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Apathetic Guys Finish Third


[Editor’s Note: I have a new ESPN column today ”” a round-up of the latest MLB uni news. Meanwhile, this is a special day, because intern Mike Chamernik, who’s been doing a great job with the Thursday Tickers, wrote today’s lead entry and the Ticker. Please join me in congratulating him on his first proper Uni Watch byline. ”” PL]

By Mike Chamernik

One thing that distinguishes pro sports from amateur sports is the absence of third place. You have the title winner, the title loser, and, essentially, everyone else. Third-place games and consolation brackets are for Little League baseball and rec league basketball, not for the pros.

Except, that is, for the NFL from 1960 to 1969. That decade featured something called the Playoff Bowl (also known as the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl, the Runner-Up Bowl, the Pro Play-Off Classic, and the Nothing Bowl), an annual game for third place that was played at Miami’s Orange Bowl. During the NFL Championship era, it pitted the second-place finishers in the Eastern and Western Conferences, and during the Super Bowl era the two first-round playoff losers from the NFL side faced each other.

Some of you may already have known about the Playoff Bowl, but I just found out about it and was quickly intrigued. Here’s a quick primer:

What was at stake?

Not much. Aside from third place, each member of the winning team would receive between $600 (in the early years) and $1,200 (later years). Each player on the losing team would get between $400 (early years) and $500 (later on). The rest of the money generated went into the Bert Bell players’ pension fund. Charmingly, it seems the players were paid in cash right after the game.

So it was called the Playoff Bowl, but was this game truly a playoff game?

No. The game was broadcast nationally and covered as if it were a playoff game, but official NFL records now classify these games as exhibitions.

What did people think of the game?

Vince Lombardi called it “the Shit Bowl, a losers’ bowl for losers.” Players from that era, like Roger Brown, Roman Gabriel, and Frank Ryan didn’t think highly of it, either.

As for the fans, attendance varied throughout the years, with the popularity peaking in the mid-’60s, but the game was clearly on the way out just a few years later.

Did the league undermine the importance of the game?

Yes. For the 1965-66 bowl, the league instituted a rule: If two teams tied for second place in their division, the team that never had been to the Playoff Bowl got the invite. (If both teams hadn’t been there, there would be a performance-based tiebreaker.) Could you imagine an arbitrary rule like that being accepted today?

Which teams thrived in the Playoff Bowl?

Fittingly, the Lions won the first three Playoff Bowls. Maybe even more fittingly, the Browns lost in their only three appearances.

What does this have to do with Uni Watch?

Unfortunately, there were no special patches. But here’s something uni-notable: The Steelers’ modern black helmet made its on-field debut in the 1963 Playoff Bowl. And third-string Colts quarterback Tom Matte, who usually played running back, ran the team’s offense in the 1966 game, providing a rare glimpse of a signal-caller wearing No. 41. (Okay, so Matte had also done this in a regular season game and a playoff game, but it’s still a pretty unusual sight.) Also, the league’s now-ubiquitous slingshot-style goalposts — then called “Tele-Goal” — debuted in the 1967 game. (For further info, look here, here, and here.)

If you want to see photos, the AP has a few images from the games. For a complete breakdown of each game with game photos and program and cartoon artwork, go to Bolding Sports Research’s wonderful section devoted to the Playoff Bowl. And if you want to see all the uniforms worn in the Playoff Bowl, our friends at the Gridiron Uniform Database have that covered.

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Baseball News: When Joe DiMaggio was in the Army from 1943 to 1945, first baseman Nick Etten wore No. 5 for the Yankees (good stuff, Steve Dodell). ”¦ The University of New Orleans will have new blue alternate jerseys this season (from Chris Mycoskie). ”¦ The Madison Mallards, a college summer league team, are letting fans vote for their alternate jersey. The uniforms were designed by middle school students, and, well, they look like they were designed by middle school students. I do dig this one, though (from Jeff Ash). ”¦ “It looks like the Tigers are using two different versions of the Old English D on their new BP jerseys,” says Thomas Juettner. “They have the traditional cap logo on the ”˜home’ version and the traditional jersey logo on ”˜away’ version. That doesn’t make any sense because the only time the “D” appears on the uniforms, it’s been on the home jersey.”

NFL News: The “Thomas” “Foote” NOB from yesterday reminded Steven Zerhusen to send in this pic he snapped earlier this year of Desmond Bryant next to Bryant McKinnie. ”¦ Brinke sends in some fun facts about the new Niners stadium and EarthCam footage of it being built. … Josh Youstra’s girlfriend went to Mexico and brought back a Chicago Bears tribal mask. ”¦ Chris Flinn found a Jay Cutler trading card with a game-worn swatch of his jersey and it’s predominantly a section of his laundry tag. … To honor the Seahawks, the Globetrotters will wear No. 12 jerseys when they play in the Seattle area this weekend.

Soccer News: A graphic designer is creating neat, detailed postcards for every Liverpool match (from Patrick Walsh). ”¦ The Seattle Sounders will have a 40th anniversary patch. This incarnation of the team is only a little over six years old; the patch pays tribute to the Sounders of the NASL (from Markus Kamp). ”¦ Is this the name, logo and uniform for David Beckham’s Miami MLS team? If so, they’re not bad (from David Thomas).

NBA News: Mitchell & Ness will soon be selling limited edition Michael Jordan jerseys. ”¦ Even with a commissioner change earlier this month, the NBA is no closer to ads on jerseys (from Phil). ”¦ The Knicks hosted the Garden of Dreams Foundation Bowling event Monday night and had some sweet bowling shirts for the occasion (from Steve Dodell).

College Hoops News: George Washington has inconsistent coloring in the A10 wordmark on the back of the neck of its away uniforms (from Charles Pannunzio).

Olympics News: Here’s an infograph featuring all the modern Olympic mascots (from Brinke). ”¦ A Toronto artist created some far-out helmet designs for skeleton racers (from Roch Smith). ”¦ “Early luge helmets looked like coneheads,” says Christopher LaHaye. Other photos from the first 12 Winter Olympics are here. ”¦ A Columbus company coated Olympic bobsleds with super-thin paint typically used on race cars and jets (from Jay Hill).

Grab Bag: Paul and Uni Watch got a mention in John Hodgman’s podcast. Fast forward to minute 16 (from William Blevins). ”¦ Here’s an oral history on the Costacos Brothers and how they dominated the poster scene in the 1980s and 1990s (from Chris Flinn). ”¦ “The Carlton Blues are selling spaces on a jumper to be worn in round 10 vs. the Crows for $350 (AU) each name,” says Leo Strawn Jr. “Names of all of the Blues throughout the club’s history will be on the back.” ”¦ Josh Youstra found a badly printed Blackhawks shirt that was still for sale. ”¦ Yesterday we saw a hoop trophy, today we see a wheel trophy. That was awarded to Australia’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour winner Simon Clarke last weekend (from Matt Dowell). ”¦ Barbie will be in the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (from Tom Mulgrew). ”¦ Israelis and Palestinians can even find a way to argue over the logo on a piece of stationery. ”¦ A town in Wisconsin has rejected a proposal that would have restricted alcohol and tobacco advertising. Key quote: “[Local tavern owner Bill] Hamre noted that his business has sponsored several youth sports teams, including providing uniforms emblazoned with the name of his business. ‘I don’t think those kids started drinking because their shirt said “Willie’s Bar” on it,’ he said.” ”¦ The factories manufacturing U.S. military logo clothing are often sweatshops. ”¦ A design student created a font based on an optical illusion (thanks, Robert Silverman). ”¦ “I was watching the Westminster Dog Show last night,” says Casey B, “and the judge for the terrier group was wearing a totally badass cummerbund.”

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Comments (95)

    Meh, the Globetrotters should’ve worn Seahawk-styled basketball uniforms if they wanted to “honor” the Seahawks Superbowl team (which they shouldn’t need to do in the first place). This obsession with “The 12th Man” in Seattle is freakin stupid.

    With only two exceptions (in 1930 and 1950), the FIFA World Cup has included a third-place playoff game. In Europe, the UEFA European Championship tournament has had a third-place playoff since it began in 1960. I guess soccer doesn’t count as a pro sport.

    Third-place games and consolation brackets are for Little League baseball and rec league basketball, not for the pros.

    Kinda overlooking the bronze medal games in Olympic and international competitions, aren’t ya, Mike?

    To be fair, those are a bit of a different situation than a 3rd place game in a regular pro sports league. Even the best of the best might only make it to the Olympics once, while a great player on a great team in a normal league will have the opportunity to compete for the championship multiple times. Showing that you’re the 3rd best on the planet has a bit more of a personal impact than being 3rd best in a league.

    I knew that the NCAA tournament, FIFA World Cup and Olympics and international tournaments had or have third-place games, but I was thinking from the perspective of American pro sports. Just another example of how the Big 4 leagues differ from all the other pro and amateur leagues around the world.

    But even the Olympics are inconsistent.

    For head-to-head style events, some have a bronze medal game, some don’t.

    Hockey, basketball, the losers face off for the bronze medal.

    Boxing and wrestling, they still award two bronze medals rather than having a “losers game for losers”.

    From the “I feel a little ashamed to have retained this information department” … There is/was a little kids book out that I’ve read to my children many, many times where Barbie is on a swimsuit issue-ish photo shoot. One of the other models is afraid that Barbie is going to be given the coveted cover spot, so she steals the film used for Barbie’s pictures(not knowing she was actually the front runner herself). Barbie was later re-photographed, and those new, better photos led to her getting the cover.

    History repeating itself, perhaps?

    On an unrelated note … anyone know where I can turn in my mancard?

    can the massive cliche ‘man cave’ be retired too? (unless you have photos to show you’ve got a Tony Stark-type lab in your basement, which is my dream.)

    Good write-up about Norway’s (in)famous pants and a look at some uni regulations in the curling world. They have regs for belts, socks, and even kilts (“Solid colour, same colour of tights, can be a team mixture of kilts and pants”) but nothing about pants.


    Gosh, I hope not, too. Bah.

    Maybe in 1995 when the whole league was forming I wouldn’t have been surprised, but now? Retro in the worst way possible.


    Beckham is one white sport coat with pushed up sleeves away from being Sonny Crockett, so it’s plausible.

    Distressing. Discouraging. Disillusioning. But plausible.

    They should pay homage to past soccer teams, the way Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, San Jose, etc. did. My vote is for the immensely successful and long-lived Miami Fusion.

    It’s a photo of a TV screen! Lots of stuff gets f*d up when someone snaps a camera phone pic of a TV screen.

    Did anyone watch the US/Slovakia hockey game this morning? The uniforms made it looked like a freakin scrimmage. How hard is it to design unique uniforms for TWELVE teams?!

    That’s what I thought too. I watched a little of the preview before I had to go to work. I told my brother that I thought the USA’s uni was awesome. Then they showed Slovakia’s and I was stunned. Slovenia’s flag is red, white, and blue as well. I hope their uniforms aren’t a copy of USA and Slovakia’s.

    It has a lot to do with the Winter Olympics being so Euro-centric. The blue ring in the Olympic flag represents Europe because of how frequently that color shows up in national flags. This further compounded by how many times red and white are the other colors in flag scheme: USA, Norway, Slovakia, Russia, Czech Republic, Great Britain, etc. Made even worse because the other teams tend to be red and white sans blue: Denmark, Canada, Switzerland, etc.

    If Olympic Committees were more inclined not to drape themselves in their flags, like Australia, The Netherlands, and Slovenia, you would see some diversity.


    Russia- Maroon/Gold (Like their current soccer look)
    USA- Emphasize Navy in Summer, Emphasize Red in Winter add Silver
    Canada- National & Provincial Tartans link
    Great Britain- White/Red/green, if Scottish nationalization validates ditching the blue
    Switzerland- Brown/Red link

    Not Brown for Helvetia! The colors of Bern are the same as those of Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Black, gold and red. My ancestors left Bern in the first decade of the 18th century. (I still have two books they brought across. Since the books have been in Colorado for nearly a century and in similarly dry western Kansas for about forty years before that, they’re in pretty good condition.) Several years ago I met an exchange student from Bern who was startled at my resemblance to one of her neighbors back home – likely a distant cousin.

    I am for der Schweitzer changing out the team colors. I’d suggest those of link.

    I hate that the numbers are up at the shoulders, and not on the proper area of the sleeves. I hated that about the 2010 unis too.

    It’s not hard to come up with 12 unique designs. All the top countries had some pretty snazzy jerseys not all that long ago.

    USA 1996

    Slovakia 1996

    Czech Republic 1996

    Russia 1992-1993

    Nike seems to think that waist stripes or some variation thereof, sleeve stripes that go all the way around or all the way down, and properly located sleeve numbers are old-fashion.

    Kudos for Norway and Sweden to a lesser degree for sticking with their traditional jerseys. And Slovenia, mentioned in a reply here, is one of the teams that went way out of the box. Put on your sunglasses if you haven’t seen their jersey yet!

    I heard it suggested that, as homage to the 1980 team, something of a jab at Russia, they should’ve brought back those unis. Sort of like how in 2010 the US soccer team wore a sash that somewhat evoked the shirt worn by the 1950 team that upset the favored English side.

    A Uni-related note, I saw the Packers-Cardinals Playoff Bowl where a Cardinals receiver played with a cast on his foot & ankle. Billy Gambrell (?)

    “When Joe DiMaggio was in the Army from 1943 to 1945, first baseman Nick Etten wore No. 5 for the Yankees..”

    Here’s a wire photo from May 1944 witha great view of just that: link

    Nice find. When I discovered this yesterday, I was really taken aback…both that it happened and that I had never heard about it. It makes a great trivia question…”who wore number 5 for the Yankees after Joe DiMaggio?”

    The only way to rationalize them doing it is that uniform numbers were still relatively new…the first number ever retired was Gehrig’s 4 in 1939. Tying a player so closely to their number was a new concept. It would be incomprehensible today to give a star player’s number to a temporary fill-in.

    I agree completely; players didn’t “own” their numbers like they do now. The Cubs used to change their numbers all the time in the 1930s; almost year-by-year.

    Could they be compared to, say, locker positions in the clubhouse? Some guys want the same one every year; other guys take whatever they’re assigned. And you’d never let one sit unused just because its previous user was a big star who isn’t with the team.

    I actually would prefer it if they treated numbers the same way. They certainly do in soccer, where the national teams get number 1 to 22 no matter what the previous wearers are doing now. And if the Yankees had more than a dozen lockers sitting empty because they were once used by legendary greats, everyone would recognize what a waste of space it is.

    I disagree. I like being able to go to a game and know who number 24 is. It’s also great, when doing historical research, to be able to identify a player by his number, especially on your beloved NNOB jerseys. Assigning numbers to everyone every year lessens their value.

    I think the retired uniform number gained more appeal after they retired Babe Ruth’s #3 in 1948. However, it didn’t keep the Yankees from issuing #3 several times between 1935-48.

    And the Blackhawks gave Dale Tallon number 9 after Bobby Hull jumped to the WHA. And the legendary Sean Shanahan, who wore 7 for the Bruins after Phil Esposito and before Ray Bourque (and to a lesser extent Bill Bennett, who wore it for 7 games that season).

    …[climbs out of a flu-induced agony & malaise – 4 days of hell – to say]…

    Nice first post Mike! Your first UW by-line! Kudos, and well done sir.

    …[realizes health is an important thing – vows to never again NOT get a flu shot – slinks back off]…

    Nice Job Mike! Interesting and I never knew anything about those games, but I was just old enough to start following football around the time these games ended. I also remember something about the NFL Champs / Super Bowl Champs playing a college all-star team. A write-up on that would be similarly interesting.


    I kinda like the idea of a third place bowl.

    The two teams could be playing for the number one draft pick.

    There have been a few “Repus Bowls” most notably in 1983 between the 1-11 Tampa Bay Bucs and Houston Oilers (link). The season end battle in 1981 between Baltimore and New England was another.

    Maybe if the there was a #7 place vs. #7 place for an Extra 1st round (top 5 or above) pick, that might be something. Not sure the NFL wants to break with its parity principles.

    Nice job, Mike! Since we’re talking about the wonderful Steeler uniform days, a good time to reflect on this amazing cover for a link

    Cool photos in Chicago’s Red Eye today of all the Blackhawks playing in the Olympics wearing their respective national jerseys.


    You learn something new everyday…this is the first I’ve ever heard of the Playoff Bowl.
    And I had no idea the Cowboys once featured three stripes on the sleeves…


    Football uniforms sure looked good in the ’60’s.

    Second that (about the good looking ’60s).

    I’m surprised Mike didn’t mention another uni-related development: the rare appearance of the Rams and Cowboys in their dark blues (must have been lovely in the Miami sunshine), “forced” on them by the white-preferring Browns and … Cowboys. I haven’t read the Bolding pieces yet, but wonder who was the “home” team?

    Hah! On the Palestinian-Israeli issue, if South Carolina began printing drivers’ licenses with the heading, “The Nation of South Carolina” with a palmetto tree above a stylized 1861, the federal government would say, “No Problem”, right? Would the sentence in this blog speaking of it be, “The US and SC can even find a way to argue over the logo on a piece of stationery”?

    It’s only a logo, right? But if logos and headings meant nothing, this blog wouldn’t exist.

    And those who say it isn’t the same, the US and Israel both gained control of the territories of South Carolina and Gaza, respectively, in the same way, they won a war, except that Israel gave up their control. South Carolina, Arizona, and California, all territory won through wars, are still states.

    Aaaahhh, enough politics, now back to logos and uniforms . . .

    When Martin St. Louis plays for the Lightning, NOB is “St. Louis”, but for Team Canada, it’s “St-Louis”.

    Here’s his jersey from Torino:

    Like I said on Twitter… say what you will about the new look of the A’s, at least they know how to use their apostrophes!

    Unlike some teams…

    The Atlantic 10 (actually 13) Conference is made up of mostly private universities. However, George Washington University, with a purported endowment of approximately one billion dollars, simply needs to make a better effort to properly outfit their basketball team.

    “Chris Flinn found a Jay Cutler trading card with a game-worn swatch of his jersey and it’s predominantly a section of his laundry tag.”

    Whoever came up with the idea of cutting up game worn jerseys and pasting the swatches on cards should be horse whipped once a day evey day in the public square, for hours at a time if need be.

    That Etten photo is amazing. I’ve been working on a short piece about him for my Milwaukee Brewers blog (played for the Brews in ’49), and am definitely going to include it. Thanks!

    The Olympics infographic is incorrect. Just one example: Sochi has three mascots – Bely Mishka (polar bear), Leopard, and that Zaika snow rabbit thing.

    Speaking of the 1989 NBA All Star Game…


    What a cool shot! I had forgotten that they used the “baseball configuration” for the game, with the court running 1st base – 3rd base.

    Does anyone happen to know what the meaning of the back of Swedish Women’s Goalie Valentina Wallner’s helmet means by (“HOME”)?


    Is it reference to a goalie’s crease?

    Thanks guys for the love and compliments. Been a reader of the ESPN version of Uni Watch since 2006 (That year I remember I noticed the link on my brother’s travel team baseball jersey) and a daily blog reader since 2008. This is definitely a day to remember for me.

    In the immortal words of Phil Rizzuto, holy cow! Thanks to the link provided in Mike’s piece about the Tele-Goal, I learned that my alma mater, Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, had the first slingshot goalposts ever, and that they originated locally! Who knew?

    Great job, Mike!

    It’s already been talked about it a little bit here, but what is it with Nike and neon colors? Slovenia’s flag contains the colors red, white, blue, and 3 little yellow stars. Yet they make their Olympic hockey debuts, and they look like the Seattle Seahawks out there. They’re wearing navy blue and snot green. I don’t get that one at all. Those unis were just embarrassing.

    As usual, Nike’s templates look absolutely brutal this year. I hate the shoulder numbers. They’ve never looked right to me. I also hate the little shoulder yokes, which aren’t true yokes, but I really don’t know what to call them. They had those last Olympics too, and I hated them then as well.

    This year, I really hate the screened on laces and all of the screened on shoulder/upper chest designs. If you’re going to use laces, use laces, don’t fake it with a Nikelace.

    I’m going to comment only on the designs I’ve seen so far.

    US – Hate that they look like Team Union Pacific. I understand they can’t use the flowing “USA” logo anymore, since it’s the logo for USA Hockey, but the standard USA they wore in Vancouver was much better than the shield.

    Slovakia – Basically the same design as the US jerseys, except the Union Pacific logo is replaced with the Slovakia coat of arms. Very lazy design.

    Slovenia – See Above

    Russia – Looks fairly sharp, other than the screened laces and the stars on the shoulders.

    Finland – Don’t mind the blue jersey, but HATE the white flag jersey. Very lazy design.

    Canada – Again, I understand they can’t use the Leaf with the skater in it, since it’s Hockey Canada’s logo, but the plain leaf looked much better than what they have now. I don’t like the white, red, or black design there.

    Austria – I actually thought they looked pretty sharp. Might be my favorite design so far.

    Czech – Ok, I guess. I didn’t like the blue strip across the chest and shoulders.

    Sweden – Maybe the best looking team in the tournament. The 3 crowns design always looks sharp. Still don’t like the screened on laces and shoulder designs though.

    Swiss – The Suisse usually have a bland design and this year isn’t any different. I don’t like the small cross across the right chest.

    Latvia – Overall, I liked this one as well. I thought the colors popped with the coat of arms on the front. As usual though, Nike screwed it up with all of the screened crap.

    Germany – I liked the design that I saw, other than the coat of arms screened on the shoulders and, of course, the screened on laces.

    Japan – Very lazy design. Just says “Japan” across the front and has a flag on the sleeve. Very disappointing.

    Slovenia is kind of like Australia. They like to use green as a sport color, even though that color isn’t on the flag.
    See Slovene green on the link soccer pitch.
    For some light reading, check link out.

    Thanks for the info. I completely forgot about the green World Cup kits. I didn’t realize they used it for other sports too. I wish they would’ve used the darker shade, like on the World Cup or basketball uniforms, instead of the snot Seahawks green though.

    Cool to see the Cowboys and Colts in the OB five years Super Bowl V, and three years before Super Bowl III. If Dallas had chosen to wear white (as the home team), that is exactly how Super Bowl V would have looked.

    Maybe this was the best game of his career, and maybe we never hear from this kid again. But Hamm passed the eyeball test, and then some. He got —link [scholarship running back] Kye Morgan, and frankly, looked much better than Morgan out there on the field.

    “If two teams tied for second place in their division, the team that never had been to the Playoff Bowl got the invite. (If both teams hadn’t been there, there would be a performance-based tiebreaker.) Could you imagine an arbitrary rule like that being accepted today?”

    Isn’t this what the Big Ten did for many years with the Rose Bowl? If there were two schools tied for first, and they didn’t play head to head, the tiebreaker went to the school which had the longest drought from Pasadena?

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