Romanian Soccer Team Provides Math Lesson

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Interesting move yesterday by the Romanian soccer team, as players warmed up for the friendly against Spain while wearing jerseys and jackets with various mathematical sequences in place of their usual uniform numbers.

The move was part of a program to improve math performance in Romanian schools, which have among the highest dropout rates in the European Union.

I like that they didn’t just do basic addition and subtraction. As you can see above, they included some exponents, and there were also fractions (click to enlarge):

We’ve seen math symbols on soccer jerseys before, but I think only plus signs. When Ivan Zamorano transfered to Inter Milan a few years ago, for example, his No. 9 shirt was taken, so he chose No. 18 but added a plus sign in between the numerals to symbolize his preferred number:

Clinton Morrison did something similar while playing for Conventry City in 2008-09:

I feel like there’s been at least one other soccer player who’s done this, I think around 2004 or ’05. Anyone..?

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Is this worth getting upset about? On Friday I broke a small bit of news when I tweeted the word, which I’d gotten from an industry source, that MLB has banned personalized bat knob decals for the coming season (like Matt Duffy’s design, shown above). Standardized designs with team logos and player numbers are still fine, but individualized designs are not.

Twitter-ers totally flipped out. Granted, it’s just Twitter, but still, the response was overwhelming — and angry. Dozens and dozens of “no fun league” comments, with a serious side order of “This is why nobody likes baseball anymore” and plenty of “You’ll see, they want to sell MLB-branded versions, it’s all about money.”

Personally, I think bat knob decals are kinda silly to begin with. I’ve written about them pretty extensively, in part because they’re a small detail and I tend to obsess over small details (and also because the main manufacturer/supplier of them has provided me with a lot of access, so I’ve had a front-row seat as the trend has unfolded over the past five years), but I don’t see what’s wrong with writing your uni number on the knob with a Magic Marker. Worked for decades, wasn’t broke, didn’t need to be fixed.

That said, if we’re gonna have bat knob decals, I don’t see why they can’t be personalized, especially since the players are pretty much the only ones who’ll ever see them. And that’s what makes the angry reaction to the new rule so odd — most of the people complaining about it will never be able to see the difference anyway. Several people said they weren’t even aware that bat knob decals existed until now, but they’re pissed off — like, really pissed off — about MLB exerting its control over them.

Ultimately, bat knob decals aren’t a big deal one way or the other. But they’re an interesting barometer of how fans — or at least a certain subset of fans who express themselves on Twitter — feel about things like player individuality, league control, and merchandising.

Meanwhile: Yes, yes — Billy Ripken. We all know. Let’s not bother going there. Thanks.

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PermaRec update: It’s not every day that you can read something that brings together the worlds of livestock-scratching equipment, brush manufacturers, and the old TV show What’s My Line?, but that’s the case with the latest entry on Permanent Record. Check it out here.

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Paul

Baseball News: For those who’ve been asking/wondering: My 18th annual MLB season preview column will be posted on ESPN this Friday. … I’ve heard good things about this new movie about fastballs, which is apparently an entertainingly in-depth look at a topic that’s more complex than we might think. … Craig Mac was in the Nats’ clubhouse recently and saw this great display showing all of the team’s color-coded credentials (with generic gnome faces!) and a similar one showing MLB credentials. … Interesting uniforms for a 1989 Czech baseball team. … The Tijuana Toros appear to be using a promotional photo of Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista in a Toros uniform. “I did some quick research and I don’t see him ever playing for the Toros,” says Mike Ortman. … Yesterday’s Cubs/Mariners game was delayed due to a swarm of bees, with Cubs OF Jason Heyward ending up with 10 stings on his face. Maybe Heyward, who wears a protective faceguard on his batting helmet, should wear it in the field as well. … The famous fight between Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura has been immortalized in a T-shirt. “I saw that in Austin, Texas, earlier this month,” says our own Scott M.X. Turner. … Mitchell & Ness has just put out a shirt with the Mets’ famous “Ya gotta believe” slogan and a 1969 World Series patch. But “Ya gotta believe” didn’t yet exist in ’69 — Tug McGraw came up with it in 1973, as the Mets were on their way to the N.L. pennant. Bad history on M&N’s part.

Pro Football News: Whoa, check out the 1935 Fromm’s Foxes, a semipro team from Wisconsin that played the Packers in an exhibition game on Aug. 31, 1935. “The team was just the Merrill city team until the Fromm Brothers Fox Ranch ponied up the $300 guarantee to bring the Packers to town — hence the name,” explains Jeff Ash. “The Packers won, 34-0. Photo taken at Athletic Park in Merrill, Wisconsin and posted to a Wausau hometown Facebook page.” … The Duke City Gladiators — that’s an arena team — took flag desecration to a new level on Saturday (from Jason Johnson). … Here’s something weird: a Seahawks blanket with an NBA tag. … Good article about how the science connecting football to CTE is still developing. … Really interesting piece on the code names that NFL coaches use for linebackers. Recommended (big thanks to Greg Franklin).

Hockey News: Reader Patrick Thomas’s friend showed him these stickers of Atlanta Thrashers-style logos. It’s not clear if these were prototype designs, someone’s concepts, or what. Anyone know more about them?

NBA News: My recent rant about NBA commish Adam “It’s Inevitable” Silver describing the spread of uniform ads as “Manifest Destiny” reminded Jeff Lang that the Gap put out a Manifest Destiny T-shirt a few years back, which prompted so much outrage that they had to pull the shirt. Maybe we’ll see a similar backlash if Silver is foolish enough to keep using the phrase. Don’t let me down, Adam!

College and Amateur Hoops News: Here’s another article about those omnipresent “Always Reppin'” shirts. … Love this shot of a women’s basketball team from the Green Bay YMCA, circa 1930 (from Jeff Ash). … Funny that the Regional Champion trophy includes a logo that includes the trophy. Another missed opportunity for an infinite regression! (From James Gilbert.)

Soccer News: New logo for the Japan Football Association (from Jeremy Brahm). … Here’s a history of reversible soccer jerseys (from Jonathan Wilhelmi).

Grab Bag: There’s a petition drive to provide the Masters’ Green Jacket with a proper garment bag. … The “athleisure” clothing category is heating up (from Tommy Turner). … Nike designed and owned Manny Pacquiao’s “MP” logo. But Nike, to their credit, severed ties with Pacquiao after the boxer recently said gay people are “worse than animals,” so Pacquiao’s mouthpiece for his upcoming fight with Timothy Bradley will have a new logo. … Sometimes a really simple design element can go a long way. Case in point: Check out the white lines on this vintage wing nut flier. So gorgeous! (Big thanks to Joanna Zweip.) … Did you know that the tennis balls used by men and women on the pro tour are slightly different? I didn’t, until Andy Murray complained about having to use a women’s ball on Saturday.

48 comments to Romanian Soccer Team Provides Math Lesson

  • James G | March 28, 2016 at 8:00 am |

    MLB worries about personalized bat knob stickers but doesn’t enforce a uniform code like requiring stirrups, sanis, and going at least mid-calf. The MLB powers that be can’t seem to grasp pajama pants look horrible. Takes away some of the color of the game. Instead, let’s focus on something most fans never will even see up close, bat knob stickers.

    • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 8:06 am |

      Changing the pants/stirrups rule (or, rather, creating one) would require union approval and would fall under the CBA.

      • Neeko | March 28, 2016 at 9:53 am |

        Where in the CBA is this?

        • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 10:00 am |

          Any change to the uniform guidelines have to be collectively bargained.

        • scottrj | March 28, 2016 at 10:37 am |

          Attachment A, beginning on p. 193.

        • scottrj | March 28, 2016 at 10:37 am |

          Sorry, Attachment 19.

      • Le Cracquere | March 28, 2016 at 11:45 am |

        If that’s what it takes, then here’s hoping MLB hires some Pinkertons next time around.

        • mild bill | March 28, 2016 at 12:18 pm |

          I doubt even that would help.

          MLB has the strongest union in America. As exhibit one, no salary cap.

        • scott | March 28, 2016 at 4:11 pm |

          Thankfully there’s no salary cap.

  • Brian | March 28, 2016 at 8:08 am |

    I think the Bat-Knob issue is bothersome because it’s so inconsequntial. There’s zero reason for MLB to ban them other than a seemingly obsessive desire to stamp nothing but their logo on every open space on every piece of equipment possible.

    • scott | March 28, 2016 at 4:19 pm |

      I’d like to hear a reason for why MLB did this. For now, we have a lot of columns and commenters calling MLB the new No Fun League, basically arguing the league is banning personalized bat knob stickers because it could. But many of MLB’s directives have a reason; it seems logical this one does, too.

  • Rob S | March 28, 2016 at 8:15 am |

    “Duck City Gladiators” is one of the more amusing typos I’ve seen. Though I don’t know how any readers from Albuquerque (the Duke City) would feel about it.

    • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 8:30 am |

      It *is* amusing — but now fixed.

  • Thom D. | March 28, 2016 at 8:15 am |

    Dont we already have a league that goes overboard with these types of rules for their player’s freedom of expression. Dont become the NFL is this aspect, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL.JUST SAY NO TO ROBOTS IN MLB.

  • BurghFan | March 28, 2016 at 8:15 am |

    What happens when the beer on the bat knob sticker isn’t fictional, whether or not it has anything to do with the player’s name? It’s certainly easier for MLB to just ban individualized stickers than it is to try and decide what’s acceptable on a case-by-case basis.

    • arrScott | March 28, 2016 at 12:46 pm |

      It’s certainly easier for MLB to just ban individualized stickers than it is to try and decide what’s acceptable on a case-by-case basis.

      The very plausibility of this hypothesis is near the top of the things on my personal list of Things That Have Gone Wrong With Our Society. Safer, or easier, to adopt and apply a general rule that’s unfair to many than to make case-by-case judgments that might potentially be unfair to a few.

      Also, hey you kids get off my lawn.

  • Phil Hecken | March 28, 2016 at 8:16 am |

    “Did you know that the tennis balls used by men and women on the pro tour are slightly different?”


    Yeah, it says it in the article, but the balls are actually the same (size, pressure), but the men use “heavy-duty” felt, whereas the ladies use “regular duty” felt. There’s not *much* difference, but enough that one can tell the difference, and they play slightly differently. At that level, it can make a yuuuuuuge difference.

    For the club/regular player, the difference is really durability. At the pro level, balls are changed every 7 or 9 games, so they don’t really “wear out” over the course of time. But most non-tournament players will open one can of balls before a match and use them for the entire match. You’d (usually) use heavy duty on hard courts and regular duty on har-tru/clay courts, as the hard courts tend to wear down the felt relatively quickly; the clay/har-tru, on the other hand, will cause heavy-duty balls to get heavy (as the balls pick up moisture/material) from the court, so normally regular duty balls are used on those courts.

    If you’ve been playing with one type, you can definitely notice a difference (even at non-pro levels). I’m not a fan of Andy Murray — but he does have a legit gripe here.

    • Mike Engle | March 28, 2016 at 11:37 am |

      Tennis players are very gripe-y…but they should be, as individual independent contractor businessmen. I see no problem.

      • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 11:41 am |

        And women.

        • Mike Engle | March 28, 2016 at 11:42 am |

          Haven’t had enough coffee yet + allergies = I’m not thinking straight. But yes.

  • tony c | March 28, 2016 at 8:32 am |

    > The Duck City Gladiators – that’s an arena team – took flag desecration to a new level on Saturday (from Jason Johnson)

    i think they are trying to emulate the “American Gladiator” look/feel

    side note, i never noticed the Adidas logo creep on the Gladiators’ unitards before

  • Jim Vilk | March 28, 2016 at 9:18 am |

    Technically the Gladiators are not an arena team. They’re an indoor team. There are a few indoor leagues but only one Arena Football League.

    • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 9:19 am |

      They play in an arena: They are an arena team. They may not be an Arena (capitalized) team, but they are an arena (lowercase) team.

  • James | March 28, 2016 at 9:36 am |

    Did you mean to credit me for those Thrashers logos or someone else? I was thrown by seeing my name in the hockey section.

    • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 9:53 am |

      Wasn’t it you?

      • PT | March 28, 2016 at 11:46 am |

        Twas me.

        • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 11:52 am |

          Sorry, Patrick — brain cramp on my part. Will revise the text now!

  • Jim Vilk | March 28, 2016 at 9:36 am |

    True. But when someone says arena football most people probably think of the goalposts with the side nets. The other indoor leagues don’t have those.

    • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 9:54 am |

      Actually, when someone says, “arena football,” I’m pretty sure most people just think of costume-y uniforms and fourth-rate players.

      • Adam N. | March 28, 2016 at 10:52 am |


    • Ryan Madden | March 28, 2016 at 3:22 pm |

      To me, the terms are interchangeable. We’ve had a few teams from a few different leagues over the past 15 years or so; most (teams or leagues) don’t seem to last more than a few years, so I never bothered to learn the distinctions between all the leagues that have existed.

      That being said, upon conducting some research (I visited Wikipedia), there was a patent that existed for “arena football,” whose rules were invented in 1981, from 1987-2007. The league that played under these exact rules was, of course, the AFL, which first played in ’87 and obtained a new owner 5 or 6 years ago.

      I apologize for being among the masses that assumed “arena” and “indoor” are one and the same. I presume the AFL is the one that gets shown on national TV once or twice a year, on slow sports weekends, so I’m familiar with the nets, but I wouldn’t have guessed those don’t exist in other “indoor” leagues.

  • walter | March 28, 2016 at 9:47 am |

    Adam Silver’s misuse of the phrase “Manifest Destiny” reminds me up the dustup Sarah Palin got into when she accused critics nipping at her heels of carrying out a “Blood Libel”, or when Pat Buchanan and his pals use “America First” as a slogan for U.S. exceptionalism. Celebs and pols (and league commissioners) have a tentative grasp of history.

    • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 9:58 am |

      It’s funny that you mention “U.S. exceptionalism.”

      The more common term, of course, is “American exceptionalsim,” which happens to be the contemporary term most closely analogous to Manifest Destiny these days. “American exceptionalism” is primarily a bogus term that attempts to put a positive marketing spin on jingoism, but there are some genuine examples of American exceptionalism out there, and one of them, as I’ve proudly and patriotically pointed out in countless interviews over the years, is that American sports teams — unlike their counterparts in most other parts of the world — don’t wear ads on their uniforms. That’s a legitimate case of American exceptionalism. And Adam Silver wants to put an end to it.

      So while Manifest Destiny and American exceptionalism come from a similar place, Adam Silver has managed the neat trick of invoking the former to justify eliminating a genuine example of the latter. That’s a pretty rich irony (although one that, I’m sure, would be lost on Silver).

      • arrScott | March 28, 2016 at 1:05 pm |

        There’s just something about democratic politics that makes it so that any useful idea is eventually warped by politicians into meaning its opposite. “American exceptionalism” was originally coined to describe the origins of certain kinds of American civic ideology and foreign policy traditions. As such, it was both a description and a warning against blind acceptance of some of the most dangerous currents of American jingoism. Today, it’s most frequently used to justify, indeed to demand, those very same worst impulses of national arrogance. It used to mean, “America sometimes doesn’t follow the rules because it regards itself as exceptional,” whereas now it means, “America should never follow the rules because it is exceptional.”

        Similarly, Ronald Reagan spoke in his later speeches of America as “a city on a hill,” by which he meant that America was awesome. Whereas when the Pilgrim father John Winthrop introduced the phrase “city on a hill” into the American tradition in 1630, he meant it as a warning. Not, Y’all are gonna be awesome, but, The eyes of the world will be upon this new society we’re building, and anything we do wrong will be used to discredit liberty, self-government, and the Protestant faith. To Winthrop, “city on a hill” was a warning of, “guys, don’t screw this up.” Today, “city on a hill” is a brag of, “guys, we freakin’ rock.”

        Even the tired old saw of “My country, right or wrong” is today used either to justify the worst excesses of American policy or to condemn patriotic expression generally. Yet when Stephen Decatur first spoke the phrase, the toast he offered was, “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!” Which actually expresses a pretty sophisticated understanding of the realities of national wrongness and also the possibility of offering praise and loyalty even as one acknowledges failings. As a political platform, it’s of course abhorrent, but as a toast at a military officer’s table, it’s pretty sharp.

  • Noah Wolf | March 28, 2016 at 10:39 am |


    “New for the Japan Football Association”

    I assume you meant to say new logo

    • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 10:41 am |

      Yup — thanks. Now fixed.

  • Ted | March 28, 2016 at 11:28 am |

    For what it’s worth (very little), the Nats Gnome face isn’t entirely generic. It’s actually from the Jayson Werth garden gnome they gave away a few seasons ago.

  • Mike D | March 28, 2016 at 12:11 pm |

    Speaking of ads, would it be possible for a presidential candidate to buy ad space on a team uniform to promote their campaign?

    • Paul Lukas | March 28, 2016 at 12:30 pm |

      It depends on what you mean by “possible.”

      I’m sure a political campaign could bid for space on a team uniform just like any other operation (assuming the team in question was selling ads on its unis). But the team is under no obligation to accept every ad proposal that comes its way, and I can’t imagine a team would choose to accept political advertising on a uniform (or in its stadium, etc.). No candidate is 100% popular (or, in most cases, even 60% popular), so why risk angering a large percentage of your customer base?

  • Elena Elms | March 28, 2016 at 12:42 pm |

    Makes no difference to me if players can have special bat knob decals or not. It doesn’t make MLB less fun or less popular. People who don’t like baseball because players can’t have personalized bat knobs would never like it anyway. I’d like to see MLB catchers allowed to have their favorite brand of catchers’ mask personalized again, but it’s still not a big deal to me.

    • Adam N. | March 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm |

      Nobody is going to not like baseball because players can’t have custom bat knob decals. They dislike MLB officials for not allowing it. Big difference.

  • Ian T | March 28, 2016 at 1:20 pm |

    The Duke City Gladiator player in the first picture of the link is wearing a watch on his left wrist. You don’t see that very often!

  • Ed | March 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm |

    Interesting idea for the Masters Garment Bag. The website mentions that past champions would be given one as well but this is technically not necessary. Only the current champion is allowed to have their Green Jacket outside of Augusta and they must return it at the start of the next years tournament. All other Green Jackets must stay on Augusta property.

    • dave | March 29, 2016 at 1:51 pm |

      That garment bag is an upgrade, yes, but for all the language in that piece of theirs demanding a garment bag of the highest quality, it hardly seems to fit the bill. it looks very middle of the road, and they couldn’t even be bothered to color match the green of the actual jacket. if augusta wanted something as prestigious and classic as the jacket itself, they might want to steer away from something that looks like it came off the sale rack at urban outfitters.

  • Seth H | March 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm |

    I was lucky enough to see “Fastball” when it debuted at the TriBeCa Film Festival. (Full disclosure: The producer/director is a childhood friend of mine.). The movie is very interesting and entertaining for any baseball fan. And, because it covers lots of history, has lots of interest for uniwatching. Last Friday’s NY Times gave it an excellent review.

  • Brent | March 28, 2016 at 2:17 pm |

    Interesting uniforms on those Fromm’s foxes. The company is still around, although they moved from fox ranching to pet food back in the 1950’s. It’s what I feed my dogs and cats!

  • Mark in Shiga | March 29, 2016 at 2:28 pm |

    Mathematical expressions on jerseys: I have a picture on my work computer (so I can’t get it off) of a jersey number that looks innocent enough but is in fact so high you’d have to be a genius to calculate it in your head. It has a big 3, then a smaller 5 to the upper right, then a small 7 to the upper right of that. Two exponents: 3^5^7.

    The shirt itself is beige and has blue numbers with white borders, in generic semi-block font. It looks like something from a fraternity team.

  • superfly | March 29, 2016 at 7:01 pm |

    Zambrano had the number 9 jersey “reassigned” (taken) from him when Roberto Baggio signed, Baggio got 10 from Ronaldo (the Brazilian) and Ronaldo got 9 from Bam Bam.