[Editor’s Note: Paul is on his annual August break from site. Deputy editor Phil Hecken is in charge from now through the end of the month, although Paul is still on the clock over at ESPN and may be popping up here occasionally.]
By Phil Hecken with Jared Pike
A couple weeks ago, in a sub-lede titled “In Case You Missed It Saturday”, I had posted some tweets from a Cubs/A’s throwback game, in which the TV broadcast used “retro graphics”. Shortly after that, reader Jared Pike contacted me with the following note, “I read your recent entry on the A’s-Cubs game with early 80s throwbacks (and TV graphics to match). Sportscasters throwing back is a relatively recent phenomenon, but it’s not unheard of.” He then explained he’d written about this and asked if I’d be interested in using it on Uni Watch.
While it’s not exactly uni-related, it’s a cool topic, and one which I’m happy to have Jared explore further and explain to us. Here’s Jared with…
Broadcast Throwbacks: 6 Times Sportscasters Turned Back the Clock
By Jared Pike
1. Cubs vs. A’s (August 6, 2016)
Everyone knows about “throwbacks” in sports — players wearing replicas of uniform designs from their team’s history. But only recently have television sportscasters joined in the fun. At a Cubs-A’s game with early 80s throwback uniforms, Comcast SportsNet created spot-on 80s television graphics to match — from the period-accurate NBC peacock logo to the delightfully long black drop shadows. (The Pirates also attempted this in April but, with absurd wigs and That-70s-Show graphics, just ended up looking goofy). Announcers also wore yellow blazers, which brings us to:
2. Monday Night Football (September 14, 2015)
ABC Sports invented the yellow blazer as the standard costume for 1970s television sportscasters. Blame Monday Night Football, in which Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford all sported the mustard-colored jackets. Gifford served in the MNF booth for 26 years, and when he died in 2015 on the eve of that season’s inaugural Monday Night Football game, Gifford’s successors at ESPN donned yellow jackets to honor the longtime announcer.
3. Southern 500 (September 6, 2015)
NASCAR caught the nostalgia bug in 2015, moving the Darlington race to Labor Day weekend, and encouraging drivers to display throwback paint schemes. NBC had some fun with their retro graphics, but more significantly, they brought back legendary NASCAR personalities Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett to call a significant chunk of the race. This was a genius move, bringing living history to a current sporting event in a way that has not yet been duplicated. Old guys rule! (Interestingly enough, the current NBC Sports crew wore goofy 1970s jackets, while the 1970s announcers dressed normally).
4. Men in Blazers (September 18, 2014)
Every week, British comedians Roger Bennett and Michael Davies lampoon soccer on their NBCSN show and podcast, Men in Blazers. Though they have a tiny closet of a set, there’s an incongruous neon sign on the wall celebrating the George Michael Sports Machine. As they explain on their blog, George Michael’s weekly highlight reels helped to acclimatize Roger and Michael to the atmosphere of American sports in the 1980s. Not only do they display George Michael’s original sign as an homage, but they frequently mimic the bloopy synth sound effect that started off Michael’s show.
5. Dodgers vs. Cubs (August 26, 2000)
Fox Sports never shies away from trying new things (anyone remember the glowing hockey puck, or explosion sound effects for a touchdown pass?) However, this ambitious broadcast was the gimmick to end all gimmicks. To celebrate the anniversary of the first televised baseball game, Fox began its broadcast in black-and-white, with one camera, no on-screen graphics, and purposely tinny audio. As each inning progressed, their broadcast style would advance one decade, and they would describe how that generation watched baseball. First they added a second camera; then, better sound. Color. Instant replay. Slow motion. Wireless cameras in the stadium. In the final inning, they unleashed all their modern toys, including mic’ed up managers, FoxBox onscreen graphics, and a helmet cam on the catcher. Lord knows what 1940s viewers would think of hashtags, high def, or live pitch tracking.
6. Brewers vs. Red Sox (June 26, 1982)
This final instance happened by accident, making it especially brilliant. Boston was down to Milwaukee 11-8, and before the bottom of the 9th, the power went out at Fenway Park. All television equipment stopped functioning except for one camera and the intercom. Luckily, the director of the telecast was Harry Coyle, who had previously guided 36 World Series broadcasts. He told the lone cameraman, Mario, “We’ll show ’em what one cameraman can do!” and proceeded to direct the final inning of the game with just a single camera and zoom lens, located above home plate — including a frantic near-comeback by the Red Sox. In essence, he was throwing back to the way baseball used to be broadcast (like Fox did), but doing it out of necessity! Even more remarkably, producer Rick Reed happened to be filming the TV truck for a segment on Coyle, and captured the entire incident, including the intercom chatter between Coyle and Mario.
Great stuff, Jared — and thanks for allowing me to share it with the Uni-verse.
…AND YOUR FINALISTS ARE…
OK, not quite — but thanks to your voting (and your patience), I’m pleased to announce our 12 finalists for the Griffins Design Contest. I’m hoping the Griffins will be able to give us their final decision on a winner(s) next week, but today I wanted to show you the reader-selected designs and the voting.
I took screen shots (which you will see below) of the each of the polls (two per day, for a total of four separate days), which list all the votes for a 24 hour period (each morning, I took a screen shot of the previous day’s poll at approximately 7:00 am). The top three vote-getters for each day (in both polls for that day) were selected as finalists, giving a total of 12 (three for each day, spread over four days).
Here are the finalists from each day (Set I, Set II, Set III, and Set IV) and the number of votes each design received (you can click on any image below to enlarge):
Set I (Groups A & B)
The top three vote-getters from Set I:
Matt Cully (a/k/a Matt Medium)
Set II (Groups C & D)
The top three vote-getters from Set II:
Set III (Groups E & F)
The top three vote-getters from Set III:
Set IV (Groups G & H)
The top three vote-getters from Set IV:
Congratulations to the 12 finalists, as well as to everyone who participated — either by submitting a design or by voting on those designs. Good luck to all the finalists as the decision on which jersey to choose now lies with the Griffins.
Mike Chamernik’s Question of the Week
Hey Boys and Girls. I asked Mike if he could come up with a “Question of the Week” for today, and he happily obliged! So…here’s Mike:
What is your favorite sports book? It could be either fiction or nonfiction.
I have plenty of favorites, but I really enjoyed “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All” by Jack McCallum, the long-time Sports Illustrated writer. The book really isn’t about the Dream Team’s on-court success. That part was obvious. Instead, McCallum detailed how the team was put together, and all the hoopla that the team generated in both Monaco, where they trained, and Barcelona. He caught up with all the players and wrote mini-profiles on them, focusing on what they’ve done in the years since the Games. Most importantly, he covered the relationships between the players on the team, stuff like Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing becoming best friends, and the semi-friendly rivalry between Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Of course, there are plenty of good Charles Barkley stories in there, too.
I also really liked “Loose Balls” by Terry Pluto, an oral history on the ABA; “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty” by Buster Olney, which covers the characters of the late-90s Yankees told through the lens of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series; and “The Only Rule Is It Has to Work” by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, two Baseball Prospectus guys who controlled an independent minor league team last year.
Tell me about your favorite sports books in the comments.
Thanks, Mike — great question. I’ll start things off:
Favorite? That’s a tough one, and I’d probably have to rank a trio I really love as top three, because I loved each one, for different reasons.
1. “Moneyball” — fantastic book by Michael Lewis (which they turned into a movie that was pretty faithful to the book); all about the A’s formula for putting together a winning team despite not having the traditional funding of powerhouses like the Yanks. Of course, the A’s never won it all in the post season, when it really counted, but not for wont of doing more with less.
2. “A Season on the Brink” — a lot of people aren’t John Feinstein fans (he’s churned out a ton of books in the past couple decades) but this one was easily his best. Basically it covered (as he was granted really unique, at the time, access to the Indiana hoops team and specifically Bobby Knight) a half year of Feinstein reporting the Indiana Hoosiers during the 1985-86 season — a year before the team would win it all in 1987. I only read the book recently (about two years ago), but it was considered “groundbreaking” at the time (and still is), and after its publication, the rules for ‘insider access’ were changed.
3. “The Natural” — if you’ve only seen the movie (and who hasn’t?), then you’re getting the sanitized, Hollywood-treatment of a really great fictional novel. While somewhat truth-based (it does mirror the shooting of Eddie Waitkus) with a mix of Ted Williams thrown in, it’s a lot darker than the movie…and the ending is just a bit different from the exploding lights and Roy Hobbs circling the bases seen in the Hollywood ending. Despite that, I enjoyed both the book and the movie. I’d highly recommend this one, especially if you haven’t seen the Redford/Levinson film.
Great question, Mike!
And now a quick word from Paul: Hi there. ESPN.com is doing a series of articles called “The Departed,” about teams that relocated to other cities, and the effect that had on the original city’s fans. My contribution is a look at Hartford’s enduring love affair with the Whalers. Check it out here.
KRC update: Paul here (again). The latest installment of Key Ring Chronicles is up, and it’s a really, really good one. See that little doohickey on the end of the chain? That’s a dust cover to an emergency air supply manifold on a U.S. Navy submarine. To find out how it ended up on someone’s key ring, look here.
By Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: The White Sox will rename their ballpark Guaranteed Rate Field. The naming rights last for 13 years, through the end of the 2029 season. The ballpark is currently called U.S. Cellular Field, and it was originally named Comiskey Park (or Comiskey Park II) from its 1991 opening through 2002. … Ken Griffey Jr. sat in on the ESPN broadcast of the Yankees-Mariners game on Tuesday night, and he discussed the M’s Turn Ahead the Clock unis. The Mariners produced a video report on the game. … Frank Thomas encouraged Ken Griffey Jr. to wear his hat backwards at his Hall of Fame induction this summer. And while Junior popularized the look, backwards hats date back to 1879. And actually, so do crooked hats! … The Rays have three variations of their fauxback caps. … Bryce Harper is promoting “Harper’s Heroes” hats, a limited edition collection from New Era. Proceeds will benefits children battling cancer (from John Muir). … Speaking of Bryce, he held Katie Ledecky’s five medals as the Olympic swimmer threw out the first pitch at the Nats game last night. … Pearl Jam played a show at Wrigley Field last weekend. Lead singer Eddie Vedder is a big Cubs fan, so the band hung a few Cubs jerseys on stage. As you can see, that’s a White Sox jersey farthest to the right. Matt Cinquegrani doesn’t know if this was done on purpose or not. I think it may be a subtle dig towards Chris Sale.
NFL News: A few readers sent this in: The Saints unveiled new field banners and big new video boards at the Superdome. Here’s more info on the boards. … “Don’t know if I’ve seen a color photo with the Lions sporting both Honolulu Blue (pants/socks) and Navy Blue (Helmet/Jersey),” writes Alex Dewitt. That comes from a slideshow on the greatest Lions by jersey number. … This 1981 photo shows a Baltimore Colts trainer wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers-esque “B” cap. Did the Colts ever use that as an alternate logo? (From Dave Holland). … Bills LB Preston Brown joked (I think) that he keeps candy in the hoodie he wears under his jersey.
College Football News: New helmets for Ball State. More photos here (from Phil). … South Carolina will have a palmetto tree nose bumper (from Daren Stoltzfus). … Here’s what Duke and Indiana’s uniforms would look like if they were inspired by their marching bands (from James Gilbert, via Phil). … Michigan Tech had an incorrect logo painted at midfield. The correct logo should be there in time for the opener next Saturday (from Jerry Nitzh). … Here are a few maps that show where college football players were born, by conference (from Jason Hillyer). … New helmets for Saint Anselm. … New uniforms for Fordham.
NBA News: Yesterday was Kobe Bryant Day in Los Angeles ”” the date was 8-24, Bryant’s two jersey numbers. The LA Rams, along with many other teams, posted a tribute on social media. … The Kings will have a new logo, uniforms, and arena this year, so its natural they will have a new court design as well. Here’s a gallery of Kings courts since they moved to Sacramento in 1985. … Gatorade bottles show Paul George wearing No. 29, which he wore during the World Championships in 2014. He wore his usual No. 13 in Rio this summer (from Adam Treiber). … Photos of the purported new signature shoe for James Harden leaked online the other day, and internet commenters had a field day making fun of it.
Soccer News: Two items from a reader named Trev: AtlÃ©tico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann wears long sleeves because David Beckham was his idol growing up, and Lokomotiv Moscow fills its jersey numbers with season ticket holder photos. … Here’s a rundown of the new kits for top European clubs (from Josh Hinton).
Grab Bag: An Olympic team comprised of refugee athletes had their own anthem and flag (from Ricky Schumaker, via Phil).
And that’s it for today. Big Thanks to Jared for the neat lede — kind of a fun sorta non-uni topic to explore, and also Mike for his QOTW and handling the ticker.
Back with more good stuff tomorrow, but…
Until then, follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“I would rather read every word of the iPhone terms and conditions than read the corporate-speak of today’s uniform manufacturers. And I’d rather clean toilets than have to write that stuff.”
— Jimmer Vilk