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MLB Merch Train Drives The Show

[If you can’t see the slideshow, view the set here or click here for the show]

By Phil Hecken

As an avid uni watcher, I have “Google Alerts” set for such things as “uniforms,” “jerseys,” “helmets,” “logos” (and cetera), so yesterday I got the following item in my alerts: St. Louis Cardinals 2016 Uniforms from something that deems itself “The Official Sports Blog of the St. Louis Cardinals.” The article included a slideshow, the first slide of which showed the three beautiful jerseys the Cards wear as their uniform set for 2016. Or so I thought.

“Well, this is a lame article” I said to myself, not realizing it was a slideshow and there were 10 additional slides. What followed, and which I’ve reproduced above, are an additional six caps and four jerseys the team will wear throughout the 2016 season. The MLB merch train has effectively DOUBLED the number of uniforms (all of them crappy) and caps the team will sport this season — and it’s all in the name of merchandising.

The gear isn’t new (in that you haven’t seen it before) — it’s the camopander Memorial Day camo, the Flag Desecration 4th of July, the All Star caps (OK, not every member of the team will have the honor of wearing these), plus the new Mother’s Day Pink and Father’s Day blue uniforms. We’d seen these revealed a while ago (the Moms’ & Pops’ day “gear” is all new, they’ve worn special Memorial Day & 7/4 caps/jerseys before, and of course ASG stuff has multiplied in recent years too). But all this got me to thinking — by adding all this new stuff (ostensibly extra crap for fans to spend their spare cash on) — MLB has effectively doubled the number of caps and uniforms for many of its teams in one fell swoop, ALL in the name of meeting some unmet demand for more and more fan-wear. You probably can’t charge a couple hundred bucks for a polyester shirt a team doesn’t wear on the field, but once it’s “official,” well, anything goes.

The ratchet keeps turning. Now, where does it stop?

It wasn’t so long ago that all teams had two uniforms: a home and a road; over the past several decades, teams have added an alternate here and there — yes, some teams like the Bumblebee Pirates had THREE pants and shirts. But for the most part, it was home whites and road grays. The advent of polyester made the alternate jersey a part of the game (although it wasn’t introduced as a pure bit of merchandising). But you still had (and have) a number of teams (Yankees & Tigers to name two) who haven’t even gone the alt route. Yes the Tigers have two caps, but if you want(ed) to wear what the team wore on the field, your options were limited to a white and gray jersey, and two caps. Add to the above set of jerseys some Cardinals will wear are the National League ASG jerseys (so fans will need to pick up a customized jersey of the player[s] who make the squad).

Today, you have some teams like the Padres, Brewers and Diamondbacks who have like 6-8 uniforms (counting homes, roads, home alts, road alts, colored tops, throwbacks, etc.), so adding the 5 new uniforms brings the number of on-field unis that will be worn will easily be in the double-digits. It’s getting out of hand.

I’m not one to begrudge teams introducing multiple uniforms — what they do (and how much of it is influenced by marketing) is their business. And no one is forcing fans to buy the official gear. But I do resent the league pushing the “special” uniforms for one-day events — and the use of camo on Memorial Day is particularly noxious. Even if *proceeds from the sale* of some of these uniforms supposedly “goes to charity,” we all know these are just ‘feel good gestures’ that are purely “Look At Me” moves. If MLB wants to donate to wounded vets, or the USO, or breast/prostate cancer charities, they can certainly do it without bespoiling the sanctity of the uniform. And yet, here we are.

I guess what struck me the most about the St. Louis Cards’ blog article was that one slide was devoted to the teams current uniform, and the remaining 10 were spent on the ‘special’ merch the team will be wearing for five (counting the ASG) actual games. It was almost like, “wow, cool, check out all the new stuff our team will wear” without a hint of derision or skepticism or even shock. We’ve become cultured and accustomed to accepting new and special event uniforms for so long now, no one seems to mind or notice (except for perhaps a very small section of the Twittersphere and a certain uniform blog).

If there are new unis for Moms & Pops’ Day this year, you can expect those unis to stick around for a while — ratchets only turn one way — and don’t be surprised to see some new “gear” in the next few years. It won’t be long before some team is able, if you factor in all the special caps, jerseys, socks etc. that are now available, to go 162 games without repeating a single uniform combination. I exaggerate of course, but if anyone out there is tracking the uni combos of the Diamondbacks this year, I’d love to know how many different outfits they will end up wearing.

OK. Rant over. You can all step back on my lawn now.

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classic scoreboards splash

Classic Ballpark Scoreboards

I’m pleased to continue with a favorite weekend feature here at Uni Watch, “Classic Ballpark Scoreboards,” — now in Series III — which are created by Gary Chanko. This segment will appear every Saturday on Uni Watch.

Here’s Gary (click on image to enlarge):

. . . . . . . . . .

Classic Ballpark Scoreboards – Series III
by Gary Chanko

In this edition Classic Ballpark Scoreboards travels to the Steel City for a look back at Three Rivers Stadium during the initial years.

Three Rivers Stadium_UW

Three Rivers Stadium

Baseball Home of: Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) (1970”“2000)
Football Home of:Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) (1970”“2000); Pittsburgh Maulers (USFL) (1984); Pittsburgh Panthers (NCAA) (2000)
Concerts: All the classics.
Opened: July 16, 1970. The Pirates lost to the Cincinnati Reds 3-2
Closed: December 16, 2000
Demolished: February 11, 2001 Watch the 19-second implosion here.

A Cookie Cutter

They were called cookie-cutter stadiums – multi-sport wonders designed for both baseball and football. By one estimate there were thirteen of these nearly identical concrete donuts that blighted professional sports venues during the 1960s and 70s.

As a group, the cookie-cutters were much maligned for their sterile, symmetrical designs and Three Rivers Stadium shared in all the negative aspects. (See this article about Cookie-Cutter Stadiums for a more descriptive history). Still, an entire generation of Pirates and Steelers fans witnessed all those great championship seasons at Three Rivers and for them the Stadium shortcomings were never as bad as we read about today.

Three Rivers Stadium was late to this cookie dough eating party despite planning activities that began in 1958 to replace the deteriorating Forbes Field. Interesting to note was an early design concept placed the entire stadium over the Monongahela River! In the end the original stadium financing and site urban development plan was not a success as this report examines in detail.

Original Scoreboard

The original scoreboard, for the time, was a state-of-the art graphic display manufactured by Stewart-Warner. The 18,000 light bulb, 30 x 285 ft. giant spanned the upper deck from left to right field.

The entire board was computer controlled by a system housed in five cabinets, each 6 ft x 2.5 ft wide. Moore’s Law was just getting started! (More details here in the July 14, 1970 edition of the Pittsburgh Press, page 45. If you have the time scroll through the entire paper for many articles about Three Rivers Stadium opening). Here’s another fascinating link to one of the programmers for the original scoreboard. Note the input device was punched paper tape.

So the original scoreboard survived until the early eighties and was functioning well for Willie Stargell Day in September 1982. But the scoreboard had seen its time. New technologies offered video display capability and supposedly greater advertising revenue. In 1983 a new $5 million video/scoreboard was relocated to below the rim on the stadium in centerfield.

The graphic illustration depicts the panoramic scoreboard (30×274-ft) as it appeared during Three Rivers Stadium’s initial years. The Roberto Clemente tribute on the left side was originally displayed in January 1973 just after his untimely death on New Years Eve 1972.

A Few Firsts at Three Rivers Stadium

• In the 1971 World Series, Three Rivers Stadium hosted the first World Series game played at night.

• In 1977 Braves owner Ted Turner managed one game for the Atlanta franchise. The event was memorialized on the Three Rivers Stadium scoreboard.

• The Pirates were the first team in baseball to use the double knit style uniforms, which were unveiled for the first game in Three Rivers Stadium.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If anyone is interested in purchasing a digital copy of these posters, Gary is working on an online purchase option. In the interim you can contact him directly at

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UW Friday Flashback

UW’s Friday Flashback

In case you missed it, Paul’s Friday Flashback on ESPN looked at one of my favorite things in the uni-verse, the “Bumblebee” Pirates (about which both Paul & I have written fairly extensively), and this column gives not only the full run-down of all the possible uni combos, but it ventures into the pillbox caps, Stargell Stars, and Dave Parker’s various facemasks he wore due to facial injury.

Great read, so be sure to check it out if you didn’t catch it on Friday!


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Too Good For the Ticker

Too Good…

for the Ticker

Got a note earlier this week from Leo Strawn, Jr., who always has some great tidbits and stories.

It involves a “white whale” so to speak.

Here’s Leo:

. . .

Hey Phil,

GUD nailed it again! Not certain if there were any color photos available to definitely confirm before now. But, either way, I have color screen shots for you. (Still researching and looking for more evidence and have others looking, as well. Will let you know when/if, of course.)

From December 9, 1962, Oakland at Houston.

Even though the game is filmed in bright sunlight, these screen shots of those color film highlights show a definite difference in the value and color of the center stripes of the two teams, even when Oakland’s stripe is pointed directly at the sun. The Raiders center stripe more closely resembles the dirt infield than either their white jerseys or Houston’s white helmet stripe:

yellow helmet1

yellow helmet2
yellow helmet3
yellow helmet6

Not that it’s needed (GUD had it right, Creamer had it right, and now we have color image confirmation to offer to the ones who swear the ’62 Raiders helmet stripe was white), but I thought I’d share this too. Just got this letter back today from the great Jim Otto. He circled “yellow” in the letter he returned to me in order to answer my query, though he noted he doesn’t have a photo. Aside from finding color highlights of the 1962 Raiders, the best part of trying to track down a color photo is that I now have Jim 00’s autograph!

1962 oakland raiders helmet stripe jim otto response

If I ever get a response from Canton or otherwise run across a quality color photo, I’ll immediately pass it along!


— Leo

Thanks, Leo! As always, great stuff!

OK. Now, onto the ticker…

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Uni Watch News Ticker

Baseball News: Rebuilding teams tend to rebrand themselves when they get close to competing again. Considering the Brewers’ jersey choices this season, are they planning their own rebrand? … The Virginia Tech Hokies wore maroon tops yesterday, and they’ll wear white today & orange Sunday (h/t VT Equipment). … Oooohhh — this looks fun: check out this 1950 “Red Barber’s Big League Baseball Game”, including Stan Musial, Pee Wee Reese & Casey Stengel (nice find by Bruce Menard). … Tonight is Special Olympics night for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (h/t OT Sports). … The Hagerstown Suns wore these Autism Awareness jerseys vs. the Hickory Crawdads last night (from OT Sports). … The New Orleans Zephyrs, the Crescent City’s professional baseball team will have a new name beginning in 2017, and a fan contest to pick new team name opens online Monday (h/t Richard Thiberville). … Via Minor League Promos, you can vote on the Frisco RoughRiders Star Trek Night jerseys, with your choices being Spock or Picard. Live long and prosper. … “I liked reading about the Lehigh Valley ‘Cheesesteaks’ on Uni-Watch a few weeks back, so I made a Mets-pepperoni pizza hat and a Yanks-hot dog hat,” says Coachie Ballgames. “Unfortunately, my skills weren’t up to snuff enough to draw a good heaping of sauerkraut on the dog!” … If you’re going to the Mets game on April 30th, and you’re one of the first 15K fans there, you get a free Noah Syndergaard-en gnome (via New York Mets). … Check out these awesome plaid unis for the Tacoma Rainers designed by a student! (from OT Sports). … Check out these these old Brewers programs recreated as wall hangings from MoonlightWraps on Etsy (h/t Borchert Field). … Blake Snell: the first pitcher in Tampa Bay Rays history >to wear a single-digit uniform number (h/t Will Shima). … Several of the Minnesota Twins wore purple wristbands and arm sleeves in honor of Prince yesterday (h/t Ben Matukewicz). … Interesting switchup for Matt Fratboy last night, as the Mets wore gray in Atlanta. As many of you are aware, the Mets almost exclusively wear blue tops (home and road) when Harvey is on the bump. … “Lester Holt” got a shout out in the Cubs/Reds game last night (from Bob Gassel). In case you didn’t get the reference. … Today the BC Eagles will wear these caps, which honor the BC Police Department (from Adam McCready). … The Cincinnati Reds ballgirls have plain red double-flapped helmets (and what look to be non-issued dark gray softball pants). From Billy Outburst). Those are also apparently the first ballgirls ever in Cincy. … “Check out the weird cut of the jersey and collar which creates an overlap in the second g in Georgetown,” says Eric Hoffman. You always gotta respect the rubicon. … The Okie State Cowgirls have some sweet stirrups (from Danny Gilliland). … Pajama fail: “I’m watching the White Sox / Rangers game, and I just noticed something odd about Martin Perez’s pants — the piping on his left leg appears to disappear a bit above his ankle and at first I thought this might be some odd design decision I hadn’t heard about,” writes Eriq Jaffe. “It turns out that the bottom his pant leg had actually wrapped around his leg so that the bottom of the piping is on the inside of his pants. But due to the folds you can’t actually see the stripe cross in front I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.”

NFL News: Dave Dameshek, a football analyst and writer for NFL dot com (among other things), thinks the NFL should make one of the 40s on every field Arizona Cardinals red/white for Pat Tillman. Reason: Kids will ask why, and parent will explain. (For context, he tweeted that yesterday, which marked the anniversary of Tillman’s death in 2004.) … This is outstanding — remember Paul’s flickr collection of the Blue Bronco buckets yesterday? Well, here’s the story behind those (from Ben Swanson, via Paul).

College/Youth Football News: Woody Hayes is not only a legendary coach ”” his name has now been trademarked. In a filing earlier this year, Ohio State University secured trademark designation for the name Woody Hayes from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (thanks to Jason Hillyer). … Check out this Awesome 1950’s Kent Brand Youth Football Helmet with Stars and Stripes (nice find by Doug Smith).

Hockey News: “The other day, while on the internet in the DC area, I found this advertisement for a ticket resale service,” writes Michael Coyne. “Interestingly, the photo they have of Alex Ovechkin appears to show him in an actual Capitals jersey-just with the chest and shoulder (“weagle”) logos removed. Maybe ticker material if it’s a slow day in the hockey department.” … The Xcel Energy Center made a custom Prince jersey back in 2004 to celebrate his three sold out shows (via Xcel Energy Center). … “Noticed watching the Flyers-Caps game tonight that the Capitals center ice logo cuts off the ‘T’ in Washington,” says Mike Wissman. “So it says WASHING ON CAPITALS. Now there’s a t-shirt idea!” … Looks like NBCSN turned the Peacock green for Earth Day yesterday (from DBarraza9). Or…was it green because it was the Wild & the Stars???

NBA/WNBA/Basketball News: Last night the entire Boston TD Garden was covered in green t-shirts for everyone (via Boston Celtics). … The new Seattle Storm uniform advertiser has a similar “S” as the Seattle Sonics last logo (from Brad Iverson-Long). … Would you like to design your own basketball court? Now you can (thanks to James Gilbert). … Here’s a GIF of all the Orlando Magic logos throughout their history (h/t Dave Doop). … “Just spotted this on SportsCenter,” says Anthony Congi. “Any reason why LeBron is wearing his Miami 6 for his practice jersey?” … Here’s a thing from Uproxx: “Redesigning NBA Logos As Hip-Hop Artists, Because The Two Are Already Indelibly Intertwined”. … The Dallas Wings, a WNBA team, have a new home that’s almost ready (from Jim Collier). … There aren’t too many Atlanta Hawks-related things Jim Vilk wouldn’t wear, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t wear these. … Last evening the Celtics wore black socks and shoes with their home whites (via David Sperino).

Soccer News: Sporting KC jerseys will now carry new Ivy Investments logo sponsor Advertiser. … Here is a good look at the 2016-17 Liverpool home and goalkeeper kit (from Conrad Burry). … Chattanooga FC has unveiled new jerseys for 2016.

Grab Bag: adidas removes plastic shopping bags from own retail stores, eliminating approximately 70M per year (via adidas USPR Guy). … Tiger Woods wore unreleased Nike golf shoes to a kids clinic. They have AJ8-style straps on them (from J.Walker). Tweeter John Sabol thinks they might be old Ken Griffey, Jr. shoes. … This is pretty cool: A guide to the hidden language of manhole covers (from James Gilbert). … According to this tweet, Cal has signed with Under Armour (“10 yrs, $86M cash and product (approx). Key: $3.5M annually in cash”). Thanks to Paul for the tip. And, it’s official now. … Check out this vintage pic (from 1916) of the MIT Track Team (from Phil Johnson). … The Oregon Duck is certainly ubiquitous around campus, no? (from Dan Boyer). … Maryland will be wearing some really nice throwbacks this weekend (h/t BobE – UA Lacrosse). … Rutgers Lax remembers #3 Kyle Kirst, a part of the 1990 NCAA Team. Summit Coach that recently passed away (from Swedes). … Looks like some minor updates to the VaTech Hokies uniforms (from Where Are My Pants?). VT updated the football uni to the Nikelace. Slightly different font too (h/t Chris Smith).

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And that’s going to do it for today. Big thanks to Gary (who’s back with his wonderful Scoreboards’ section after a two-week hiatus), Leo for the gold stripe Raiders helmet info, and to everyone who submitted for the ticker, either by e-mail or by tweet.

I’ll be back with more stuff tomorrow, but until then…

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.


.. … ..

“There was a time when I could tell you my favorite bumblebee combo. Now I don’t think I can. They’re all good.”

–Jim Vilk

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Comments (32)

    Typo: Clemente died on New Year’s Eve 1972, not New Year’s Day of that year.


    MLB teams have nothing on their minor league counterparts, some of whom could go an entire season without wearing the same home uniform twice with all the special Star Wars, Ghostbusters, taco, bacon and waffle, Christmas in July, Independence Day, etc. jerseys. While I’m not a fan of MLB introducing so many specialty caps and jerseys, I’m at least thankful MLB is not making the Dodgers, Yankees, Cardinals, etc. go with a softball look on those occasions.

    In that blog post about the Brewers’ uniforms, the author says he prefers the blue jerseys because the full white or gray uniforms can look like pajamas. Of course, that is largely because of how most players wear their pants cuffs these days, but he doesn’t acknowledge that.

    That’s one more reason I think it’s so important to get the cuffs back up and make socks part of the uniform again — so gray and white uniforms have some color to them and look like something designed for baseball. I came to the discouraging realization the other day that the way baseball uniforms are cut these days, with the baggy fit and droopy pant legs, none of designs actually look good to me anymore, they just are all greater or lesser degrees of unattractive. Every throwback I see now, every one, is quite a bit less attractive to me than the original because of the modern cut.

    It’s reflective of US society as a whole. (Or “as a hole” – heh, couldn’t resist.) Americans are easily spotted in other countries because our clothes have never seen a tailer. Responsible ones wear a size or two too big for comfort. Young, rebellious kids wear pants falling down to their knees.
    Our pajama bottoms are now called “lounge pants” so we won’t feel stupid wearing them outside of our homes. Not me – I’m fixing to change out of my “lounge pants,” into my comfort-fit Levis to wear to the CVS where I’ll pick up some meds, then it’s back to the crib and my pajamas for who knows how long. On “Throwback Thursdays” I dig up pics of when I used to dress up and go out to clubs on Saturday nights. I digress. What were we talking about?

    I agree. I grew up loving baseball in the 1980s when the pant cuff was halfway up the calf and the stirrups were racing stripes of colour down the sides of the white sanitary socks (or yellow socks for the A’s). That brings back good baseball memories. Pirate throwbacks should be worn like this.

    I can’t stand the pajama look. We have teams names after the colour of socks. Socks we can’t see anymore.

    Would love to see the White Sox wear white stirrups with grey sanitary socks underneath.

    While I don’t particularly like most of the pandering uniforms… if any sport should have more alternate uniforms, it is baseball. They do play a LOT of games, after all.

    I’ve given up on being disappointed with the next change in daily wear. It will be whatever drives the needle for marketing. I think it is in response to the fact that the general attention span today is about thisshort.

    I’ve given up on being disappointed with the next change in daily wear. It will be whatever drives the needle for marketing. I think it is in response to the fact that the general attention span today is about a nano second.

    First Ticker Item:
    The best part is the Brewers think they’re close to contention.

    They did, and those were beautiful.

    The Tigers also seem to wear Detroit Stars uniforms from the Negro Leagues often enough that you might be able to call them an alternate. I really love those uniforms.

    Two things:
    I wish they’d refer to this new merchandise as “jerseys” or “outfits” because there’s nothing uniform in baseball uniforms any more.

    And one thing I always loved about TRS’s original scoreboard was, in addition to the standard “P” slot for pitchers to the left of the teams involved, they had two slots — SP and RP, for starters and relievers.

    I love the item on the Raiders yellow helmet stripe, they do indeed look a lot like the latter-day Steelers, though I question the report that the Raiders wanted the stripes removed so they wouldn’t resemble the Steelers, since Pittsburgh didn’t switch to black helmets until the “Playoff Bowl” at the end of the 1962 season (played in early January of 1963), so it looks like there was actually no real overlap between the Raiders’ black helmets and the Steelers’.

    Boy, loved seeing those early Oilers uniforms, one of my absolute favorite designs of all time. Really my earliest uniform memory, falling in love with the look of the Oilers probably at about the age of 5 or 6 in ’61 or ’62.

    And how amazing to have gotten that personal response from hall-of-famer Jim Otto, congrats.

    Thanks, Tenz. Was amazing to get a response from 00!

    Regarding the change: Sadly, Jim didn’t confirm or deny that statement and Helmet Hut doesn’t state where that quote originated, so no way to tell for certain if he did say that. But, the Raiders changed to silver shells after the Steelers started using black shells with yellow stripe in January of 1963, as you noted. Oakland kept those 1962 helmets for the preseason in 1963, but changed to silver for the regular season, so it makes sense in that context. I didn’t think it was a matter of removing the stripe (they had solid black shells in 1960 & 1961), but in reference to changing their look altogether. I always thought that alleged statement was kind of odd anyway, seeing how they didn’t mind looking like the Bears in their first two seasons.

    MLB teams occasionally wear BP hats and jerseys in regular season games. The Orioles wore their road BP hat against the Rangers last week with their Friday alt jersey.
    I don’t mind multiple uniform sets as long as they look good. BP gear for regular games looks pretty lame.

    Buried in this Sports Illustrated article about the quarterbacks in the 1971 NFL draft class is an item about Joe Theismann and Archie Manning swapping jerseys after a magazine cover shoot at Soldier Field in Chicago.


    Whole thing’s a good read for football fans that talks about things have changed.

    Sacramento Kings NEW logos leaked. Chris Creamer’s site has them. They’re not in color though. Cool new Lion’s Head/Basketball secondary logo.

    Interesting that Ohio State trademarked Woody Hayes’ name. I think they already owned the trademark on punching players from the sideline.

    Many athletes have served to great distinction in the armed forces. So would the 40 yard line on every NFL field be in honor of Pat Tillman because he was fragged by his subordinates or in spite of it?

    I miss that scoreboard. Even though I usually sat under it and didn’t get the full effect of it.

    Great job, Gary! That looks fantastic.

    Is it accurate to even consider this year’s 4th of July designs “flag desecration” like previous years were labeled? The only resemblance to our flag is that there are stars and a vague wavy stripe pattern behind them.

    As much as any other reason, the original very large Three Rivers Stadium scoreboard bit the dust because the considerable amount of real estate it occupied was coveted by the Steelers for additional seating.

    I’ve never been a fan of the huge center ice logos, though I get the reasoning that they want it to be more visible for those watching on TV. I grew up watching hockey when there was a logo on each side of the red line.

    I’d never noticed the missing “T” on “Washington”. What bugs me is that the “I” in “Capitals” looks like it’s peeking around the corner checking to see if the coast is clear.

    MLB has gone the way of NCAA football with the uniform lunacy. I would think that Baseball bring steeped in tradition would show a little decorum. But c’mon…..special uni’s for Mothers and Fathers Day?!! Ugh! Maybe if MLB made the revenue the NFL did, they’d be a little more resident in drinking the Koolaid. Not that the NFL is much better with the color rash crap.

    “bespoiling the sanctity of the uniform”

    If this blog has proved anything, it’s that uniforms, like any media, are completely malleable and ever-changing.

Comments are closed.