropriate.

      The profiteering is where it becomes highly questionable (Nike Live Strong, Koman pink, NYPD/NYFD hats, Boston Strong paraphernalia, etc.).

      On a personal note, my niece (10) and nephew (13) have been wearing the initial “W” on the sleeve of all their uniforms to honor their brother who suddenly passed away in ’06 (at the age of 5).

      I think that’s neat. Every team they’ve played on (rec leagues, travel teams, middle school, etc.) is just fine with them individually doing it.

      For the unaffected, it may be ‘grief fetishist’ … until you’re the one grieving. The reality: it’s a way for communities to come together and to humanize how fragile life really is.

      • Booger | July 8, 2013 at 6:19 pm |

        I agree with most of what you said, however, the “blue” state wasn’t created by Nike. That is the color of the Oklahoma flag, and has been used in the past for Oklahoma recognition. I will agree that Nike was quick to jump on the profit making though.

    • Juke Early | July 9, 2013 at 3:08 am |

      Very funny – albeit no doubt virtually true, huh?

      No one is a bigger proponent of escape. I come here for uni/cap fun. But memorializing is different than say, tv news exploiting the same horrific videos of tragedy, literally, ad nauseum.

      After the unnaturally awful VA Tech massacre, the universally reviled Yankees played an exhibition game here in Blacksburg. I wear the Tech colors NYY logo cap that was issued- because being a Bronx ex-pat & current New River Valleyian, it just makes sense to honor those lost souls daily.

      As for me, I’m relieved MY father died before that local tragedy happened – he moved here for some peace in his old age.

  • mainspark | July 8, 2013 at 7:53 am |

    You can bet that the Giants will soon have a patch for the recent tragedy at SFO. Like Paul, I’m conflicted.

    • Ben Fortney | July 8, 2013 at 10:09 am |

      If so, that would make the under for acknowledgement 2.

      BTW: I love the term “grief fetishist.” I’m going to make an effort to use this in a conversation at some point soon.

    • brinke | July 8, 2013 at 11:37 am |

      I doubt it. I just don’t see it.

      ‘At some point this starts feeling like everyone’s competing to see who can be the biggest grief fetishist.’

      Totally right.

  • mainspark | July 8, 2013 at 7:55 am |

    BTW – Cardinals’ management has directed the grounds crew to stop scratching a cross in the back of the mound.


  • ian | July 8, 2013 at 8:00 am |

    I like your point about teams not recognizing systemic tragedies. It seems that the events that teams recognized are only those that are covered obsessively by the media. I’m not a fan of these gimmicky additions because I think they only serve the purpose of a marketing ploy unless the club is actually supporting recovery efforts in a real way. Even then, making sports an arena for grieving and remembrance gives way too much value and importance to something that is just a game and is nothing when compared to loss of life.

  • Jeff Katz | July 8, 2013 at 8:12 am |

    There’s a famous story of Hank Greenberg wearing a Yankees uni in a photo. I forget, but I think it was an exhibition and his Tigers uniform was lost. Anyway, the Tigers’ owner was so incensed that he sent Hank to Pittsburgh, where he ended his career.

  • Gary | July 8, 2013 at 8:13 am |

    There is absolutely no data evidence to support your mistaken comment suggesting an increase in “severe” weather, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or whatever.

    Like many that allow their views about climate change to be shaped by what they read or hear in the media, if you actually examine the published scientic data you will learn the claims about increase in “severe” weather are false.

  • Noah | July 8, 2013 at 8:13 am |

    I noticed a few Red Sox players with the LEW patch last night as well….

    • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 8:23 am |

      Wow — this thing is really spreading. I see one of the Bosox players to wear the patch was John Lackey:

      Can you recall any of the other players who wore it?

      • Shane | July 8, 2013 at 9:04 am |

        I was wondering what that was. Didn’t get to watch the game, but the Sox posted a pic of Lackey on facebook and I couldn’t quite make out the patch.

    • Todd R | July 8, 2013 at 11:08 am |

      Paul-Mike Napoli had it too, both he and Lackey are former Angels.

    • Jeremiah | July 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm |

      I noticed Napoli and Lackey wearing the patches too. I’ll be checking to see if other ex-Angels like Ervin Santana, Bartolo Colon, or even Joe Maddon will don the patch as well.

  • Steve B. | July 8, 2013 at 8:29 am |

    In 1991, I remember running into ‘Skins LB Kurt Gouveia at my local mall. The thing I remember most about the encounter was that he was sporting a red 49ers cap. I am a monster ‘Skins fan and I had no problem at all with his choice of hat. Hell, maybe he was a Niners fan growing up? These players don’t owe it to their teams to wear only their logo.

  • Ry Co 40 | July 8, 2013 at 8:36 am |

    the bus used to wear a tigers hat all the time. it cause a playfull, ribbing, stir here in pittsburgh (from what i remember). but totally harmless from the start:


  • DrewO | July 8, 2013 at 9:01 am |

    I’m guessing it’s because I haven’t had any coffee yet but I read it three times before I realized it did not say “Pete Townshend High School in Washington has decided to stop calling its teams the Redskins…”

    • Dumb Guy | July 8, 2013 at 9:13 am |

      In a related story, Jimi Hendrix Middle School will no longer use the moniker “Experience” for its teams’ names.

    • urbanleftbehind | July 8, 2013 at 9:39 am |

      I thought Pete Townsend H.S. would be the Squirmin’ Gerbils.

  • Ry Co 40 | July 8, 2013 at 9:02 am |

    “Seriously, take all the jerseys, caps, and the rest of it out of the retail marketplace and leave it where it belongs: on the field”

    you can take all of my retail jersey and shirt collection that you can carry… but you better bury me in my Pirates hat…

    my love for my Pirates hat goes well beyond the game & even the city it represents.

  • Jason M (DC) | July 8, 2013 at 9:18 am |

    In regards to the Lake Waramaug Country Club, perhaps that logo should not necessarily be considered insensitive. Lake Waramaug gets its name from Chief Waramaug, who was an individual person. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Waramaug_State_Park#History


    Perhaps it could be said that the Indian head logo is a depiction of the chief, unlike the Redskins logo, which is not considered to be an actual person. I don’t see anything in the Lake Waramaug logo to be insensitive or stereotypical. It looks to be similar to putting the likenesses of the presidents on our coinage.

    Now, having said that… It appears that the country club is a private golf course. Perhaps that changes things. If it was a public course that didn’t require being “proposed and seconded in writing by two Equity Family Members in good standing,” then it would be different.

    • BvK1126 | July 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

      Perhaps it could be said that the Indian head logo is a depiction of the chief, unlike the Redskins logo, which is not considered to be an actual person.

      The concerns I have with this arugment are largely the same ones I expressed in connection with the Chicago Blackhawks’ logo in the comments section a couple weeks back. Stated another way, I am skeptical about how well we are actually honoring historical Native American figures when our artistic depictions of them are based on prevailing stereotypes of “generic Indians” rather than accurate information. Such “creative license” underscores an attitude that communicates, “What’s it matter what he really looked like? If I just make it really obvious that it’s supposed to be an Indian (i.e., long black hair and feathers), everyone will know who it’s supposed to be.”

      Is the country club logo an accurate depiction of Chief Waramaug? I can’t say for certain. Chief Waramaug lived in Connecticut in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. Few, if any, contemporaneous portraits or illustrations of him exist. (My internet searches, while not exhaustive by any means, turned up none.) But from the looks of it, that didn’t hinder the logo’s artist. If you ask me, it looks an awful lot like several other generic Indian head logos we are used to seeing.

      This “stereotype will do” attitude is perhaps even more evident in the image of Chief Waramaug that you linked to. It comes from this informational sign at Lover’s Leap State Park in Connecticut. A closer detail reveals some interestig facts. For instance, this artist’s rendering of Chief Waramaug comes from 1907 (an era not known for exacting accuracy in efforts to portray Native Americans). The sign even acknowledges that Chief Waramaug would never have worn the war bonnet he is pictured as wearing.

      Placed in that context, it’s hard to see these images of Chief Waramaug as doing much more than promoting stereotypes and perpetuating incorrect assumptions about Native American cultures. Is that really a good way to honor him?

      • Jason M (DC) | July 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

        Those are some good points. Thanks.

        • BvK1126 | July 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

          Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.

          I do want to make clear that I see don’t see the Lake Waramaug Country Club logo as carrying the same kind of inherent negative connotations as, say, the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo logo or the Washington Redskins’ name. I don’t view reasoanbly lifelike, non-caricature depictions of Native Americans, such as the logos I linked to above, as racist or culturally insensitive per se.

          In fact, I would not have a problem with sports teams (or, for that matter, counry clubs) using logos like these, provided they have the blessing of the appropriate Native American culture. (This could include the governing body of the tribe being depicted or perhaps descendants of historical individuals.) That would provide some level of assurance that the likeness is deemed accurate and is seen as honoring by the people most closely affected.

  • Aaron | July 8, 2013 at 9:18 am |

    The Safeco dirt looks like straight up gravel. That can’t feel good to slide in.

    • David | July 8, 2013 at 10:12 am |

      The Dodger infield in the 70’s and 80’s was crushed brick.

  • Paul Q. | July 8, 2013 at 9:25 am |

    I have a problem with the term “sleeved jersey”. Isn’t a sleeved jersey really just a t-shirt?

    • The Jeff | July 8, 2013 at 9:28 am |

      No, of course not. A t-shirt is just a t-shirt. A sleeved basketball jersey is made out of a lightweight, high-tech fabric that keeps the players 20% cooler than anything else ever invented. To refer to them as merely t-shirts is downright insulting.

    • terriblehuman | July 8, 2013 at 9:41 am |

      “Seriously. Who the hell puts sleeves on jerseys?”

      — Nike’s Head of Football Uniform Design

  • terriblehuman | July 8, 2013 at 9:30 am |

    Speaking of tragedies and sports uniforms, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the product placement York International intended when it signed on to sponsor an Egyptian soccer team:


  • Dan | July 8, 2013 at 9:34 am |

    Don’t get me wrong, the sleeved jerseys are a cool idea, but does anyone think adidas and the NBA are pushing these over sleeveless jerseys so that if/when they allow advertising on jerseys, there will be more space to do so? I’m sure this has been mentioned before, and hopefully i’m wrong, but looking at it from a business standpoint it would make a lot more sense for NBA to have the less marketable teams wear sleeves and expand their add space to make them more profitable.

    • terriblehuman | July 8, 2013 at 9:39 am |

      That makes sense – teams like the Lakers or the Celtics would have more to lose with ads on jerseys than they would gain from increased inventory. But the Kings? Totally different story.

    • The Jeff | July 8, 2013 at 9:48 am |

      I don’t think it’s about ad space as much as it’s just about making a jersey that more fans will buy. If you want to wear a basketball jersey out in public, in most place you’ll probably want to wear a t-shirt under it. By adding sleeves to the jersey, you eliminate that issue.

  • Arr Scott | July 8, 2013 at 9:49 am |

    I guess my test for memorialization would include,

    1. Does the event in question directly affect the team?
    2. Does the event in question directly and significantly affect the community in which the team plays?

    Either one of which must be a “yes”, followed by,

    3. Is there a plausible case that the team, either players or owners, is expressing earnest grief actually felt by people within the organization?
    4. Is the event being memorialized in a tasteful way that is in line with past precedent for similar cases?

    Both of which must be a “yes”.

    I think there also needs to be some consideration of timing and duration. Such as, for dead individuals, wear the patch until their funeral, or for up to a week afterwards, or for as many days as there are dead. Or wear the patch for a number of days leading up to a memorial ceremony or fundraising event. Not for the rest of the season. But I’m not sure how to formulate that. Maybe either see what the Victorians did, or follow the time set by the president or the governor for the lowering of flags to half-staff.

    And man, I hope the Giants don’t do a Flight 214 memorial patch. I’m sorry for the two who died and their families, but in terms of human tragedy, that event was below the level of daily traffic accidents.

    • Booger | July 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

      My thoughts exactly. Well said.

  • Rydell | July 8, 2013 at 9:54 am |

    Patches have never bothered me before. I used to like seeing an additive on a uni once in a while that was meaningful.
    But now they don’t seem special or thoughtful anymore, dime a dozen.
    As for the screen ads for Blue Jays games, I’ve seen players run through them making a play and the player turns into a 1980’s video game ballplayer on TV.
    The idea of off the playing surface would be better.

  • Mike Engle | July 8, 2013 at 10:08 am |

    With uniform memorials, I think there is a time AND place. And by place, I mean whether it is on something uniform or a piece of equipment. Take the Boston Bruins for example. They had a Boston Strong jersey patch for one game (coincidentally, they wore the alternate jerseys that day) and a helmet patch for the rest of the year. In my book, that’s just fine, especially if those jerseys got auctioned off for charity.
    Off the top of my head, these might be my subjective rules of thumb:
    If it’s a death within the team (current player, alumnus, broadcaster, former coach, etc.), you can have a jersey patch for the rest of the year.
    If it’s a civic tragedy that passes the smell test, get a jersey patch out there so you can make a game-worn auction and donate the funds to charity. After that, keep it to the equipment.
    “Borrowing” memorials, like the Angels for Stan Musial or any ex-Angel for Dr. Lew, I’m personally not a fan because that REALLY reeks of “Look at me.” But I will concede that it’s interesting on a Uni Watching level.
    (By the way, on that point, compare and contrast Paul Tagliabue with Roger Goodell. It’s night and day how memorials are governed in the NFL.)

  • Chance Michaels | July 8, 2013 at 10:26 am |

    I love the idea of the Tigers wearing 1960 throwbacks. I love their regular uniform, but it’ll be cool to see that one-off.

    • Travis | July 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm |

      I wish the 1960 road uniforms were the team’s regular road set.

  • Joey | July 8, 2013 at 10:38 am |

    Do pro sports teams have a social responsibility in their community? If so, then I don’t mind the memorial patches.

    Especially in the D-backs’ case, in which they created the custom black “Arizona” jerseys for this one weekend, and after the game(s) they were auctioned off with the proceeds benefitting the Hotshots fund to help pay for medical/funeral fees and whatnot. The jerseys were done as a good deed for the community, and I’m all in favor of that.

  • Chance Michaels | July 8, 2013 at 10:44 am |

    I also think the world at large would be better off without merchandised gear, because merchandised gear makes people behave like idiots. Seriously, take all the jerseys, caps, and the rest of it out of the retail marketplace and leave it where it belongs: on the field.

    I had a fair amount when I wore a younger man’s licensed apparel, but the older I get the less time I have for any of it.

    Can’t give up my caps, but have just about everything else.

    There’s a great scene in John Irving’s The Fourth Hand where a television journalist from NYC is about to go to bed with a woman from Green Bay. She takes off her clothes, and with each layer he marvels at how much Packers apparel she’s able to wear at once.

  • Dan | July 8, 2013 at 10:45 am |

    I agree with a majority of the comments above. Most teams have unfortunately painted themselves into a corner now because it’s become “insensitive” if they don’t wear a patch now for a tragedy . Like John’s comment “Where is our patch” when he mentioned his dad. I would be fine if they stuck to current or former player or coach only with ties to the organization, or in the event of a player like Steve McNair where even though he finished with the Ravens, he was synonymous with the Titans organization.

    If it was a broadcaster or team president, etc. I wouldn’t mind if they hung something at the stadium as a gesture.

    A moment of silence or a special dedication to the victims before or during a game (like halftime, 7th inning stretch) is still a way to show your ties to the community without making patches for uniforms.

  • Don | July 8, 2013 at 10:46 am |

    20 uni combos that all look like generic shit. Might as well just have a nice home a road uni.

    • Kyle Allebach | July 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

      I was about to say this myself. I saw it last night, and I couldn’t believe that Nike went THAT generic.

      The best one out of the whole set is the all black, because *gasp* there’s UCLA stripes and it’s not fuckin’ plain.

      Also, no need for the silver pants. Doesn’t work with the Blue/Yellow/Black vibes.

  • Ferdinand Cesarano | July 8, 2013 at 11:13 am |

    Wearing team logos is the same as wearing anything else that asserts something about the wearer’s identity. It’s a matter of choosing one’s public face.

    In my own case, I wear caps that announce my political ideology, my cultural interests (TV, music, etc.), my hobbies — and also my favourite teams. I wear these caps because these are the associations that I want to project in public.

    These caps of mine have, on many occasions, become conversation starters. I can think of two people whose acquanitances I made solely because they saw me wearing my Chelsea hat and commented upon it. I now talk often about soccer with these two people, neither of whom are fans of Chelsea, but of rival teams.

    Furthermore, I myself have begun conversations with people starting from the logo or symbol (sports-related or otherwise) that they were wearing. I have found that most people who wear a logo have an interest in whatever the logo represents, and rather enjoy talking about it. (Indeed, the sports-logo-related behaviour that strikes me as bizarre is when someone displays a team logo but has no interest in the team.)

    My array of caps has elicited comments both lauditory and otherwise; and I am happy to have them all, even the denunciations. To be honest, I am perfectly happy to be denounced for what I really am.

    Additionally, Jack Nicholoson’s act of refusing to wear a Red Sox cap in a film is honourable. Likewise, I would assume that Ben Affleck or Jerry Seinfeld would refuse to wear a Yankee cap in a film.

    Finally, it’s plainly wrong to say that logo merchandise “makes” people behave like idiots. People who cannot function in a pluralistic society behave like idiots because they are idiots. Catering to such people would make the world a worse, not a better, place.

    • brian e | July 8, 2013 at 11:22 am |

      agreed. you can take all the merchandise off the shelves and it won’t stop idiots from being idiots. paul, i get your thinking behind the matter, but i think it weakens your position to say that sports merch makes people behave badly.

      • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 11:34 am |

        Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.

        Team merch doesn’t make people behave like idiots; idiots just naturally behave like idiots.

        There’s some truth behind both of those statements. But it’s also true that there’s an enabling aspect to the objects in question, and how those objects tend to bring out the worst in many people.

        • Arr Scott | July 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm |

          I’d frame it differently. The ubiquity of sports merchandise tends to create a culture that normalizes infantile or childish behavior. I’m as guilty as anyone of wearing ballcaps and jerseys and dressing down and all. But it’s nonetheless true that wearing a sports jersey or even a ballcap tends to be a mark of adolescent, rather than adult, status and behavior. So it’s almost certainly the case that some people who wouldn’t otherwise act like an idiot do so because sports merch is involved. Some of the normal social restraints and taboos are lifted at a sporting event – hell, athletes can literally commit aggravated assault against one another, and fans can cheer them on, with no threat of criminal sanction! – and that suspension of ethical norms tends to follow when we dress for the stadium in everyday life.

          It’s not determinative – wearing a LeBron Heat jersey doesn’t force anyone to be an asshole – but people really do behave more like adults when they, and those around them, are dressed like adults. Plenty of latent idiocy would go unexpressed if we all wore suit, tie, and fedora all the time. It’s not just a question of whether a person is an idiot, but also a matter of what he feels the situation demands of him. Sports merch signals that we’re freer to speak and act like idiot 13-year-olds.

        • Ben Fortney | July 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |

          In what may be the first time the two have been connected; Scott’s post reminds me of a Jay-Z lyric from a decade ago:

          “I don’t wear jerseys / I’m 30 plus, Give me a fresh pair of jeans / … button up.”

        • Coleman | July 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm |

          “… A matter of what he feels the situation demands of him.”

          Most important and well stated piece of writing I’ve seen here today. Decisions like that tell me nearly all I need to know about a man.

  • hofflalu | July 8, 2013 at 11:34 am |

    Another example: Joe Forte of the Celtics wearing a Magic Johnson throwback Lakers jersey:


  • Joe | July 8, 2013 at 11:37 am |

    Paul – I don’t know if you check out the goods on MLB.com, but it looks like New Era corrected the panelling issue for the Ray’s faux throwback hats. When I picked up one last year, the panelling was like that of the Expos. Now, New Era corrected it and sells one with Padres throwback panelling.

  • brinke | July 8, 2013 at 11:38 am |

    RE: Kapernick wearing a Dolphins hat.

    Wrong move IMO. It implies rightly or wrongly, supporting that team, in the eyes of the fans.

    I’m sure Harbaugh and York loved the photo.

    • Steve D | July 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

      I agree totally and I am quite frankly shocked there isn’t even more outrage about this. A professional athlete who gets paid millions of dollars by a franchise should not wear gear of another franchise in the same sport. It is just common sense. The very heart of sports is honoring your team, their history and their fans by giving your all for your team and your teammates. There can be no gray area here. If this is deemed acceptable, then why couldn’t the Mets’ Matt Harvey, a life long Yankee fan, wear Yankee gear off the field? That would start WWIII in NYC. This is a poke in the eye of your own team and is totally unnecessary. Tells me a lot about this guy’s judgment. Why not add a Dolphins tattoo while you are at it?

      • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

        If this is deemed acceptable, then why couldn’t the Mets’ Matt Harvey, a life long Yankee fan, wear Yankee gear off the field?

        What if he did? I’m a Yankees-hating Mets fan, but I wouldn’t care, as long as he pitches hard every fifth day.

        • Steve D | July 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm |

          Well, I’m a Yankees-hating Met fan and it would certainly lower my opinion of him. I don’t think we have to worry about it, because Harvey is probably too respectful of Met fans to make such a terrible decision. Paul is one of many Met fans who wouldn’t care, but I believe many Met fans would care and why disrespect them just to wear a cap? There would be nothing for him to gain and a lot to lose. Making a decision with that risk reward is silly.

        • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |

          You have a juvenile notion of “disrespect.”

          You know how Matt Harvey can respect his team and its fans? By being the best pitcher he can be every fifth day (and preparing for same on the other four days). All this other stuff is noise.

          If Harvey is truly a lifelong Yankees fan (or Braves fan, or Mariners fan, or whatever), then why shouldn’t he express that part of his life, as long as he does it off the field?

          This discussion is mainly proving my point: Team merch brings out the idiot in people. We’d be better off without it.

        • Steve D | July 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm |


          I won’t call your arguments juvenile or hint you are an idiot, even though you did that to me. Your argument is a bit inconsistent though…if a fan wears team merchandised gear, they are essentially idiots…but if a professional athlete does it, wearing a competitor’s gear, “then why shouldn’t he express that part of his life, as long as he does it off the field?”

          How can you simultaneously hold both of these views? The fan is an idiot, but the athlete who is pissing off a lot of his own fans wearing another team’s gear is freely expressing part of his life.

        • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm |

          All I’m saying is that Harvey should get to be as big an idiot as anyone else.

          Or we can take away all the merch and solve the problem.

        • BWags | July 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm |

          Maybe a misplaced notion of disrespect, but I think “juvenile” is a bit strong. I think this points to the bigger issue, which is the dehumanization and objectification of our athletes.
          The proverbial “sports fan” (and always someone else, never ourselves) can’t help but associate athletes with a number of brands: among them the college they went to, the teams they’ve played for (especially their current team), and in some cases their major corporate sponsors. We tend not to see players in terms of human beings who were “hired” due to a specific skill set by a particular company (e.g., a team.) They put their personal likes/dislikes, etc. aside in order to promote their current brand, and we tend to expect them to do that virtually 24/7.
          As such, when an athlete does something like Kaepernick did, he is seen as not being loyal or somehow treasonous. Writers and commenters alike here at UW have agreed that we generally “root for the laundry” when it comes to our teams. Despite our efforts to do so, most of us can’t fathom that to athletes, their affiliation to a team is a job, not a life-long (or even generational!) passion to be part of a certain team.
          That said, I used to work for a world-famous soft drink company. Yes, I chose to work there; I was not drafted or traded to them. But it would have not reflected favorably on me or my job performance, regardless of my sales numbers, etc. if I walked around after work wearing t-shirts or caps of the other major world-famous soft drink company. I don’t really care what athletes wear, but reality indicates it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

        • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm |

          Your use of the terms “not loyal” and “treasonous” are dead-on. That’s what this is all about — some messed-up notion of having to take a loyalty oath.

          If I like the Brazilian flag (which, in fact, I do) and wear it on a T-shirt (which I have no desire to do, but just work with me here), does that make me a bad citizen, a bad American, a traitor? Or course not. And there’s nothing wrong with Kaepernick wearing a Dolphins cap either. Ditto for Matt Harvey wearing a Yankees cap.

          If a player wears a swastika, or a T-shirt that says, “If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it,” or some similarly offensive expression, that would be troublesome. The player would absolutely have the right to wear such items, mind you, but he would also be subject to criticism, because such attire would suggest that he is a despicable human being.

          But an MLB player wearing an MLB cap? Honestly, who cares which team it is. Anyone who gets bent out of shape about that has some seriously misplaced priorities.

          “Fan” and “fanatic” come from the same root term, but they are not the same thing. It’s good to try to stay on the proper side of that line.

        • Steve D | July 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

          Kaepernick is a much bigger idiot than any fan who wears team merchandise. While he had nothing to gain by wearing a Dolphins cap, here’s what he could affect:

          1) Piss off some of his team’s fans. Mission accopmplished.
          2) Piss of his head coach. I’d bet anything, based on Harbaugh’s past, Mission accomplished.
          3) Piss off team owners. Most likely done.
          4) Piss off teammates. They’ll likely joke around with him about it, but wouldn’t surprise me if a teammate or two thought twice about this guy now.

          So great for you Kaepernick…even if there is “nothing wrong” with what you did…and perhaps everyone including the fans, coach, owner and teammates have “seriously misplaced priorities”, what did you gain in this? Can anyone name one thing?

        • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm |

          Maybe — just maybe — Colin Kaepernick is a better judge of his relationship with his teammates and coach, and what will and won’t affect that relationship, than you are.

          Just maybe.

          As for the fan base, see “Idiocy, in response to team merch.”

        • Steve D | July 8, 2013 at 4:00 pm |

          Let’s agree to disagree…but I reserve the right to pick this up again when we reach the point when an active NY Yankee decides he can wear a Red Sox cap off the field if he wants, or vice versa.

        • CortM | July 8, 2013 at 4:41 pm |

          I’m pretty sure Colin Kaepernick is an idiot, but it’s got nothing to do with his choice of headgear.

          In another thread, I argue that the reason this means so much to people is that we have a need to affiliate, to belong, and all of the old social binders — religion, racial or ethnic identity, community affiliation — have either disappeared, or are disappearing. Sports is religion, and team affiliation is a sectarian endeavor.

      • Neeko | July 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm |

        It’s not cool to wear your own team’s merch.

    • Mark | July 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm |

      After reading all the comments I felt the need to chime in.

      Kapernick’s a complete idiot for doing this as is any other athlete who wears another team’s merch from the same sport. If you want to support different teams in another sport by all means knock yourself out. To play devil’s advocate; If the 49ers and Dolphins were playing could you truly now trust his performance as being 100%. Every little mistake he makes will be magnified as it being a homer type move.
      Lastly would you wear the merch of a competing company, ie the big soda companies, or drink their product? Or carry a photo of a former girlfriend while dating a new one? I realize the examples are a bit out there but the point is “dance with the one that brung ya” or “don’t bite that hand that feeds ya”.
      I’m sure someone will come up with some better ones so feel free to chime in….

  • Scott Little | July 8, 2013 at 11:43 am |

    Maybe the patches are overkill, but I ran into a Kiki Vandeweghe jersey in the last Grey Flannel auction with a strange patch on it, and the explanation of the patch was that it was worn in remembrance of the Atlanta Incident. I didn’t know much about this Incident, and did some reading about it. If anything, that patch accomplished what it was meant to do, the remembrance/education of an event…


    • Tom V. | July 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

      The term “Atlanta Incident” in Google doesn’t seem to give any definitive link to what it was. Any better search words?

      • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm |

        People, people, this is not ancient history:

        • CortM | July 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm |

          There was a movement, which I remember was participated in by some collegiate athletes, to paint the pinky nail of one hand green, as a symbol of support for the victims’ families.

        • Tom V. | July 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

          Never heard of this. I was a 9 years old at the time growing up on LI, national news (especially involving murdered children) wasn’t on the front burner at the time.

        • scottrj | July 8, 2013 at 3:49 pm |

          Well, it pretty much is ancient news to anyone under the age of about 45. And in the 35 years since the Atlanta Child Murders occurred I’ve never heard them referred to as anything other than, well, the Atlanta Child Murders. But then again, I suppose the auction description couldn’t very well read that the patch was worn “in support of the Atlanta [Child Murders],” could it?

        • David McKinney | July 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm |

          I’ve never heard the Atlanta Child Murders referred to as “The Atlanta Incident.” I’m a 35 year old Georgia native and had no idea what you were talking about.

  • quiet seattle | July 8, 2013 at 11:52 am |

    The comprehensive Mariners uniform history reveals that the best looking teams in Seattle’s professional baseball past belonged to the Pilots, the Steelheads, and the Rainiers. Sorry, Mariners.

    • quiet seattle | July 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm |

      …were the, not “belonged to”… oy

  • Eric S. | July 8, 2013 at 11:56 am |

    I always thought it was interesting that pro players rarely talk about playing for teams they grew up rooting for, but I get that they’re bound by the draft, and later in their careers, they’re just looking for the best situation for themselves and their families.

    College is interesting though. I once saw a highly regarded basketball player at my school wearing the cap of another historic basketball program. I thought that was a little weird since he could have just gone to that school if he wanted to.

    • Coleman | July 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm |

      Not necessarily true. Some schools dont have the programs that others do. If I grew up rooting for Uni-Watch University, but Stirrup State has my Major, and tuition is less, ill be attending ‘Rup State, rockin’ my UW hat every day.

  • snowdan | July 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm |

    I wonder if this team in Brazil will memorialize this?:


    Perhaps a patch with the dead ref’s head on a stick.

  • Kyle Allebach | July 8, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

    I don’t know if I would wear that 19 patch all season, since it’s non-sports related, but still a tragedy, nonetheless. The Ravens wearing the Art patch all season is one thing, because he’s the owner. I would wear it for a week, then quietly take it off and hope no one notices (except Uni Watch, of course).

    There isn’t a cut and dry answer for this, but I feel as though tragedy’s that aren’t team-related should have a shorter shelf life. Like with that Kiki Vandeweghe jersey mentioned by Scott earlier–something simple, for a short period of time, then take it off.

    (Also, what was the Atlanta incident anyway…can someone help?)

  • Brendan the Aspie | July 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

    Speaking of wearing other teams’ non-sports memorials, didn’t the Royals wear the Boston Strong patch on April 20th and 21st after the bombing?

  • Travis | July 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm |

    RE: digitally superimposed advertising – the NHL has been doing it, in varying degrees, on the end glass for a couple of seasons now.


    • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm |

      Right, but the NHL already has advertising on the ice (unfortunately). So projecting ads on to the end glass, while highly annoying, isn’t really breaking new ground in the same way that project ads onto a baseball field is.

    • Winter | July 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

      Last year I moved to the northeast and saw that for the first time. I don’t think every team/broadcast does it. Was annoyed but not surprised.

  • Coleman | July 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

    I can’t put it nearly as eloquently as some above have done, but my view onthe memorial stuff is simple

    Black arm band, and in rare circumstances a pre-game moment of silence. Done.

  • LI Matt | July 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |

    Tottenham reveals 2013-14 uni:


    Blue shorts are back (I’m not a fan of the all-white as the default), sponsor logo is nice and bold and simple (and no red!), sock stripes are always welcome around here. Thumbs up.

    • terriblehuman | July 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

      That’s nice, and the HP sponsorship is a nice throwback to the Klinsmann era (the Aurasma logo was ugly anyway): http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01017/klinsmann_tottenha_1017869c.jpg

      I like the blue shorts too – it seems like Spurs go all-white every other year now (and wear all-white in Europe when the main uniform is white/blue). Good look all round – way better than my Liverpool, with the ugliest 2nd/3rd kit combos in history.

      Also, Gareth Bale looks, uh, intense.

  • Joseph Gerard | July 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

    At work the other day, one of my coworkers (who used to be real into baseball) and I were discussing the Redskins name controversy, and I was telling him how some of the Negro League team names were even worse. Yes, some of the names like Homestead Grays and Kansas City Monarchs were names that could be used in any sport (nice touch that the Royals pay tribute to the Monarchs through their name and logo, even if they use a different color scheme), but a lot of those names were the same as their segregated equivalent, except with “black” in front of it: Black Yankees, Black Giants, etc…

    One name that would cause an even worse outcry than Redskins today: Atlanta Black Crackers. I understand that in that era, the players were just happy to be playing organized baseball and most of the teams were owned by white owners, but come on! Even if the Dodgers hadn’t initiated it, I’m pretty sure the civil rights movement that started the following decade would’ve played an end to the Negro Leagues. If nothing else, I could GUARANTEE you that there would be NO PUBLIC FINANCING for MLB stadiums if the baseball color line was still in effect. Would it have been nice to see a team like the Monarchs play in MLB? Yes. But a team like the Black Crackers? Pretty sure MLB (or whatever league they would’ve joined, since the AL and NL were more autonomous at the time) would’ve made them change their name.

    • Ben Fortney | July 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

      3 points to mention:

      The ABC’s were named after the Atlanta Crackers, so it was the same convention as the Black Yankees, etc.

      The Indianapolis Clowns at one point went as the Ethiopian Clowns. Ouch.

      The Cuban Giants, attempted to use the term “Cuban” to downplay the black aspect, as their was more tolerance towards them than blacks.

      • Joseph Gerard | July 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm |

        Crackers in itself is offensive.

        • Judy | July 8, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

          From that article: A corollary of this fact is the fact that white people who complain loudly about “racial slurs” like “cracker” are “pussies.”

          Yes, because we all know that while it’s wrong to use for Paula Deen to use the “n-word”, and we all know exactly how we’re supposed to feel about the Washington football club’s name, it is perfectly acceptable to use slang for women’s genitalia as a derogatory term. Because you know, women are weak and all that.

          I’m glad Hamilton Nolan is out there to educate me.

        • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 10:05 pm |

          A bit irony-challenged today, are we?

    • Michael Emody | July 9, 2013 at 12:36 am |

      I read recently (maybe here) that the Atlanta Black Crackers took that name because the regular Crackers donated their old uniforms to the local Negro team. Since the hand-me-downs already said “Crackers” the team just became the “Black Crackers.” Hey – it was the South – and the depression (I think.)

  • Vasav | July 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

    I definitely understand the fear of taking mourning too far – but I don’t think it’s necessarily a “look at me” thing. One example – in 2009, when Detroit’s automakers were on the ropes and GM couldn’t afford to sponsor the fountain at (I’m calling it) New Tiger Stadium, the Tiger’s opted not to sell the prime real estate to another advertiser. Instead they put up all 3 of the Big 3’s logos and a sign that said “We Support Our Automakers”

    This may be an example of taking things too far – and it certainly wasn’t a smart business decision for the Tigers. But I was a huge fan of it at the time and I still am. And I guess because of it, I’m all right with teams doing something on their uniforms to show solidarity during tough times.

    • Joseph Gerard | July 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm |

      Ask Andy Van Slyke how he feels about Canadian decals. Can guarantee you he’ll never get a coaching job with the Blue Jays organization.

      As for what the Tigers did? Apparently, they didn’t realize that foreign cars are better anyways, and arguably more American than anything from Detroit.

      • Vasav | July 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm |

        Your opinion on foreign cars is noted but tangential to the discussion – and that kind of makes you a troll, doesn’t it? If you’re not a troll, and you accidentally missed my point, please allow me to give you a brief history and economics lesson.

        The globalization of the automotive industry is a fascinating topic for sure – and your link correctly notes that all automotive companies are very much “global” companies today, a trend dating back at least to the first Honda factory in Ohio in the late 1970s, if not GM’s acquisition of Opel in the 1930s. But that still has little to do with the Tigers’ sign.

        In 2009, during a global recession that affected all automakers, two of the Big Three found themselves especially vulnerable because of bad business practices. All automakers worldwide and their suppliers reduced manufacturing capacity. When something like 7 of the 10 largest employers in the state are in the automotive business, the impact of the global recession was felt especially hard in Michigan – one of the epicenters of the global supply chain. In order to express solidarity during tough economic times, the Tigers put up a sign that specifically called out the two largest employers in the state, and three of the largest customers for the global automotive suppliers in the state.

        If you feel the Tigers actions were inappropriate, and thereby disagree with my original opinion, that’s fine. But your comment seemed at best tangential to the topic of discussion, and at worst outright trolling.

        • Joseph Gerard | July 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm |

          I wasn’t trolling, was just stating a fact. And I live right smack dab in the middle of the Western Pennsylvania-Northeast Ohio corridor. Don’t you think I’m familiar with corporations who don’t want to change with the times end up suffering due to superior foreign options? It took Pittsburgh 20 years to recover from the collapse of the steel industry. Youngstown, Ohio–where I went to college at and took a course on urban sociology my last semester there–STILL hasn’t recovered after almost 40 YEARS. I’m pretty sure the steel industry didn’t get a taxpayer-financed bailout.

          As for Van Slyke? It does involve today’s discussion. He didn’t want to wear a Canadian decal on his batting helmet to honor both American and Canadian troops in Desert Storm. Baseball said otherwise.

  • Ryan M. | July 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

    I can’t say I agree with the opinion that we should “take all the jerseys, caps, and the rest of it out of the retail marketplace,” but I suppose that’s purely for selfish reasons. I like wearing them. And I suppose I bristle at the notion that it necessarily brings out the “idiot” in me. But the issue does make me wonder about a couple of things.

    What do we suppose professional athletes do with their fandom once they’re drafted/signed to a different team? Does being a professional in a sport stop you from being interested in a team you grew up interested in? I imagine not. Occasionally free agents will be signed by the team they grew up rooting for and will mention it. Obviously they like and follow the sport they play. I don’t imagine everyone is able to give up the team they grew up liking just because they now play for a different team. I also don’t imagine that has any effect on their performance.

    Also, it makes me wonder what Colin Kaepernick’s connection is to the Dolphins. I don’t know much about him, but a quick Internet search doesn’t seem to indicate any South Florida connection. Were the Dolphins even a team he rooted for growing up? Did he just like the hat? Did he, knowing that he plays for a different team, have no idea that people would be “mad at” him wearing another team’s hat? How could he not?

    I think it’s a totally different situation than if a reporter or school student or car salesman wears an out-of-market team’s logo. Those people are not affiliated with a team. But Colin Kaepernick is part of the reason some people choose to wear 49ers apparel, and an employee of the team. I imagine this seems like a rejection to some fans. Of course I’m not suggesting he’s not “free” to wear whatever he likes. I’m just saying I understand why some fans might not like it.

    And if we do take all the sports paraphernalia out of the marketplace, we’ll just be left with abominations like this:


  • CortM | July 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

    I’ve been to West, Texas a bunch of times. It’s the Kolache Capital of Texas. Central Texas is pretty much Dallas-centric when it comes to sports, probably in this order: Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks, and “Hockey? Ice is sumthin’ you put in your cold drink.” One hundred sixty-eight houses were bulldozed in West last month, condemned due to blast damage. That’s a load of houses in a small town. Supporting those people is a noble thing.

    As old notions of community, religious affiliation and ethnic identity fade, people need some means of self-identification. The problem with Jay-Z’s lyric is that he misunderstands what people are saying when they wear a jersey. We used to have a church, a neighborhood, some sort of social club (in my hometown, it was Dom Polski for the Poles, and Renaissance Club for the Italians) to belong to. Now we belong to our chosen team. I wear that jersey, I show the world I am part of something. A lot of this mentality fueled the hooligan movement in England in the 70s and 80s.

    So the team is, more or less, the new church, and the uniforms are the sacramental vestments. And that’s why it’s not only accepted, but expected that some sort of memorializing occurs when tragedy strikes within the team’s TV coverage area.

    Of course, the real tribute would be for the team to quietly announce, before the national anthem, “All gate proceeds from today’s game are being donated to a non-profit fund to support the survivors of (insert horrible event here).” That will never happen.

  • Paul | July 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm |

    No picture, but there’s this from a January 2004 philly.com article:

    “Last year, after vanquishing the Eagles in the NFC championship game, Tampa Bay’s (Warren) Sapp wore a different Eagles jersey to each Super Bowl media event. It was Sapp’s way of mocking the Eagles.”

  • boo | July 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm |

    technically that high school has about 40 combinations.

    5 pants options
    4 jersey options
    2 helmet options


    • Matthew Radican | July 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm |

      How would you like to live in La Mirada High School’s district and have to pay taxes to support the football team’s use of 40 uniform combinations? Especially if you don’t like sports (or at least football).

      • Vasav | July 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm |

        I’m not a fan of this trend in football at any level – but my guess (and this could be wrong) is that the football team’s booster club pays for the uniforms. I have a hard time seeing taxpayers supporting this at all, you know?

  • JessF | July 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

    Interesting how the font on the Mariners temporary road Jersey worn during Spring Training is different from the font on their home jersey, even though both jerseys have “Mariners” on them.

    • walter | July 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

      Speculation on my part: They tried prototype jerseys in white with the lettering in the Serif Gothic font in blue (like those spring-traing road uniforms) and noticed the “M” and the “s” wound up beneath the players’ armpits. The home uniforms were quickly redone with a hand-drawn font, the road jerseys were then redone to say “Seattle”, which sat more neatly on the front of the shirt.

  • JessF | July 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm |

    My Mariners comment was referring to their 1977 inaugural season.

  • James A | July 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm |

    Allen Iverson wore a Celtics/Bill Russell to a post-game news conference once. Seeing a member of the Sixers wear a jersey of their most bitter enemy rubbed a number of fans the wrong way.

  • mike d | July 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm |

    Although the Rays ’79 uniform is ugly, I like the idea. Maybe next season, they could do a fauxback for the 1940’s. Maybe something in satin.

  • Ryan M. | July 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm |

    Is this a misuse of camo? It’s definitely a misuse of good taste!


    • Dumb Guy | July 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

      4. Lie on the slaughterhouse floor without being detected.

      • Vasav | July 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm |

        I wish we could “like” comments like on FB because of comments like Dumb Guy’s

  • Andy | July 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm |

    Can’t forget Billy Buckner wearing his Chicago Cubs batting glove in Game 6.

  • Hollywood | July 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm |

    What if, God forbid, multiple tragedies occur in New York in one year? Let’s say, four terrible things happen to that city from May-August. Should the Mets and Yankees wear four different memorial patches? Or would they pick and choose which tragedy to honor?

    I don’t think it is necessarily “silly” to honor the 19 firefighters that died in Arizona, but do it with a memorial in the dugout, a logo on the field, or just a moment of silence before each home game the rest of the year. IMO, I believe there is no need to wear a patch the entire rest of the season.

  • Vasav | July 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm |

    Hey Paul, I vaguely recall you giving a positive response to the Yankees and Mets wearing first responder caps on September 11th, and when the Nats wore VT caps after that shooting. Personally, I still think those tributes were poignant, and perhaps moreso because they were a limited/one-time thing. Are your feelings mixed regarding those tribute caps as well?

    • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 7:10 pm |

      Yanks didn’t wear first responder caps. Mets did. And that made sense, because the Shea Stadium parking lot was used as a staging area for first responder relief efforts in the days following 9/11. In other words, the Mets had a tangible, legitimate link to the events at hand.

      I had no mixed feelings about that. But that was 2001 — grief fetishism hadn’t yet kicked into full gear like it’s done in more recent years.

      • Vasav | July 8, 2013 at 10:16 pm |

        Thanks for the response. Your point about the timeline of events leads me to a follow-up question – if the MLB were to allow the Mets to again wear the first responder caps to mark 9/11, how would you feel about it? I know this is the land of hypotheticals but I guess I’m curious as to whether you feel the timeline makes it less appropriate or the direct connection to the event itself makes it more appropriate.

        Also, I’m guessing you didn’t/wouldn’t much care for the Nats’ gesture? Like if Boston had walked onto the field wearing yellow hats with a unicorn on them?

    • mike 2 | July 9, 2013 at 12:20 am |

      Those tributes were organic things. Guys like Piazza got an ordinary hat (snapback IIRC) and wore it as a tribute.

      It wasn’t sanitized, focus-grouped, approved by New Era, consistent with the teams visual identity, produced as a limited edition camouflage stars and stripes NYFD hat, that could also be sold on mlb.com. It wasn’t a corporatized tribute.

      If somebody went down to the Boston Marathon store and picked up 25 blue and yellow caps and the team wore them that night, that would have been be a great tribute.

  • Memal | July 8, 2013 at 6:29 pm |

    Trevor Williams: Great story idea! I thoroughly enjoyed remembering those ridiculous moments!

  • Thresh8 | July 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm |

    Paul, you were great on Colin McEnroe’s show today. The whole hour was wonderful stuff.

    (And I know it’s sorta counterintuitive–discussing uniforms on radio. But it really worked.)

    • Paul Lukas | July 8, 2013 at 7:08 pm |

      Thank you!

  • Besty | July 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

    Regarding the interesting infield cutout pattern at Griffith Stadium in 1933, it looks to me like a shadow if you’re referring to the foul area on the first base side. You can see the shadow of the head of the first base coach just above the other part of the shadow. I’m conflicted in my thoughts though because it looks like shadows from light standards that would not have been there in 1933 right?

    • Besty | July 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm |

      Or maybe it’s new sod in that area. And holy cow are those fans behind home plate unprotected?!? It looks like they’re in front of the screen in temporary seats.

  • Jeff | July 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm |

    “…what about ongoing systemic tragedies like poverty, income inequality, and child hunger?”

    I am glad I’m not the only one that thinks that way every time I see a sports team responding to a tragedy. Yes, it is painful the horrible things that happen day in and day out. But unless it makes the news, we take little notice.

    Maybe we just need a bunch of kids to die of hunger in the US for things to change. And parents to not afford medicine and have to live in horrible living conditions. Oh wait – that already happens. Too bad the news crews are too busy talking about Kim and Kanye’s kid to send a camera to the inner city.

  • Dan Pfeifer | July 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

    A few folks upthread eluded to this, but I want to reiterate: The problem is that, after you set the bar at a particular level, you then have to meet that bar each time, otherwise you’re insensitive. A moment of silence used to be enough. Now a patch now seems to be kind of a necessity for someone who dies. Maybe the special memorial uniform will be next. But if you don’t do one, you look like an organization that doesn’t care as much about its people as that other organization that did ________, and that looks bad.

    Part of the reason I love this blog, though, is that it’s always looking for deeper meaning in things. For instance, when Gene Upshaw died, I thought the patch around the league was a giant overreaction. Upshaw was great, but not THAT great. But what was the deeper message? It was Roger Goodell’s (yet again poorly thought out and thinly veiled) attempt to show the players he cares about them, really. It really had very little to do with Upshaw, as far as I could tell, since I’m going to go ahead and guess very few players actually had a personal connection with him. It was Goodell’s attempt at a message, and a poor attempt that, ultimately, was meaningless other than looking like too much and, well, raising that bar.

    There’s another couple theories I have, too:

    1. These special occasion patches do make apparel more unique to a particular game or year, making it more distinctive. Does that potentially drive authentic merchandise sales if the authentics include the memorial? Usually, consumer products don’t include tribute stuff, but sometimes they do, particularly when the throwback comes out however many years in the future (not a memorial example, but while anyone can wear an old Yankees uniform, but when it’s a 1939 Yankees uniform with the Baseball Centennial patch … more detail, more cash, of course). And what about the sale of game-used merchandise? More teams are selling such items now. Don’t such memorials make those items more distinctive and, perhaps, more expensive?

    2. Another thing to keep in mind is social media. Attaching your brand to a “trending” event may mean your brand shows up in more search engine searches or social media posts. It seems nefarious to attach your brand to something tragic purposely to do so, but A) There’s past precedent in that you can bury it under the guise of “caring,” and B) Far more nefarious ways of getting SEO and social media optimization have been utilized by other organizations before.

    Dunno. But as with anything, everything these organizations do revolves around maximizing revenue, as much as we’d like not to believe that. So … I wouldn’t put any reasons that might connect to that goal past these teams.

  • Anthony | July 11, 2013 at 2:22 am |

    Do sports teams have a connection to their communities?

    I believe that the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. So when something tragic happens in that community, what’s wrong with memorializing something non-sports related? Sports uniforms are not holy robes. They can be changed, altered, and have things added or subtracted from them. Patches don’t change a team’s look whatsoever (the exception being the Angels, and their patches aren’t even memorial or anniversary, they’re just stupid), but it shows a teams grief and mourning with their community at large.

    Sports were (and in some places, still are) events where the community came together, to be together, to root for their boys representing their community. Does that affection and appreciation only go one way?