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No Play for Mr. Gray — But Long Live Mr. Grey!

Gray plays a prominent role in the uni-verse. Baseball teams wear road grays; college football and basketball teams are increasingly prone to having gray alternate unis in their wardrobes; NFL teams like to annoy The Jeff by wearing gray facemasks; the L.A. Kings’ new Stadium Series uniform has a lot of gray; and so on.

When I started working in the book publishing industry back in the late 1980s, I was taught that there were two ways to spell gray: the American way, with an “a,” or the British/Commonwealth way, with an “e” (which is easy to keep straight because “America” starts with an “a” and “England” starts with an “e”). Most American style guides call for “gray,” not “grey,” and that’s always what I’ve used.

Lately, though, “gray” has begun to bug me. I can’t fully explain why, but “gray” just doesn’t match the feel of the color as much as “grey” does. “Grey” feels, well, greyer, at least to me. When I see the “e”-inclusive version of the word, I instinctively get the feel of a cloudy day, a certain dreariness, and other things that I associate with the color. I’ve never fully gotten that feeling from the “gray” spelling, which for some reason feels a bit brighter and therefore less in keeping with the spirit of the word.

How does the rest of the uni-verse deal with this word? On the one hand, Nike tends to use “grey” (as in the case of this Syracuse football uniform press release, which refers to “the team’s new alternate dark steel grey uniform”); so does Adidas; and the Seahawks refer to their alternate uniform color as “wolf grey” (which is funny, because the animal they’re referencing there is the gray wolf). On the other hand, MLB uniform rules repeatedly use “gray,” which is presumably why Majestic also uses “gray” — although third-party retailers selling Majestic product sometimes use “grey.”

In short, there’s no consistency out there. But like I said, “grey” just feels better to me, so today I’m announcing a momentous change in official Uni Watch policy: As of right now, I’m going to start spelling grey with an “e,” at least on this site. I won’t be able to do it when writing for ESPN (although maybe I’ll see if I can sneak it past the copy desk) or for other media outlets that follow one of the standard style guides, but I’m definitely gonna do it on my own websites — even though it goes against everything I’ve been taught.

I’ve noticed over the years that most of the people who’ve corresponded with me (or posted comments here on the site, etc.) have tended to use the “grey” spelling, so I’m figuring most of you will like this change. Or maybe you won’t, I dunno. Either way, the change is being made. The gray is dead; long live the grey!

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Put that one in the “W” column: On the left is Jordan Strawberry (yes, Darryl’s son) of the Mercer basketball team. On the right, his teammate Ike Nwamu. As you can see, their NOBs both feature a diminutive “w” (which is all the more surprising because the lettering is vertically arched, which means each mini “w” had to be custom-angled). What’s up with that? And does it extend to any other players on the team?

Mercer’s current roster includes two other players with “w”-inclusive surnames: Jestin Lewis and Lawrence Brown. I tried to find photos of them but had a hard time because Mercer doesn’t post photo galleries from each game on its website. Grrrrr.

I did, however, find some highlight video footage that included a brief glimpse of Brown’s NOB, which you can see at right. Sure enough — mini “w”! Although I couldn’t find a rear-view shot of Lewis, at this point I think it’s safe to assume that his “w” is similarly size-challenged.

I’m figuring this is Adidas’s idea of building a “quirky” element into a custom typeface. Does anyone know if this font — or another font with a similarly inexplicable eccentricity — is used by any other Adidas schools?

(Big thanks to Jason Yellin, Roman Martinez, and Phil for bringing this one to my attention.)

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

Merry Christmas from Collector’s Corner! If you need a last-minute stocking stuffer, how about this set of NFL Christmas Cards? Timely!

Okay, here’s our last round of eBay finds before Santa hitches up his sleigh:

• Here’s a lot of 1970s/1980s NBA bumper stickers and non-bumper stickers, including a Celtics “One More Flag” sticker and “C’mon, Cavs.” (They really put some thought into that one, eh?) And here’s another set of stickers from the same period for the NHL/WHA.

• Speaking of stickers, here are some Atlanta Falcons items — one from radio station WSB, then a nice logo/helmet sheet, and then this interesting one where the text overlaps the facemask.

• DeLong NFL alert! Find six different pullovers for the Chiefs, Lions, Falcons, Vikes, Saints, and Jets right here.

• Here’s a terrific-looking 1970s Packers varsity jacket — and it’s made of Naugalite! As a bonus, check out this really nice Packers varsity jacket with suede trim.

• Used to be that the Sony Watchman portable TV — cousin to the groundbreaking Walkman — was the coolest gadget around. This one comes with the 49ers helmet logo. Had one and loved it.

• The Champagne of Beers urged you to tune into Packer football with this promo ad.

• Got a selection of 1970s NFL kids’ winter gloves right here. Choose from the Oilers or Rams.

• Really nice-looking 1970s NBA (not NFL as the listing says) magnetic standings board with all magnets intact.

• Who’s the quarterback shown on this 1970s NFL belt buckle? Jim Plunkett, perhaps?

• Excellent helmet art on this 1970s NFL Thermos. And here’s an ad that promoted and sold the Thermos back in the day!

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Uni Watch News Ticker
By Garrett McGrath

Baseball News: The Yomiuri Giants have switched from Adidas to Under Armour (thanks, Phil). … You know how phantom championship T-shirts often end up in Africa? A shipment of Royals 2014 World Series champions tees have turned up a bit closer to home — at a store in Joplin, Missouri.

NFL News: “A good friend of mine made a great-looking Bengals/Broncos cake for last night’s Monday Night Football game,” says Jonathan Daniel. “Thought you’d appreciate it. Unfortunately they live in another state so I can’t eat any of it.” … Here’s one we missed from Sunday’s game: Texans LB Brian Cushing wore NYPD cleats in remembrance of the two murdered New York cops (from Chris Perrenot). … “Has anyone noticed that Big Ben is writing his uni number inside the Steelers logo on his sideline hat?” asks Derek Linn.

College Football News: LSU has posted a picture of their uniforms with patches for the Music City Bowl. … The Minnesota Gophers have 36 potential gameday uniform combinations (from Matt Larsen). … The endzone at Ford Field in Detroit has been painted Carolina blue for the Quick Lane Bowl. ”¦ “I found this shot of what appears to be a white helmet for Mizzou, although I can’t tell if it is an actual helmet or just a shell for practice,” says Trent Daniel. “Interesting regardless.”

Hockey News: Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby showed off the vintage-looking pads, blocker and glove he will wear in the Winter Classic. Here is a separate video of the goalie mask (thanks, Phil). … The Frood Mine Tigers won the Allan Cup in 1937. They played at Stanley Stadium in Copper Cliff, Ontario and here is an interior shot when it opened in 1935 (cool history lesson, Will Scheibler).

Basketball News: The Chicago Bulls Christmas jerseys have arrived at the Bull Market at the United Center. ”¦ The University of Michigan announced via Twitter yesterday that the Wolverines will wear special 1989 white throwback jerseys for a Big Ten game against Minnesota on Jan. 10 at the Crisler Center (thanks, Phil). ”¦ Cardozo High School in Queens is wearing that crazy Under Armour shorts template. Here’s another view (from Aaron Scholder).

Grab Bag: Police officers in many cities responded to Saturday’s Brooklyn cop killings by wearing black mourning bands on their badges yesterday. That included officers in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Norwalk, Connecticut, among other places. … The French army has a cycling team and they wear camo kits (from Sean Clancy). … “I attempted to recreate the old Maryland Arrows logo of the original National Lacrosse League (1974-1975) this past weekend,” says Marc Viquez. “Here is what I came up with, which I’ll add to a T-shirt sometime in the future.” ”¦ New away jersey for the River Plate soccer club in Argentina (from Paul Lee).

Comments (106)

    I’ve always wondered why there are 2 spellings for gray/grey. Never knew that one was American and one was British. Thanks for the info.

    I also never knew there was a British/American distinction between the grey/gray. I was just always taught that both were acceptable. I have also always gravitated towards grey, though I honest have no idea why.

    Also also, I have now read grey and gray enough times this morning that the words are starting to look funny and lose meaning.

    Perhaps Paul will take it a step further. Instead of typing “the color gray”, he might try “the colour grey”. English-out dude!

    In the early decades after American independence, there were a number of attempts to simplify and Americanize English spelling. Many instances of this – “color” instead of “colour” – are credited to Webster, but he was only part of a larger movement. A good chance that “gray” comes from that movement, since it’s a closer match to the phonetics of American English, which has had more nasal, rounded vowels since colonial times.

    Still, I’m a snobby Anglophile at heart, so I’m with Paul on “grey.” It really is the more dreary spelling, and thus appropriate to the word. The letter A is just too inherently jaunty for the word.

    I’d hazard a guess that most Canadians, especially those my age or older, are likely to be aware of the British/American spellings as “Canadian English” is a largely a combination of British and American conventions. If I have a choice of US or UK for spell checkers, UK English will give me less headaches than US.

    I used to have email addresses with grey as part of the name and still have some forum names that start with grey. While the official Canadian spelling of the colour may have had some influence, I’d like to think that the greater influence was the feel I got from the grey spelling. In my mind, ‘Grey’ has a darker and more substantial feel to it than ‘gray’ does.

    I thought it was standard to use “gray” when the word stood alone, but “grey” when in combination with another word. Examples:
    gray skies
    slate grey

    The color will always be gray to be. Plus, spelling it as “grey” reminds me too much of a nighttime soap opera.

    What possible difference does it make to me, or anyone else who doesn’t work for the companies involved or wear the uniforms, what lifestyle brand the Yomiuri Giants wear? It’s not just Japanese baseball; I feel the same way about the announcements of which company a given college, or even pro league, switches to.

    An announcement of a new company switch in itself a lot of the time doesn’t mean much to me (unless it comes with a picture that shows some at least minor departures from past looks). In theory, it doesn’t matter all that much to me which company a team or league switches to.

    While past practices don’t necessarily indicate future practices, how a company has handled a particular sport in the past and how they having been ‘stamping’ their recent look on their products and uniforms could be an indicator of what the uniform may look like especially if a team or league falls hook, line, and sinker for their spiel.

    Those that are more in the know than I usually am, may have a feeling of elation or trepidation when they hear of the announcement of a company taking over a league of team that they follow.

    To me, the two spellings of the word are almost two different shades of the color. ‘Gray’ is more like graphite and ‘grey’ is more of a drab London fog color. Definitely prefer the E spelling, but I think “Grays” is one of the better unused potential nicknames for a major sports team in America. Maybe if Seattle gets an NHL team–name it after the ubiquitous Puget Sound gray whale. If the Rays move, maybe slap a G on the front. Indiana Grays, Oklahoma City Grays, etc.

    Re: the Collector’s Corner NBA magnets. Not only did the listing say NFL, but the magnet set is clearly from the early eighties rather than the seventies. The divisional alignment (and existence of the Mavs) mean 1980-1981 season at the earliest. It couldn’t be from any later than 1984, when the Clippers moved to LA. The real headscratcher is the presence of a New York Nets magnet.

    I was thinking the same thing on why there are six magnets in the Atlantic Division when there were only 5 teams. The logos point to early-80s (Mavs began in 1980-81). I have a set from 1985, when the Clippers had the new logo (still said San Diego, even though they moved to LA the year before) and the Kings spent their last season in Kansas City.

    They have 2 magnets for the Nets…a NY Nets and a NJ Nets…that accounts for the extra team. Why that is is anyone’s guess.

    They probably had lots of NY Nets leftovers?
    Yeah, that’s early 80s, not the 70s. Ah, the tail end of Larry O’Brien’s tenure…my favorite time for the NBA. Pre-Sterling Clippers in San Diego, Kings in KC, Mavs in green and blue, Rockets and Hawks in ketchup and mustard, Thunder…er, Sonics in green and gold, the 3-point line properly used as a last resort instead of an overused low-percentage weapon, the best of three opening playoff round, and of course, Brent Musberger calling the games on CBS. Tape delay shmape delay…it was a great time.

    “I think “Grays” is one of the better unused potential nicknames for a major sports team in America”

    That was one of the finalists for Washington; I’m still frustrated that the rebranded Expos ended up with the bland “Nationals” rather than serving as an ongoing tribute to the Negro Leagues.

    Sounds like “Grace.” Seattle Grays/Seattle Grace [Hospital], anyone? Scott?

    “scott | December 23, 2014 at 9:07 am | Reply
    The color will always be gray to be. Plus, spelling it as “grey” reminds me too much of a nighttime soap opera.”

    This article explores the botched logo/shield release by the Raptors this past Friday. In addition it confirms that Drake, who has some influence on the Raptors, has been pushing for a black/gold colour scheme

    I’m recopying it from yesterday’s posts


    Yeah, they have the whole dinosaur-mascot field to themselves. One of the few teams that are actually unique.

    I’ve got a lot of problems with you people…

    …and now you’re gonna hear about it!

    Phil, this year, instead of getting you a gift, I’ve made a donation in your name to The Human Fund.

    Regarding Ben writing his number inside the logo, that must be how they identify them because Todd Haley had his initials on his.

    The UA basketball shorts template on Cardozo HS looks just fine IMO, at least in that color combination and when partnered with (as here) a fairly traditional, understated jersey.

    What I’m more intrigued (read: turned off) by is their opponent’s uniform: the dotted line/block panel pattern running the entire length of it just looks busy for the sake of looking busy, and one player even seems to have orange dots (though I’m guessing that’s a lighting illusion). They look ludicrous by comparison to Cardozo.

    For the record, I’ve loved just about every iteration of that UA shorts design that I’ve seen. And I agree that the Cardozo version is a particularly nice rendition.

    Snazzy, aren’t they? Whenever I see them, I’m reminded of the Astros and the Bucks. Using different shades and tints of the team colors shows thinking out of the box.

    I love the helmet art on that 70’s Thermos (and any other items it appeared on)! The logos are huge on many of the helmets. I wish they were that size in real life.

    I love that thermos!

    I instantly become nostalgic for my youth when I see anything NFL related from that era. It recalls days of learning all the NFL teams and the logos and conferences/divisions and then buying NFL pencils, mini helemets from gumball machines, and looking through the Sears catalogue at all the NFL branded clothing that I wish I could buy.

    All but 2 teams appear to have gray/grey facemasks…San Diego in yellow and Tampa Bay (incorrectly in white(?)).
    By the time that Thermos hit the market, a number of teams had switched away from them. Why couldn’t the manufacturer get those others right?

    It’s also kinda weird the way the Raiders helmet is depicted as being obviously shiny and metallic, while the other silver helmets (Cowboys, Lions, Seahawks) are all more of a flat gray.

    The thermos design is obviously from 1976, since Tampa Bay is pictured as an AFC team. When the expansion for the Bucs and Seahawks happened, the Bucs and Seahawks were initially placed in the AFC West and NFC West, respectively, and given a schedule of ‘all 13 original teams in their conference, plus a game against each other’ (14-game schedules at that time).

    In 1977, they were switched into their permanent (until 2002) homes of the NFC Central and AFC West and given the same arrangement (just now in opposite conferences).

    To me, gray is the color, and grey (or Grey) is the name. Maybe that’s just because I’m ‘Murican.

    Did anyone else notice that the NBA magnet board only has 23 teams, because the Nets are on there twice, both as the New York Nets and the New Jersey Nets?

    I gotta say those horizontal striped Under Armour logos just look right for high school basketball!

    I was checking out the team store for the Mavericks the other day after I saw the photo of the Rajon Rondo jersey in a store window minutes after the trade was announced. I didn’t find Rondo’s jersey but I did find a Steve Nash throwback jersey:

    Does this strike anyone else as strange? His career is essentially over, but Nash plays for the Lakers. He played for Phoenix before that. I don’t remember ever seeing a jersey for a player who currently plays for another team being kept in stock and being sold at full price before.

    The Packers sold Favre jerseys during his entire tenure with the Jets.

    I seem to remember they may have taken them off the shelves when he went to the Vikings, but I’m not even 100% sure about that.

    I can’t say for certain, but I have little doubt that if former Philadelphia NFL team owner Norman Braman had any say/pull with NFL Properties he would have had them continue to crank out Reggie White jerseys.

    It looks to me as though the Mizzou player has some kind of white tape/wrap covering his helmet. The picture was taken during their last practice at home, which is their “NFL Day” a.k.a, Wear Whatever You Want Day.

    I like your way or remembering which gray to use, grAy in America and grEy in England. I always forget which way it went, but I always start to write grey then change it to conform. Well not anymore! :D Btw, Greyhound spells it with an E…

    The title of this post is ironic, for me at least. I’ve always used “grey” for the color. When I see “gray” my first thought is that it is a name. That is another level of irony because I see somebody above looks at the two spellings in the opposite manner.

    Obviously both spellings are used for names. However, the highly unscientific method of scanning Wikipedia for people named Grey or Gray turns up about twice as many results for Gray. Most of the results for people named Grey are for British royalty (e.g. Lady Jane Grey).

    I’ve always used both spellings depending on connotation.

    “Gray” connotes a warmer tone, a feeling of contentment , and overall pastoral vibe, e.g.: “The away team took the field that nice summer afternoon donning their road grays.”

    “Grey” connotes the more familiar drab and dull feelings usually associated therewith (link).

    I think I’ve always used grey.
    The trend with football and basketball to go light grey bugs when there isn’t much contrast between the NOB/number (sometimes the field/court) and the uniform itself.

    Paul – I agree 100% with the preference for “grey”. Agree also that it more close matches the spirit of the color than “gray”. Thanks for making this change and given the influence this site and your column has on the uni-verse, we may see “grey” “blow up” as the youngsters say.

    The C’Mon Cavs on that bumper sticker refers to the team’s fight song from the 1970s, which featured the lyrics “C’mon Cavs, gonna’ make it happen!”

    You can hear it (along with some other fight songs from Cleveland’s teams) here: link

    Grey is great!…. er…Grey-t!

    Odd formatting for mobile user today. Different adds, chrome kicked me off oage a lot. Basic browser didn’t show comments. New mobile formatting or odd occurance today?

    Yeah, my iPad was wacky! Fortunately I saw the button to return to the “Classic” look. :^)

    Paul, it must feel great to have a site so great it also has a “Classic” version!!

    Interesting analysis of gray/grey.

    I’ve always preferred gray for one reason: In our auto-complete culture (not just phones; I do a lot of work in Excel in my day job), if you have a list of colors, starting with “g-r-e” can result in getting “green” if you work too quickly. “g-r-a” more quickly delineates between gray and green, which can make things go faster and be more accurate.

    Small thing in the grand scheme, but it’s why I’ve settled on “gray” for my uses.

    Are the Yomiyuri Giants home whites looking a little sheer to anyone? Seems like you can see the black undershirts though them… Or is that just the lighting?

    I’ve always preferred “grey” but I tend to use either or both, randomly and interchangeably, without much rhyme or reason. I just looked at the link which I wrote nearly all of (bit by bit over time), and as I suspected it appears I used both, injudiciously, all throughout the article. I may have to go back and edit…

    All in all, Noah Webster was an incorrigible crank who left English spelling more chaotic than he found it. For that reason, I’m not displeased when American usage reverts from his example.

    Another interesting reversion: for a long time now, the spelling “theatre” has been gaining on “theater” in American usage, and might even be the more common spelling at this point.

    “Grey” and “gray” are phonetically neutral to most Americans; either spelling naturally rhymes with “they” to most speakers of American English. (A point for the “e” spelling in that.) Whereas, personally, when I see the American spelling of a place that houses a stage, I pronounce it “THEE-uh-terr,” and when I see the English spelling, I pronounce it “thee-ah-TRUH” like a right proper toff.

    That’s an example in which British English is superior: One word is preferable to two for the sake of precision and elegance, so “cinema” is better than “movie theater.”

    I think my general rule of thumb is that gray is the adjective, and Grey is more often than not how to spell the common last name. (Mr. Gray is akin to Mr. Nice Guy, as in “no more Mr. Nice Guy.”) Just so. But I’ll probably just gloss over it while reading, and I won’t raise a stink about it. (Heck, I like the fact that you have an opinion here that I never would have thought to ponder!) One thing’s for sure, it’ll be a lot less intrusive on my eyes than the British u. To these American eyes, it looks all kinds of wrong, and it looked horrible at McGill!

    I prefer gray to grey. Like I prefer labor and favor to labour and favour. I prefer a republic to a constitutional monarchy and baseball to “the beautiful game”. I prefer Washington to George III, Roosevelt to Churchill and Reagan to Thatcher. I prefer beer and peanuts to tea and crumpets. I prefer driving on the left side of the road and steering wheels on the left side of the car. I prefer gas to petrol, elevators to lifts and pronouncing schedule with a hard “k” instead of a “sh”. I prefer buses to lorries and coffee to tea. I also prefer Grant to Cromwell, the FBI to Scotland Yard and American GRAY Squirrels to English reds.

    I remember when you didn’t get a point for just kicking the ball in the endzone! I remember when you could spell words like “flavour” and “colour” without using a “u”!

    So, just because it’s American, it’s better? That’s just as bad as the Anglophiles to say that just because it’s English, it’s better.

    When in Rome . . . Georgia.

    p.s. I also prefer Bourbon to Scotch, the Marines to the Black Watch, Harvard to Cambridge, Blues to Mersey Beat, Jazz to Skiffel, Hamilton to Malthus, Twain to Dickens and Shelby to Jaguar.

    I prefer beer and peanuts to tea and crumpets. I prefer driving on the left side of the road and steering wheels on the left side of the car.

    Apparently you’ve been driving after drinking said beer. Slide over to the right lane, mate.

    When I was read Mainsparks first comment I started imagining it in the style of the ‘I am Canadian’ rant commercial.


    Great post! I agree that Grey feels more monochromatic, and Gray feels more like “gay” aka cheerful, and therefor makes me feel like it is more colorful. When it comes to Grey/Gray there are numerous ways to make it. You have monochromatic and chromatic, or greys made of a single color, black pigment, with the addition of white base pigment to lighten the hue (monochromatic), or you have the more rich and beautiful grays made of cyan, magenta, yellow and black pigments all being mixed together at somewhat equal values. One way to have fun with it is to refer to monochromatics as Grey and chromatics as Gray…


    There was also a newscaster in Cincinnati named Clyde Gray. One day the Crayola company put out a contest to create new names for their colors and he jokingly submitted Clyde Gray.

    “Gray” or “Grey”…both feel the same.

    But when you used the word “greyer”…now that just looks weird. “Grayer” works a lot better for me, I’m still calling it “gray.”

    Then again, gray reminds me of Jim Gray. Maybe I’ll use “grey” and “grayer.”

    There are some great unis in Japanese baseball and like the Yomiyuri Giants there are some MLB clones like the Hiroshima Carp. I do wish, though, ESPN or the MLB network would show Nippon League Baseball here. Pretty good baseball to watch. Hard as hell to find yakyu jerseys, caps, etc, here in the US too.

    “I’m announcing a momentous change in official Uni Watch policy: As of right now, I’m going to start spelling grey with an “e,” at least on this site.”

    link, man. You sold out. ;)

    Hey Paul. I’m having a lot of issues with the mobile re-design (I’m using an iPhone 5). It’s not just the comments. Generally, the mobile site is not formatting/loading correctly. The navigation is screwy and unresponsive. It also switches between articles when you attempt to scroll down. Mobile iis basically usuable at this time. I’m thankful for classic view bc I need my daily fix

    I am American, but I prefer Grey. I think it feels more “right” to me because I visualize The CFL’s Grey Cup, so “gray” just looks weird to me.

    Also, the small “w” that Mercer uses makes a large “W” with the negative space that it creates.

    American. Not “gay”, but I try to be colorful (or “colourful”), warm regarding my fellow humans and generally content with life.
    Not sure how much the name factored in the scheme of things…

    As something of an expert on gray vs grey, I have to say “go fuck yourself.” All kidding aside, I usually refer to the color as gray, the weather as grey and ambiguity as “gray area.”

    g-r-ae-y? Surely some fancy pants reader here uses that Old English combo-letter? The Internet tells me it’s called “ash?”

    Honestly, though, I use “grey” because I’m partial to the letter E.

Comments are closed.