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Let’s Be Perfectly Clear

LBJ Clear Mask

Paul here, making a rare Sunday appearance to handle today’s lede (although Phil will still have the rest of today’s content, as you’ll see when you scroll down).

So: Even if you’re not an NBA fan, you’ve probably heard about the fuss over LeBron James’s mask. The condensed version is this: James recently broke his nose. For his first game after the injury, on Thursday night, he wore a black mask, which caused a mild sensation (so much so that the Heat promptly rush this T-shirt into production). But on Friday the league asked James to switch to a clear mask. James initially appealed — he reportedly preferred the black mask because it’s lighter and fits better — but ultimately gave in and wore a clear mask for last night’s game.

There are several aspects to this story that don’t quite add up. Let’s go one thing at a time:

1. Why can’t these people get their stories straight? Most news stories on this subject have included the following quote from NBA spokesman Tim Frank: “It is our understanding LeBron used the black mask because a clear one he was comfortable with wasn’t ready.” But’s story, which included that quote, also included this: “James has a clear mask ready and practiced with it for two days before switching to the black mask just before Thursday’s tipoff.” So was Tim Frank (the NBA spokesguy) misinformed, or was he just being diplomatic and giving James some sort of cover? (It’s also worth noting that James wore a clear mask in 2005.)

2. There are multiple precedents for the league’s request — or are there? Many reports on this story have noted that two other NBA players — Kobe Bryant in 2012 and Kyrie Irving last season — wore black masks after suffering injuries and then switched to clear masks at the NBA’s request. But Bryant’s mask switcheroo had nothing to do with any pressure from the NBA — he initially wore a clear mask, then switched to a black mask for the first half of one game, and then went back to the clear mask because he found the black one uncomfortable. To my knowledge, the league never got involved with his mask situation.

As for Irving, it’s true that he wore a black mask for one game last season (scoring 41 points) and then was told by the league to switch to a clear one. So that one does qualify as a genuine precedent.

3. What’s with all the “please” and “thank you”? According to all the reports I’ve read, the NBA doesn’t actually have a rule or regulation regarding mask colors. League officials simply “asked” or “requested” that James wear clear instead of black. But if it’s not a rule, why did James have to go through an “appeal” process, as many news stories stated? And if the NBA cares enough about this issue to bring it up two seasons in a row, why don’t they make it a rule? Just spell it out so everyone knows the deal and there’ll be no confusion. Jeez.

4. Rule or no rule, what’s the basis for the league’s position? The reason for the league’s stance is reportedly that they want all players to be able to see their opponents’ eyes. That’s why they banned Dwyane Wade’s tinted goggles back in 2011. And that made sense — if you can’t see where a player is looking, that player has an unfair advantage.

But what does that have to do with a black mask vs. a clear mask? Either way, the mask is going to have eye cutouts and you’ll still be able to see the player’s eyeballs. In fact, you could arguably make the case that the whites of a black player’s eyes are more apparent (or at least more contrasting) if he’s wearing a black mask. If this is really the basis for the league’s position, I think it’s a pretty flimsy one.

At least one blogger has suggested that the real reason for the league’s position is based on race and culture, not competitive advantage. And although that post reads like a Gizoogle translation, the guy may have a point.

All in all, I think we could definitely use some more transparency here. But I’m not referring to the color of the mask.

Now here’s Phil with the rest of today’s content.


Thanks Paul! Great lede. And now for the rest of today’s post.

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Title Box

Lewis & Clark Uniform Design Contest

Every Sunday, we’ll have news and updates on the design contest being sponsored by Ross Clites. If you missed the introductory post on this, please click here. Last weekend, we introduced Part III which is the second article here. You can also visit the Lewis & Clark homepage for more information and updates.

Yesterday we revealed the first set of concepts for the “Captains” (you can still submit for the Diplomats [deadline: 3/5] and the Explorers [deadline 3/12]). And today, we’ll reveal the fourth team for concepting.

If you missed yesterday’s post, which revealed the readers submissions for the “Captains,” you can vote for your favorite concepts (you may vote for up to three). Link here.

Here’s Ross with this week’s updates/information:

. . . . .

Gubernatorial Appointment

Admittedly, some of the teams in the LCBL are pretty vague or bland. Keeping the motif rolling meant several nicknames became loose-fitting descriptors of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (i.e. Pioneers and Navigators). Others, however, are very specific titles; words that act as prefixes to make their names sound more distinguished. These instances paint a deeper picture about the various occupations both men held. Today’s installment is the pinnacle of the latter.

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Click To Enlarge

. . .

Being sent on a journey from St. Charles (Missouri) to the Pacific Ocean is one thing, but governing that vast land in between is quite another. We are honored to name a team the Governors, for it cements the names of both Lewis and Clark in the history books of Missouri, especially. The two explorers were appointed by U.S. presidents (Jefferson, then later Madison and Monroe) to oversee the military-style government of America’s western-most territory.

Lewis and Clark were two of the first four governors of Louisiana Territory — renamed Missouri Territory in 1812 when Orleans Territory became the state of Louisiana. Meriwether Lewis was governor from 1807 until his mysterious death in 1809; William Clark served two terms later, from 1813 to 1820. These appointments tether Lewis and Clark to St. Louis even more; their legislative operations were based out of Mansion House on the corner of Third and Vine in the present-day shadow of the Gateway Arch. William Clark was the last governor of the region before Missouri was granted statehood; the last time St. Louis was the seat of government beyond its own city limits.

All these facts are points of pride with the creation of the league. We are a history lesson rolled into a summer of college baseball. The hub of this upper region of Jefferson’s great purchase was, and always has been, St. Louis. Each team does its best to pay homage to two of the greatest Americans that helped make our home region what it is today.

As for the aesthetics, be creative with the tools of the trade in that time period: top hats, quills, etc. Perhaps you will go off the beaten path and choose an animal or other theme. All are welcome and we are excited to see the submissions in a few weeks. Same requirements as the rest and, as always, best of luck to each contributor.


Hawks Coach2

Hockey Weather

Last night the Penguins and Blackhawks played an outdoor game (the last of the “Stadium Series“) in the snow at Soldier Field.

The game had the feel of an NFL snow game as much as it did a hockey game. And it was great.

There were frequent breaks as the maintenance crew attempted to keep the ice clear of snow. Even the zamboni wasn’t much help.

But you’ve got to hand it to the NHL — and their branding. Throughout the snow, the giant logos kept getting covered and as soon as they were, they had a crew out there cleaning it off.

I’m sure it probably wasn’t much fun for the coaches and players, either on the bench or on the ice, and it was probably brutal to be one of the netminders.

Speaking of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, he had a special mask, done up in Steelers’ motif, complete with a Penguins logo on one side and blank on the other. Pretty sweet.

Fleury’s counterpart, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford had his mask for the game stolen, before the game, and it looked like he was wearing a mask like this last night.

As far as the uniforms, each club had a special uniform for the game (which we’d seen months ago). Neither uni was particularly great or notable, but those Penguins socks. Ugh. And it didn’t help with the snow.

Socks aside, the unis looked alright (good contrast, at least), but nothing as good as the Canucks (playing as the Millionaires) and Senators will be wearing for today’s final “outdoor” game, the “Heritage Classic.” Unfortunately, it appears — as of last night — the roof will be closed (BC Place, where the game will be played, has about 53,000 seats, the world’s largest cable-supported retractable roof — this link contains a video which has a pretty good overview of the BC Place — give it a watch if you have a minute and 38 seconds).

If you want to watch any video or see photos from last night’s game, just go here, or you can look at this Flickr set I cobbled together (mostly screen grabs I made from the game, but some other decent pics).



Pickin’ The Oscars…2014

OK, boys and girls — it’s time once again for the annual Academy Awards tonight, and as in past years, I’m going to give you the winners. In the past several years, I’ve only picked the “Big 6” (Best Picture, Best Director, the two Best Actor & Best Supporting Actor Awards), and I’ll still give you those. But just because I’m feeling lucky this year, I’ll predict every award. I just KNOW those of you who care about such things as the Oscars will certainly be following along with Uni Watch while they’re on.

Ahem. Anyway. Here we go, starting with the Big Six and then the rest.

. . . . .


Best Picture: Twelve Years A Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, Twelve Years A Slave

. . . . . .

The Rest

Best Adapted Screenplay: Twelve Years A Slave
Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Best Documentary: 20 Feet From Stardom
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Editing: Gravity
Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Score: Gravity
Best Song: Let It Go (Frozen)
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best Animated Short: Get A Horse
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Best Live Action Short: The Voorman Problem

. . . . . .

OK, folks — if you think you can take me, feel free to post your own picks (Big Six or all of them) in the comments below.


Setting The Record Straight - 525


Two items appeared in yesterday’s post that deserve some clarification.

. . . . .

The first had to do with a ticker item (from Tom Carney) that mentioned the Cardinals might have removed the front jersey numbers (since they were wearing blank jerseys for their official photo shoot). Paul confirmed that the photo day jerseys were blanks, but there was no official change to the uni. Received the following from Melody Yount, the Communications Manager for the Redbirds, and thought I’d share:

Cards unis correction

So there you have it. No changes to the Cards beautiful uniforms.

. . . . . .

Next was an item on the Red Sox and “pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe wearing Jon Lester’s no. 31.” Duplicate numbers in spring training are not uncommon, explains Dave Feigenbaum, who writes:


Lester and Watanabe aren’t the only ones wearing duplicate numbers in Red Sox camp. I was there this week and saw a #18 come into the game who wasn’t Victorino. I checked the roster and Victorino is still wearing 18 and so is a minor leaguer. The game I saw was vs. Northeastern and when the Sox came out to stretch for the second game of the DH vs. BC, there were duplicate numbers (with names on the back) all over the place. Even Pedroia’s 15 was duplicated for a minor leaguer. The Sox have given out most of their numbers twice and put the names on the back, pretty cool if you’re a minor leaguer who may never make it to the bigs.

Dave Feigenbaum

. . . . .

So there you have it. Thanks to Melody and Dave for the clarifications.


ticker 2

Uni Watch News Ticker:

Another small amount of ticker submissions yesterday, so old school ticker today:

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West Bromich Albion are playing in blue socks for the rest of the season, instead of white because their order to Adidas came too late for the rest of the season (from Jeremy Brahm). … Marlon Byrd wore Allen Iverson’s NOB & #3 in BP yesterday, as a tribute (h/t Mike C.). And here’s more on that (from Kurt Esposito) … Johnny Football showed up in Red Sox camp, and got his own NOB jersey, which looks odd, because the Sox don’t have NOBs on their home jerseys. … Seton Hall is another team using the adidas Tequila Sunrise template (h/t Kai Lindstedt). … Our pal Chris Creamer had a few uni-worthy tweets yesterday: JJ Hardy wore a “MB” written on his wristband, which probably would have been a fineable offense in the NFL (also spotted wearing Monica Barlow’s initials on wristbands were Buck Showalter, John Russell and Chris Davis); the Mets are using an outdated Marlins logo, and the Royals are using a REALLY outdated Padres logo on their spring training line-up cards. … From Steven Woj: the Isles are reusing their Stadium Series’ sweaters, with a patch to cover up the logo. Lame. That shit may have flown a couple weeks ago (when they wore those jerseys in February), but to still have the patch cover yesterday? C’mon Isles. … Red grills for THE? Matt Berning was at a dollar store yesterday and spotted these Ohio State magnet packs with a silver helmet and red mask, and “OSU wears grey masks. Not SAYIN’ there is a change, just that this is either inaccurate or a change may be coming.” … Air Force hockey wore Falcon Gray unis last night. … The Pacers shooting shirts for Noche Latina read — wait for it — Los Pacers. Not to be outdone, the Wizards shirt reads you guessed it. And The Blazers. C’mon NBA. … Dom Lewis saw a picture of a girls basketball uniform that has the EXACT same logo and font as the University of Cincinnati. The team is American Fork High School and their mascot is the Cavemen. “Below the C (which has the same font as U of Cincinnati) you can see the same block of red underneath,” writes Dom. “Only difference is that the mascot not being a cat, the claw marks above the ‘C’ are missing.” More pics here. … Notre Dame news (as always) comes from Warren Junium: here’s a helmet cubby and a “space saver unit” in the locker room. … Uni Watch Curling Skip Mike Styczen “got this for Christmas and the kids LOVE it. Surprisingly realistic!” (looks VERY much like Jim Vilk’s Bottlecap Curling Sheet). … Wow, check out the stirrups on Bob Feller (great spot by Josh Claywell). … Allen Iverson had his number retired last night at the Sixers game. As a token of appreciation, they gave him a boat. No word on if they had to practice the retirement ceremony. … In the “Yes, they are still relevant” department, Reebok has a new logo (thanks, Brinke). … Whoa — check out the sweater the Indiana Ice wore last night (h/t Mark Grainda). … “Outside of the NBA Celebrity Game,” writes Paul Lee “you rarely see letters in place of numbers on basketball jerseys.” … The Las Vegas Wranglers broke out the Spiderman jerseys for last evening’s game. … And Winthrop University hoopsters wore jerseys with the names of Sandy Hook victims on them. Here’s more on how that came about.


And that will do it for today — thanks to Paul for taking the lede (he’s swapping with me, so you’ll have what I would have posted today sometime this week, most likely). Great questions (that need answers) about the clear mask.

Thanks also to Ross Clites for the 4th uniform template for the contest. As always, please send me your concepts directly to my E-mail (phil [dot] hecken [at] gmail [dot] com).

And if you’re feeling lucky, try to pick more winners for tonight’s Oscars than I. You won’t get a prize, but you can rest serene in the satisfaction that you’re better at picking the Academy Award recipients.

Everyone have a great week, enjoy the Heritage Classic (if you get it), the hoops, the Spring baseball and the Oscars. And anything else you happen do be doing (like digging out/preparing for more snow).

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.


.. … ..

“[I]t’s 1971, and I’m in G.C. Murphy’s on Webster Street, fishing pennies out of the pockets of my bell bottomed plaid doubleknit polyester pants, to pay for a pack of Topps cards. Crackling over the PA, Tony Orlando and Dawn ask the musical question, ‘What are you doing Sunday, baby? Would you like to marry me?’ I just scored Lew Alcindor in scraggly goatee and a green mock turtleneck, and the world is filled with possibilities.”
–Cort McMurray

Comments (41)

    Jon Lester, not John, and the Heat store link says the item is not available.

    In regards to that blogger’s article on the mask… (at least the parts I can understand) is Lebron James really considered a villain by anyone other than angry Cleveland fans? I don’t exactly follow the NBA, but I wasn’t aware of him having any sort of reputation similar to what guys like Dennis Rodman or Bill Laimbeer had back in the day.

    Pretty sure most of the country’s perception of Lebron has mellowed. Shoot, a lot of Cavs fans would take him back in a second. I’m not one of them (especially with Mike Brown coaching here again), but I don’t dislke him. Although, I would take him over Laimbeer in his prime any day. NO ONE has a reputation llike that guy.

    The big elephant in the room that no one is mentioning about “mask-gate” is the other reason LeBron wore black was to coordinate with the jersey… Miami Heat even said as much

    “.@KingJames on why he chose a black mask: “I knew we were wearing our throwback uniforms. It was carbon-fiber and lighter.” ”


    Does Bleacher Report think they’re fooling anybody in saying that Reebok used Motter Tektura from 1895 when the typeface was only developed in the mid 1970s?

    what is the over/under on how many days before Iverson sells that boat? I am guessing in the next 6 months.

    btw, here is a championship belt they had made for him which I am guessing will be sold separately.

    the islanders keep the stadium series patch on because all of those jerseys are spoken for by fans who bought them as game worn jerseys. Me being one of them, I would be extremely upset if they removed the patch so they cover them up using a piece of fabric and velcro. When delivered to us they remove the fabric. What I’m not sure of is there were 2 recent call ups from the minors that were wearing the jersey and patch cover up even though they did not play in the stadium series. The only reasoning i can conclude is all of the blanks have the shoulder patch pre sewn.

    Why do you continue to rag on the NBA for the Noche Latina stuff? I get that it is kinda corny, but hasn’t it been said that people that speak Spanish and follow the NBA typically call the teams by their English names (just this the “los” in front)?

    Because any way you look at it, it’s wrong? If the Spanish speaking fans use the English name, then there’s no reason for a Spanish language jersey then, is there? Whether the fans call them the Bulls or los Bulls, the jersey just says Bulls.

    If those fans did use a Spanish version of the team name, then *that* is what should be on the jersey. At least the MLB usually gets that right, see the “Tigres” jersey for Detroit, rather than “Los Tigers”.

    Los Mets is not correct, but what is the correct version? Metropolitanos? That’s kind of long.

    Yeah, gotta agree with Steve D here, I don’t see a way to translate “Mets” without going with the whole word, that’s a lot of letters just to add an “o” so Los Mets works.

    MLB does get it more right than not, Gigantes, Cerveceros, Rojos (though they should drop the Los), and when a nickname isn’t clearly translatable, like the Mets and Knicks, then Nueva York works, or Los “Nickname,” but Los Bulls and Los Lakers, etc. is just silly.

    Also seems like a properly translated jersey would sell way more than a “Los Nickname” jersey. “Toros” would look great on a jersey, Los Bulls looks dumb.

    Oops, guess I sort of misread Steve D’s comment, so we aren’t so much in agreement, but still…

    Nueva York is playing Los Bulls right now…in sleeved jerseys….maybe the Mets should go with Nueva York, even at home.

    Best argument against it: The jerseys don’t say “the bulls” its just “Bulls” so slapping “los” in front of it is a weak attempt at what they are trying to do.

    I get that people in the Hispanic community don’t call them Los Torros or even simply Torros, so in a sense throwing “los” in front of the team’s proper name isn’t entirely wrong. But I definitely feel a better way of of honoring Latin Heritage would be translating the team’s names/locations. At least then you are educating non-Spanish speakers what the Spanish word(s) is/are, and the tribute doesn’t feel as shoe-horned as it is now (because no matter the sentiment behind the Latin Nights promotions, pretty much every team just throws El or Los onto the regular jersey, and that’s all they do).

    Douglas’ argument (and others, includng I think, Paul) is my argument. It’s not that Los Bulls (etc.) is wrong, it’s just lazy. We don’t write “The Bulls” on the jerseys, so what possible reason could the NBA (or MLB) possibly have for sticking a “Los” on a jersey? Hmmm, if you said “merchandising” you win a prize.

    It’s nice that the NBA and MLB want to recognize Hispanic heritage and I’m all for that, but there are better ways to do it than sticking a definitive article on a shirt — but hey, if you don’t do that, you can’t market it as “an alternate” or “special” shirt.

    There is NO REASON at all to do it OTHER than to move more product (and not that in and of itself that is wrong, but it’s cynical and purely a cash grab). If you don’t have a problem with that, then by all means, buy the jersey.

    Don’t forget Los Clippers.

    I think because it’s a proper name, it’s wrong to change the name, so Los “Nickname,” El “Nickname,” Las “Nickname,” or El “Nickname” is actually correct. Nueva York is an exception since it’s the correct usage in Spanish; if the jerseys said “Knicks” on them, I’m sure it would’ve become “Los Knicks,” as well.

    For example, Spanish-speakers might say “fui a la Louvre” as in I went to the Louvre. Also, I think the band “Los Lobos” would sue the NBA if the basketball team from Minnesota were to join in the Noche Latina festivities…

    I know that the NBA is obviously pandering, but it’s doing it correctly, IMHO. (It might also have something to do with protecting intellectual properties or copyrights, but I digress.)

    Black or clear masks. I can think of one potentially valid additional reason for preferring clear masks over black. What if, hypothetically, you’re wearing a mask, smash your face again, and then start bleeding? NBA rules say that bleeding players have to get off the court, but a black mask could camouflage that. But that does not excuse the NBA from codifying its preference into a rule. In fact, shame on the NBA for having failed to do so, if that has been their opinion.

    Thank you for sharing that lengthy article about the University of North Carolina. I highly recommend reading that if you haven’t done so already.

    The Cardinals change longstanding policy of wearing standard jerseys in spring training and switch to BPs…then use blank jerseys for pictures. Hmmm…putting 2 and 2 together, seems that their regular season jerseys are not ready for some reason.

    The real reason:

    “I think that jersey means something special,” manager Mike Matheny told the Post-Dispatch. “We’ve got a lot of guys who come down here and a whole minor-league system that comes down here to wear the red in spring training. I think it’s a special privilege when you put that white one on. It makes it a little more special instead of giving that privilege to almost 60 guys.’’


    Thanks for the clarification…I find it a bit pompous of the Cardinals. In the old days, you gave a rookie number 64 or 72 and made them earn a lower number…now they are not worthy of wearing white?

    Reebok’s new logo makes me want a Hamentashen. Perhaps it’s just a seasonal thing with Purim around the corner. I’ll look out for a Matzah one next month.

    The information about the Vancouver roof is still correct. Its raining in Vancouver, I’m pretty sure if they didn’t have a roof there wouldn’t be a game.

    Kinda surprised Paul said nothing about the potential “look at me” factor behind the black mask.

    I thought it looked cool, and as long as the colors stay neutral (by neutral I mean fits a dark color related to the team – so black with the Heat is fine, but Red would be too bright and distracting, Navy Blue would work with the Hawks but Blue wouldn’t work with the Clippers etc.) I’d be okay with other players doing it when they need to wear them.

    I could see them getting ridiculous pretty fast though, which is why I don’t see a huge problem with the NBA trying to curb an explosion of various colors.

    Perhaps the NBA was weary about one of its biggest and most recognizable stars covering up his face? I mean there have been players who started wearing masks and then kept wearing them even after their injuries were healed because of superstition, or because they became so used to playing with it that they didn’t want to stop wearing it. I can’t imagine the NBA would be in love with the idea that one of their biggest names may become difficult to recognize off the court.

    For his first game with St. Louis, Ryan Miller is wearing a generic white mask with a Blues logo on the chin, but it looks like he is using a back plate from one of his Buffalo masks.

    Any other uni-watching wine drinkers out there notice that the new Reebok logo looks an awful lot like a ripoff of the Chappellet logo???

    Seton Hall wore the rainbow guts when Mike Shephard was managing the team in the 70’s & 80’s.

    I think the reason the NBA prefers to have its players in clear masks is probably pretty simple: basketball players, especially superstars like LeBron, are by far the most marketable athletes in American sports.

    One problem the NFL has is that aside from Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Troy Polamalu and maybe Richard Sherman, no one actually knows what half of those players look like because when they’re playing, they’re under those helmets. That’s the joke with those Aaron Rodgers State Farm ads — non-fans don’t really know who he looks like.

    I’m guessing the NBA is worried about hurting the brand.

    They’ll abide something someone has to wear for medical reasons, but they want people to be able to see the face.

    I’m not saying that’s a good reason — LeBron’s enough of a household name that an occasional alternate look doesn’t hurt — but it’s understandable that they’d have a policy there.

Comments are closed.