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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..?
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.
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.)
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.