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Some Thoughts About Big Uni

I was back-and-forthing the other day with reader Alex Janeczek, who mistakenly thought I was the one who came up with the term “Stormtrooper” to describe an all-white football uniform. As I explained to him, not only did I have nothing to do with the creation of that term, I’m strongly opposed to its use (which is a different topic for a different day). He said, “My mistake. I thought it was something you started sarcastically that was now being pirated by Big Uni.”

I hadn’t heard this term “Big Uni” before, but I got the gist: It was a riff on Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Brother, and so on. I asked Alex if he’d come up with it himself, and he said he coined the term but was inspired by Deadspin writer Drew Magary, who frequently refers to Big Beer (i.e., Anheuser-Busch and the like), Big Pizza (Domino’s, Papa John’s, etc.), and so on.

I’ve sometimes referred to the “uni-industrial complex,” but I prefer “Big Uni” — it’s simpler, snappier — and I’m thinking I may start using it as a shorthand for the corporate fuckers who’ve turned the uni-verse into such a mess. But first we need to define what Big Uni is — or, more specifically, who comprises it. The way I see it, Big Uni has four major components:

1. First and foremost, Big Uni includes Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, New Era, and all the other manufacturers that have done their best (read: worst) to turn the uni-verse into a commodified shopping mall of lifestyle branding.

2. We also need to include the leagues, teams, and universities that are in cahoots with the manufacturers. These entities willingly let their uniform programs serve as host bodies for the viruses we see on the field, and also serve as vehicles for the manufacturers’ propaganda. When the NFL allows its entire Thursday-night schedule to be put into the Nike centrifuge, that’s Big Uni at its worst; when the Michigan marching band literally becomes a corporate advertisement, that’s Big Uni at its worst; when a college coach opens his press conference by parroting Under Armour’s slogan, that’s Big Uni at its worst. (And yes, when the NBA lets Adidas create Christmas uniform programs with names like Big Color and Big Logo, that’s also Big Uni at its worst.)

3. And we should also include the retailers that help drive all of this: Modell’s, Dick’s, Lids, Fanatics, and so on, all of which have helped foist the patently bogus notion that being a fan is somehow dependent upon being a consumer.

4. With the NBA set to introduce uniform advertising about a year from now (and the rest of the world already awash in uni ads), we should also include the corporate advertisers who think a uniform is just another billboard.

So there you have it — Big Uni.

Big Uni is powerful and mostly successful in achieving its goals, although I’d say its success is a textbook case of something that has succeeded too well.

Having identified Big Uni, how do we fight it? The first thing is to continue doing what we’ve always done here at Uni Watch, which is to be the red pill, stripping away the illusions and exposing Big Uni’s machinations for what they really are.

The second thing — and this is clearly a losing battle — is to discourage the rampant consumerism that drives Big Uni. If fewer people bought jerseys and caps, we’d see a lot fewer of these ridiculous jersey and cap designs.

Any other ideas? The floor is yours.

•  •  •  •  •

Click to enlarge

Too good for the Ticker: 49ers running back Joe Perry wore some unusual facemasks during his career, but none cooler than the old “executioner-style” Plexiglas mask shown in the photo above. That shot is from the 1953 season. Can anyone identify the opposing team (without consulting the Gridiron Uniform Database)?

(Big thanks to Cork Gaines for this one.)

• • • • •

KRC update: The latest installment of Key Ring Chronicles is about a small beaded bracelet (shown at right in the photo above). Get the full story here.

I’m still very much in the market for additional contributions to this project. If your key ring includes a special object with a good story behind it, please get in touch. Thanks.

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: The Astros honored the final regular season game with Tal’s Hill at Minute Maid Park with customized bases (from Ivor van Esch). … Promos for 2017 exhibition games already show New Era logo creep on the caps. The logos will be standard beginning next week in the playoffs. … The Cardinals wore St. Louis Blues-themed batting practice jerseys yesterday. Here’s the reverse side (from Mike Dean). … Senators farmhand Wayne Brescher wore an odd catcher’s helmet in the mid-1960s (from Retro Rob McGill). … Former heavyweight boxing champ and Atlanta native Evander Holyfield was at last night’s Braves game. They gave him a personalized jersey, with some pretty brutal NOB lettering (from Derek Eppenbrock). … The Padres will wear powder blue alternates in an upcoming episode of Pitch (from Eric Wright). … Bizarre situation in last night’s Cubs/Pirates game, as Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo and 2B Ben Zobrist changed positions and gloves for one play (from Chris Flinn).

NFL News: Yesterday’s lede mentioned that Washington QB Sammy Baugh never changed his shoulder pads, which were famously small. Cork Gaines found a photo of Baugh in his pads after the last game in his career in 1952. “They do look like something a little leaguer would wear,” Cork says. … Speaking of former Washington QBs, Joe Theisemann said he wore a single bar facemask for two reasons: The double bar version bothered him during hand-offs, and previous Redskins QBs only wore one bar, so he wanted to keep the tradition. The weird thing about that is that Sonny Jurgenson, whose career in Washington overlapped with Theisman’s, wore a two-bar mask (from William Yurasko). … I think we missed this: Referees started wearing a “31” patch on their caps for former umpire Chad Brown, who died earlier this month (from Mako Mameli). … The Bears will wear throwbacks at home against the Lions on Sunday. … Here’s a ranking of NFL helmets. This one isn’t bad: Big and attractive photos, informed design criticism, and no crazy takes! Well, except for maybe the Bucs at No. 5 (from Ethan Hopkin, via Phil). … We’ve seen this many times before, but here’s the reason why the Steelers wear their logo on only one side of the helmet.

College Football News: Washington State will wear all grey on Saturday (from Phil). … This weekend, the Big Ten will use a special coin that honors Nebraska’s Sam Foltz and Michigan State’s Mike Sadler, who were both killed in a car crash in July.

Hockey News: The Lightning released their jersey schedule (from Nate Bitterman, via Phil). … New mask for the Rangers’ Mackenzie Skapski (from Alan Kreit). … Johnny Gaudreau, who last played with the Flames, uses a really flexible stick that’s meant for Junior players. … New jerseys for the Connecticut Whale of the NWHL. The team also wears this jersey. … New home jerseys for Clarkson (from John Muir). … New mask for the Kings’ Jonathan Quick. “Not much change except for the 50th-anniversary logo on the backplate,” says @GKG_77. … Beau Schott asks if we’ve ever seen a hockey coach wearing a baseball batting helmet before? … University of Omaha’s hockey program has a 20th season logo (from @MRedcross). … This video has some good Harvard hockey team photos from over the years (from Seth Horowitz). … Last week Paul said the Canadiens were changing the straps on their blue helmets from black to white, but they’ve actually been black in their first two preseason games, so they’re apparently not making that change after all. … Speaking of the Canadiens, RW Alexander Radulov tilted his helmet farther back on his head in mid-stride on his way to scoring a goal on Tuesday.

NBA News: New Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni named James Harden the point guard the other day. Harden, formerly a shooting/combo guard, got into the spirit by wearing short shorts like John Stockton. … Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will give championship rings to 1,000 full- and part-time Cavs and arena employees. … Was Bucks G Matthew Dellavedova taping over the Nike logo on his shoes the other day? (From Brad Ahern.)

College Hoops News: New unis for Florida Gulf Coast. Those are great! (From @jmgorla32.) … New unis for Wright State. … Canisius will wear gold throwbacks on December 17 (from Eddie Zirnheld). … Here’s North Carolina’s 2016 Final Four and ACC Championship ring (from James Gilbert). … New uniforms for Appalachian State (from Seth Stratton).

Soccer News: Arsenal wore its yellow away kit at home yesterday against FC Basel. It was ruled that Arsenal’s normal home kit would’ve been too similar to FC Basel’s all-white kit. More info here (from Josh Hinton and Clinton deMontel). … The Fort Lauderdale Strikers will wear pink breast cancer awareness jerseys throughout October (from reader Ryan). … Michael Bonfanti sends in a video of the 1924 US Open Cup final between the Fall River Marksmen and Vesper Buick of St. Louis. He was struck by the sponsorship logo on Vesper’s jersey, and the ref’s fancy attire.

Grab Bag: Giordano’s, a Chicago deep dish chain, whipped up some presidential pizzas. Never seen Parmesan cheese art before. … The other night I walked past a bowling alley and I was struck by the smell. What is it that makes bowling alleys smell like bowling alleys? Do you guys know what I mean? I can’t describe the scent, but every alley smells the same.

141 comments to Some Thoughts About Big Uni

  • Jon | September 29, 2016 at 8:02 am |

    I’ve got a bit of a counter-point to this morning’s article: what if consumers actually *want* Big Uni tactics. What if, rather than companies dictating to fans that consumerism is a key part of fandom and fans reacting to that, fans’ desire for products has driven the rise in consumerism. What if fan desire for new and exciting products has led to the rise in new and different uniform designs?

    Anecdotally, I bought a LOT of jerseys when I was a kid. I didn’t do it because I thought it made me a better fan – I did it because I liked the material, and I thought I looked good in it. It wasn’t some corporate advertising that made me buy them: it came from me. I understand the feeling that corporate advertising has taken over the sports world, because it has. I can’t stand the level of advertising and “sponsorship” around all things sports today. But to say that Big Uni is somehow guiding innocent fan sheep into buying products is a little too smug for my taste. Fans know what they do and don’t want to purchase, by and large. I’d argue that Big Uni is reacting to a market rather than creating it. It’s on the fans.

    • marc | September 29, 2016 at 9:45 am |

      What if fan desire for new and exciting products has led to the rise in new and different uniform designs?

      That’s definitely the case. When I was a kid, the closest most kids could get to a real jersey was a half-assed version that was really a silk-screened t-shirt. My buddies and I even went so far as to make (really horrible) t-shirt jerseys with permanent markers and fabric paint to wear for our near-daily ballgames at the schoolyard.

      My point is kids like to emulate their sports heroes and my friends and I did all we could to try to look like them. If the stuff “Big Uni” makes today had been available then, we’d have bought as much as we could afford. Therein lies the rub. I can’t stand what Big Uni is doing today, but my younger self would have probably loved it.

      I’d argue that Big Uni is reacting to a market rather than creating it. It’s on the fans.

      I’d have to disagree that it’s entirely on the fans. I think it’s the other way around. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the first throwbacks were kind of a one-off deal not intended for sale to the public. Fan demand likely was the impetus for seriously marketing official uniforms, but I think Big Uni has taken the ball and run with it to the Nth degree to the point where they figure any idea that pops in their head is marketable (Exhibit A: Everything regarding Oregon football).

      They don’t manufacture uniforms for practical purposes anymore. It’s fashion. Years ago, the closest you’d get to unis as fashion was a grainy black and white photo in the paper of a star player or two wearing the new duds. Now it’s a bonafide media event filled with smoke and mirrors and tough-guy poses in bright, fashionable colors and designs. It’s “Project Runway” with helmets. The whole thing is completely ridiculous and unnecessary marketing and I place it all on Big Uni.

      • walter | September 29, 2016 at 10:07 am |

        People are conformist enough without being egged on by corporations. Do you need more evidence than baseball teams dropping their sleeveless uniforms because the fans weren’t buying any? What does that have to do with baseball?

      • Adam N. | September 29, 2016 at 1:44 pm |

        But they’re also constantly advancing the performance side of the clothing – making it lighter, more breathable, more flexible, etc., so you can’t say they dont’ manufacture them for practical purposes. One need look no further than the evolution of the shape/cut of football jerseys.
        I think its driven by equal parts consumerism, hype for fans, press for the team, and recruiting tactics.

        • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 1:48 pm |

          Oh, they do serious sportswear work — no doubt.

          But all of that — ALL of it — is just a vehicle to drive apparel sales. Nike, Under Armour, et al. are lifestyle apparel companies that happen to also make sportswear, not the other way around.

          Don’t believe me? Consider this: These companies PAY THE TEAMS, LEAGUES, AND SCHOOLS to wear their uniforms. It used to be that the leagues/teams paid the sportswear manufacturers. Now the manufacturers pay the teams, because the on-field aspect of what they do is just exposure to drive the retail/lifestyle side. The retail/lifestyle side is the only part that matters.

        • Jon | September 29, 2016 at 2:46 pm |

          This post, especially the part about the on-field product essentially being advertising for the company as a whole, I totally agree with. My contention was more with the tone in the article that Big Uni is tricking fans into believing that consumerism = fandom. There’s really no trick to it – fans know what they are buying and why they are buying it. I don’t think anybody is being duped.

        • Jon | September 29, 2016 at 2:51 pm |

          I also think that I just have a completely different viewpoint of it. I really don’t care why companies make the uniforms that they do. Rampant consumerism or tradition, it doesn’t matter to me. I like seeing uniform design across a number of different sports, and it fascinates me. I can’t really get worked up over the companies that make uniforms trying to make money, at least within reason. I am wholly against advertising on uniforms (aside from so-called logo creep), but that’s more of a cleanliness point of view than anything for me.

        • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 2:54 pm |

          I just have a completely different viewpoint of it. I really don’t care why companies make the uniforms that they do. Rampant consumerism or tradition, it doesn’t matter to me.

          That’s fine — nobody said it had to matter to you.

          But it matters to me, so I’m going to keep writing about it.

        • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 2:53 pm |

          There’s really no trick to it — fans know what they are buying and why they are buying it. I don’t think anybody is being duped.

          Ah, yes — the illusion of free will in the face of the capitalist machine.

          Have fun with that one, Jon. I don’t deny that the illusion, like most illusions, is an enjoyable one.

        • Jon | September 29, 2016 at 4:57 pm |

          I get that you and I have differing points of view on this, but there is no need whatsoever to be smug and borderline insulting. We disagree. I don’t believe in the capitalist machine that you do. Please don’t be condescending because of that difference of opinion.

        • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm |

          OK, let me put it a different way: If you truly believe that every actor in a capitalist system — and particularly a system that sells things like jerseys to sports fans — is operating freely, and that nobody is coerced or manipulated, and that none of the impulses that drive people to purchase things are merely constructs created and leveraged by the makers of the things being purchased, so that people will be lured in by the seductive notion that happiness is just one more material purchase away, I think you are mistaken.

          If you disagree, that’s fine.

    • marc | September 29, 2016 at 9:47 am |

      Btw, Paul… I vote “yes” on the use of “Big Uni.”

      • Adam N. | September 29, 2016 at 2:29 pm |

        Me too

    • Jerry | September 29, 2016 at 1:29 pm |

      Well said. The various uni entities are somewhat culpable but ultimately the consumer drives the boat.
      I have a serious distaste for the modern uni industrial complex. I am however a father of 3 teenagers. I can tell you that the kids love a lot of the modern uni stuff that Many of us uni-watch faithful abhor.

  • Dumb Guy | September 29, 2016 at 8:03 am |

    Those pizzas are stenciled.

  • BIll S | September 29, 2016 at 8:08 am |

    I know the team Perry is playing against, but since I am part of GUD, I know that, like radio contests, I am ineligible for any prizes or awards.

  • Aaron | September 29, 2016 at 8:08 am |

    Just a slight correction, the Cubs were in Pittsburgh last night.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 8:28 am |

      Thanks. Fixed.

  • Dumb Guy | September 29, 2016 at 8:13 am |
  • Gerry Dincher | September 29, 2016 at 8:19 am |

    An idea that might not be a good one – What if Uni-Watch just stopped reporting on on this ridiculous uniforms? I am at the point where I don’t even look at what costume Texas Tech or Washington State is going to wear. The most interesting uniform of the year has been Oregon’s Puddles the Duck unis. They were pretty clever and, to me, it was an example of Oregon laughing at themselves. Could uni-watch just have a policy of “we’re only going to talk about it, if they are good, unique, or just horrible.”?

    • Dumb Guy | September 29, 2016 at 8:24 am |

      That’s what other sites are for: not talking about uniforms.

      • Gerry Dincher | September 29, 2016 at 3:21 pm |

        But we spend much time talking about stupid uniforms. My point is to highlight the good ideas and just ignore the stupid crap.

    • Omar Jalife | September 29, 2016 at 9:28 am |

      The only problem I see is that staying quiet doesn’t make the issue go away, it just allows it to subtly merge into something accepted by the people

    • Tim | September 29, 2016 at 1:28 pm |

      To amplify, Washington State’s uniform this weekend is all Steel Grey. They also have an all Heather Grey uniform they’ve worn earlier this year.

    • Charles | September 29, 2016 at 4:23 pm |

      Paul is a journalist who takes his job seriously, and Uni Watch has become his primary gig. To stop reporting on some uniforms he deems to be the essence of the Big Uni problem would be irresponsible to his readership, and likely drive away more readers than it would service. Part of his job has become to go to the unveilings and report on the latest costumes, but he wields his power by being honest and critical—a much greater protest than saying nothing.

  • Michael Bochum | September 29, 2016 at 8:20 am |

    Is that Green Bay the 49ers are playing in that gamee from 1953? I remembered all the talk about Green Bay’s pants history when it was announced they would wear white for their Thursday night game against the Bears. I especially remembered the part about then wearing green pants in the 1950’s.

  • Hank-SJ | September 29, 2016 at 8:21 am |

    Weird thing about Sonny Jurgensen is he wore a single-bar mask too.
    http://redskinshogheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2016/08/sonny-passing.jpg

    • Miles Filbert | September 29, 2016 at 10:15 am |

      Theismann also wore a single bar when he was with Toronto Argonauts, but he wore a double bar when he was at Notre Dame.

  • Winter | September 29, 2016 at 8:24 am |

    It’s been so long since I saw a single bar facemask in action, even on placekickers, I wonder — are they even allowed now?

    For that matter, it seems like hardly anyone wears facemask with a central vertical bar, not even linemen.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 8:29 am |

      They are no longer allowed. The last grandfathered player to wear one was punter Scott Player in 2007.

      • Winter | September 29, 2016 at 11:25 am |

        Thanks for the confirmation.

        Makes me wonder how trashing the current system might impact game play, concussions, etc. What I mean is if they still only wore leather helmets with no facemasks, what impact would that have on injuries? I guess you could look at rugby to see how those statistics compare.

        I know they’ll never do that, but I look at the current ubiquity of concussions and injuries and wonder if improving the “armor” is the answer.

        • ThePonchat | September 29, 2016 at 12:07 pm |

          Rugby has considerably less head injuries than American football.

          There could be several reasons why, but to me, mainly these:
          1) less “warrior” mentality in trying to crush the opponent;
          2) rugby is treated as a “gentleman’s” game;

          Definitely, the rise in protective armor makes people more risky. Sure, this stuff will protect me, might as well throw my body at everything.

        • Adam N. | September 29, 2016 at 1:59 pm |

          A number of old school football players have been making this point ever since the concussion discussion took root. Make the helmet a little less protective, especially the protection of the face, and it will cease to be a weapon. Make the shoulder pads a little smaller, and guys won’t be as apt to throw their bodies around like they do.
          I, for one, would love to see the pads reduced and the emphasis on technique and finesse that would probably follow.

        • John H. | September 29, 2016 at 4:30 pm |

          The same equipment woes hold true in hockey. Players are so well protected that they have no fear throwing their bodies around and crushing opponents. Better protected players create more injuries. For every action there’s a reaction.

      • Rich P | September 29, 2016 at 1:09 pm |

        Punty McOnebar!

  • Ed Hughes | September 29, 2016 at 8:26 am |

    On the bowling alley smell, I would have to guess either the type of wax used on the lanes or some lubricant or other maintenance product for the pin setting machines. If alleys with human pin setters smell the same as those with machines, then I’m back to the wax. Or perhaps there’s some lane cleaning solution that is widely used.

    • Adam | September 29, 2016 at 8:51 am |

      That was my thought, too. Maybe also something to do with all the shoes or whatever they use to spray them. I’ve always noticed that’s a part of the overall smell, too (not in a bad way), that you usually pick up around the counter area.

    • Dan Pfeifer | September 29, 2016 at 9:21 am |

      I was thinking it was mostly the oil for the lanes, combined with years of fried food and beer.

    • vegas911 | September 29, 2016 at 12:48 pm |

      I’ve always assumed it was the oil on the lanes also. This falls into the same category with the common smell that I have always associated with ice rinks. I have always assumed that comes from the rubber matting on the floors.

      • RobYaz | September 29, 2016 at 1:35 pm |

        Stepping into a thin metal-walled ice rink and smelling that combination of fresh ice & cold air, zamboni exhaust, and those rubber mats and whatever else you want to throw in – one of the best sensory experiences around.

    • Adam N. | September 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm |

      I don’t think its just one thing, but rather, the unique combination. Floor wax, shoes, shoe spray, machinery lubricant, spilled beer, fried food, etc. That combination of things doesn’t exist anywhere except a bowling alley.

  • Todd | September 29, 2016 at 8:31 am |

    I don’t think your site’s Google search function is working.

  • JakeK66 | September 29, 2016 at 8:33 am |

    I think Big Uni’s biggest downfall for the uni-focused has been the monopolization of brands for each professional sport. Competition is now ZERO for professional teams to decide who’s best for them for their look on the field. I know the negativity some have towards 90’s unifashion, but it was some of the most creative times and I believe some of that was brought up due to the fact team’s had the power to select who they wanted (Starter/Apex/Reebok/Adidas/Nike/Etc).

    For bad or good, I think College’s are doing more with this now since they really can’t be forced by a league for one apparel maker. That’s why we see more diversity in uni-designs than the pro-leagues.

    Oh and if there’s someone to blame for a lot of the popularity of Big Uni its Starter. Ironically they aren’t in the same business with this as they used to be so it’s possible for them to fail. Starter was still my favorite though.

  • BigNick | September 29, 2016 at 8:35 am |

    I think its unfair to blame Nike for the Color Rush Uniforms. I think TNF ratings weren’t what the NFL wanted so they needed a gimmick, and told Nike what they wanted. I Think Nike could have come up with something much better if left to there own devices….And I can’t believe I just typed that last sentence.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 8:44 am |

      I think its unfair to blame Nike for the Color Rush Uniforms. I think TNF ratings weren’t what the NFL wanted so they needed a gimmick, and told Nike what they wanted.

      Quote from today’s text: “When the NFL allows its entire Thursday-night schedule to be put into the Nike centrifuge, that’s Big Uni at its worst.”

    • arrScott | September 29, 2016 at 8:57 am |

      If Nike were left to its own devices, then Nike wouldn’t be engaged in design. Design, by definition, is about serving the client’s interests. Nike creating uniforms all on its own would be art, not design.

      As for TNF, there’s no causal relationship between “ratings weren’t great” and “we’ll ditch the most valuable visual branding in the history of the world in favor of clown suits.” Those two things have no more relationship with one another than “steal underwear” and “make profits.” There are many things the NFL could have done rationally in response to low TNF ratings. Advertise the games differently. Change the venues. Change the matchups. Cancel TNF altogether. “Dress the players in clown suits” simply is not a rational business response to the problem of “TNF ratings are too low.”

      • marc | September 29, 2016 at 9:49 am |

        “Nike creating uniforms all on its own would be art, not design.”

        Yikes.

        • Dumb Guy | September 29, 2016 at 10:14 am |

          “I know art when I see it.”

        • arrScott | September 29, 2016 at 12:59 pm |

          Not saying it would be good art! “Art” is a category of activity, not a judgment of quality. Most art is bad art, but neither badness nor goodness makes it art.

    • Tim | September 29, 2016 at 1:30 pm |

      Well when your TNF game is a yawner like Dolphins v Bengals, you have to do SOMETHING to hold interest…

      • Adam N. | September 29, 2016 at 2:35 pm |

        Could there be a TNF game with less interest? Maybe Browns vs. Jacksonville?

  • Jermtheworm | September 29, 2016 at 8:40 am |

    Seconding the guess that the bowling alleys smell the way they do because of the wax used on the lanes.

    I’ll add that it is also probably a combination of wax, oil for cleaning the balls and aerosol disinfectant from the rented shoes.

  • arrScott | September 29, 2016 at 8:50 am |

    3 and 4 seem off point to me. Are they part of the problem, assuming that the effects of Big Uni are a problem? Yes. But if Big Uni has any meaning as a term similar to Big Pharma or Big Beer or whatever, then 3 and 4 are part of the problem but not part of Big Uni. Let’s take Big Pharma as a model. The oligarchic large drug companies are at the core of Big Pharma, obviously. And the various government and private health regulatory bodies that have been captured by the industry such that they tend to do the bidding of the drug companies, they can meaningfully be called part of Big Pharma. But the TV stations that take money to air Big Pharma ads for drugs, ads that drive individual demand for medications? That seems a stretch, since the TV stations are acting as a medium; they’re indifferent to Big Pharma’s interests, and simply air the ads because they’re in the business of airing ads from pretty much anybody who pays them money to air ads. What about the individual patients whose ad-driven interest in drugs fuels Big Pharma? I see two ways to look at them. First, they’re the victims. Big Pharma’s target. Calling them part of Big Pharma seems rather a lot like saying that the bodega owner who gives into mob threats and pays protection money is part of organized crime. No, she’s the victim of organized crime. Alternately, there’s semantics: By including patients as a class in “Big Pharma,” we’ve created a category word that includes everything and excludes nothing. That’s not a category, and so the inclusion has rendered “Big Pharma” meaningless as a phrase. It literally means nothing if we include patients as well as pharmaceutical companies, clinics and doctors.

    Same with Big Uni. I think that, as a concept, it has more meaning and impact if limited to the actors with the most agency and the most direct control. Retailers are acting in ways that serve Big Uni’s interests, sure. But if Nike didn’t exist and behave like Nike, Dick’s and Modell’s wouldn’t have to go out and invent Nike. Whereas if sporting goods retail collapsed tomorrow, like electronics retailing essentially did circa 2007, Nike et al absolutely would go out and invent a new retail channel. Retailers benefit from Big Uni, but they don’t actually depend on it. Witness the fact that sporting goods stores existed, and were in fact more successful, before Big Uni. Whereas Big Uni cannot exist without retailers. Big Uni depends on the retailers.

    Couldn’t sporting goods retailers simply refuse to carry Big Uni’s products? Of course. But retailers, like jersey ad buyers, are responding to market forces from above and from below. Those forces make participating in Big Pharma’s efforts rational almost to the point of being mandatory. Like the bodega owner who slips his bag of twenties to the mob enforcer every month, retailers must carry Nike products as a condition of doing business. The alternative for a retailer is not, Carry Big Uni merch or Do not carry Big Uni merch; the retailer’s choice is, Be a sporting goods retailer or Do not be a sporting goods retailer. The corporate interests that will buy Uni ads are in a similar position. Once Big Uni opens that frontier of advertising, advertisers are faced with the choice of whether to add that medium to their marketing efforts. If their return on investment reaching NBA fans is sufficient, then they pretty much have to advertise in that space. Not because they favor Big Uni or its values or objectives, but because that’s the rational choice for them and their unrelated interests. Just like a TV station’s decision to run a Big Pharma ad doesn’t make TV stations part of Big Pharma. They’re being exploited by Big Pharma, and corporate advertisers are being exploited by Big Uni.

    That quibble about definitions aside, I like how the concept of Big Uni potentially reframes our understanding of what sports leagues are and do – what they’re for. I’m not sure any longer that leagues actually exist to facilitate athletic competition among teams. They’re primarily about generating revenue. If the NFL believed it could make more money by manufacturing and selling automobiles, it would start building car factories tomorrow. What keeps it in the business of holding football games is the fact that that’s where the money is, at least for an organization with its current assets and knowledge. And Big Uni plays a large and increasing role in that, probably second only to the sale of broadcast rights. It’s not just that we’re all rooting for pajamas now. Pajamas are the teams now.

    • Phil Hecken | September 29, 2016 at 9:18 am |

      tl;dr

    • Jeffb0721 | September 29, 2016 at 9:20 am |

      Just take this comment as a like or upvote for what you wrote up.

  • Dave | September 29, 2016 at 8:54 am |

    I like wearing baseball caps. I don’t buy every cap worn by my team — they’re too expensive at $35 — but I have a traditional Mets blue cap and the first version of the Mr. Met batting practice cap.

    I used to buy jerseys, too, back years ago when they were affordable.

    I don’t think I’ve ever felt obligated to buy a cap, but I purchase the ones I like. I’m glad I have options.

    Sometimes I worry that we slip into “everything sucks” mode and miss some of the really neat things out there.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 9:12 am |

      I neither said, “Everything sucks” nor denied the existence of really neat things.

      That is all.

      • walter | September 29, 2016 at 9:40 am |

        I agree with Dave. When there’s a hat (or shirt) I like, I buy it without worrying about perpetrating an unsavory trend. And I have enough self-esteem to reject the idea that I am a poor fan if I do not consume the team’s products. Life is too short; do what you love, and love what you do.

  • Noah Wolf | September 29, 2016 at 8:59 am |

    Can we not use the term “the red pill”? The first thing that comes into my mind when I hear that is a group of anti-women users on Reddit.

    • Jason | September 29, 2016 at 5:18 pm |

      Seconded, /r/theredpill is a hate group of delusional misogynists and suggesting any sort of connection with the group, even through a supposedly relevant common reference, is unsavory at best. Even then, the use of a reference to a major Hollywood blockbuster franchise to espouse an anti-capitalist opinion isn’t a crisp look to me

      • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 5:22 pm |

        This whole thing about Reddit is news to me — thanks for letting me know.

        As for The Matrix, I see nothing wrong with taking inspiration from where one finds it. The movie’s basic message — that modern life has put most of us into a narcotic stupor that would be much more obvious if we’d just make the effort to notice it — strikes me as more valid with each passing day.

  • Carl Anderson | September 29, 2016 at 9:00 am |

    Paul, I understand your point about merchandise purchasing driving the Big Uni runaway train, but I feel conflicted. I wear a ton of hats, I like the way the 5950s look and fit best and I like the MLB on-field ones because they’re the least gaudy and ridiculous of the hats New Era makes (I don’t even get MiLB ones because of the logo). I like(d) the fact that they just had the team logo, so if I am “advertising” something, it is just the team. I also can’t help but wondering if my hat purchasing (along with others) also drives the stuff I hate.

    • Jon Rose | September 29, 2016 at 10:47 am |

      I can’t imagine that buying things you like would drive anything except encouraging “them” to sell more of the kinds of things you like.

  • arrScott | September 29, 2016 at 9:01 am |

    That 2017 graphic is yet another instance where a white New Era Mark is shown on a future MLB cap, but so far they’ve all been instances where white makes sense within a team’s colors. For the Blue Jays, a white New Era mark makes sense. Are they showing us the Jays cap facing left and the Pirates cap facing right because they don’t want to draw attention to how ugly the Pirates cap looks with a white New Era mark, or because a yellow New Era mark is too subltle?

    • JakeK66 | September 29, 2016 at 2:59 pm |

      I’d think they would eventually emulate the team’s colors. If not next year, maybe the year after. I have a hard time believing they’d all be white. Even the MLB logo is adjusted for team colors on the back.

  • Jeffb0721 | September 29, 2016 at 9:23 am |

    I read the KRC story thinking the story was about the big grey braided handle in the middle of the picture, not the tiny bracelet off to the side. Needless to say, it was a confusing story until I realized what the real subject was.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 9:39 am |

      From today’s text: “shown at right in the photo above.”

      • Jeffb0721 | September 29, 2016 at 11:16 am |

        I get it. My lazy reading patterns, not a critique of the text. In my mind, I see KRC section, I glance at picture (large thing in the middle is distinctive), I click and read story. Works most of the time.

  • Omar Jalife | September 29, 2016 at 9:33 am |

    “With the NBA set to introduce uniform advertising about a year from now (and the rest of the world already awash in uni ads), we should also include the corporate advertisers who think a uniform is just another billboard.”

    I would list this reason as all companies who already advertise on uniforms. I know the blog is USAcentric, but soccer in the world has seen companies logos and names on uniforms for decades now. Not being on an NBA uniform won’t make a company like Fly Emirates (who has its name in 5 or 6 soccer teams) good in my eyes.

  • Omar Jalife | September 29, 2016 at 9:42 am |

    About that Arsenal-Basel game. To me, probably the heads at BIG UNI wanted to promote the away jersey* because Arsenal has played all white teams before and used their regular red jersey/white short/red socks combo, like when they did with Real Madrid (1999) and Leeds United (1995)

    *Arsenal used their Home jersey while being away vs PSG a couple of weeks ago since the colors don’t clash. TLudogorest has green and black jerseys so Arsenal’s red one won’t clash with them either at home or away. If Arsenal had’t used the away jersey yesterday, they would have only had to use it when visiting Basel (home jersey is red and blue). Using the jersey in just 1 of 6 Champions League games (which have a higher number of viewers than Premier League) is bad for BIG UNI. How can you sell something if people doesn’t see it on the field?

    vs Real Madrid
    http://www.arsenal.com/assets/_files/scaled/696×392/import/-Images-w-wright_realmadrid1999.jpg
    vs Leeds
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/f25184a018a4ddc1ef2e0f1d7ab4be61e09d1a38/0_28_1487_892/master/1487.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=4fac0607027572b396c6b75148b1f65c

    • Clevo | September 29, 2016 at 1:58 pm |

      Why not wear the “cup kit” for a cup match instead of the yellow change kit?

      • Omar Jalife | September 29, 2016 at 3:32 pm |

        Maybe because it is UEFA Champions League.
        In all honesty, I guess the yellow kits were the ones available. with the Respect and Champions League patches sewed on

    • Ryan M | September 29, 2016 at 3:38 pm |

      I think that might be reading into it a bit much.
      Basel couldn’t wear their home kit because its red clashed with Arsenal’s, and with the Gunners as the home side, Basel were forced to change.
      http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-lbcJDV5lvY0/VWjMPR62yAI/AAAAAAAAkP8/HmhOJMKuskI/s1600/basel-15-16-kit-1.jpg

      I presume it’s because Arsenal’s white sleeves/shoulders and shorts didn’t contrast sufficiently with Basel’s all-white away kit.
      I’m assuming that, under normal circumstances, Basel would be forced to wear their third option–or some other combination that didn’t clash with Arsenal–but they don’t have a third choice, so the Gunners were forced to wear their away kits, as well.

      • Omar Jalife | September 29, 2016 at 6:07 pm |

        Yes Ryan, I might have a bot too much. But also, the pictures I showed also have Arsenal’s white sleeves. Now, these are from the 90’s so maybe the clashing colors rule for UEFA changed more recently than that.

      • Anthony Verna | September 29, 2016 at 7:03 pm |

        I agree with you. That decision is solely in the referee’s discretion. So that means you’ll get inconsistent rulings over time.

  • Alex Dewitt | September 29, 2016 at 9:52 am |

    As to the bowling ally’s it’s either the sanitizing spray, the oil from the machines, old beer smell, or the shellack on the floors. Maybe a combination of them all.

  • walter | September 29, 2016 at 9:53 am |

    Every new basketball uniform sticks another knife in vertical arch lettering. Something we must reverse, if you ask me.

  • Kurt | September 29, 2016 at 9:55 am |

    On Joe Perry photo – I say Packers.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 9:57 am |

      Correct!

  • Kurt | September 29, 2016 at 9:56 am |

    Packers too cheap to invest in facemasks at that point.

  • Douggo | September 29, 2016 at 10:15 am |

    Not a big deal, but the link to the helmet rankings is for the last slide in the group. Anticlimactic, yes, but also forces the user to figure out he has to click left arrow to scroll.

    • Perry | September 29, 2016 at 10:30 am |

      Yeah, it took me a while to figure that out. Opinions can differ, of course, but besides the Bucs the one that struck me as ridiculously over-ranked was the Jets at #7. Colts, Chiefs, and Giants were under-ranked, IMO, and the Chargers ridiculously so at #25, although he’s right about the navy masks being wrong for that helmet.

  • Dan J | September 29, 2016 at 10:28 am |

    In the hockey section: It’s the University of Nebraska-Omaha not the University of Omaha.

    I bought my first ever “on-field” hat when I was 16 (I’m 41 now). Over the years I’ve grown to love hats and usually wear one nearly every day. I’ve never once thought that buying a hat made me a better fan. I’ve also bought jerseys though that’s slowed down due to the price and downgrade in quality. Again, it’s because I like the look, feel, and fit of them not to be a “better” fan.

    While I respect your opinion on Big Uni, I disagree with the notion that you have any right to “encourage” me as to what I can and can’t buy with the money I earn.

    • timdub70 | September 30, 2016 at 1:28 am |

      From 1908 to 1968, it was the University of Omaha. It was merged into the University of Nebraska system at that time. Marlin Briscoe, the holder of the Denver Broncos’ rookie-quarterback touchdown pass record, was one of the last students when it was the University of Omaha. The confusion comes from the sports teams calling themselves “Omaha” instead of Nebraska-Omaha. I don’t see Nebraska-Kearney referring to themselves as “Kearney.”

  • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 10:31 am |

    Ferdinand Cesarano is having trouble posting a comment (technical difficulties of some sort), so he emailed it to me and I’m posting it for him. What follows is from him, not from me.

    ========

    I have nearly 150 caps; not all of them are sports-related, though most are. Some display logos from elsewhere in the culture. (As I write this I am wearing an ESPN hat, which qualifies both as sports-related and as media-related, alongside my hats of CBS, NBC, and HBO.) I have only a couple of jerseys; my thing is hats. But it’s all part of the same phenomenon.

    I assert that people wear these things not because they believe that they have to do so in order to be “good fans”. They wear sports apparel so as to express themselves. In other words, when I wear my Chelsea hat or my NYCFC hat, I am not supporting Chelsea FC or NYCFC; I am supporting myself; specifically, I am declaring an aspect of my tastes and preferences.

    The same goes for when I am wearing a hat of something other than a sports team. I have hats that show other cultural entities (the Jeopardy logo; Bugs Bunny; the Nathan’s logo), other aspects of my preferences (the bicycle symbol; the name and symbol of Esperanto; the symbol of my political ideology; the logo of my favourite band), and pride in my City (various hats that say “New York”, “NYC”, “NY”, and “Queens”). The point is that, in all cases, I am not so much celebrating these things as I am celebrating myself. Indeed, when I want to be explicit about it, I can wear any of the hats I have with the letter F on them, or even my hat that has my full name on it.

    I want to be clear that I defer to no one in my contempt for big business. And I hate to see apparel companies dictating style to teams, when it should be the other way around. But the practice of ordinary people wearing caps and jerseys is totally organic. People would do this anyway, as a means of expressing themselves; and they did it long before the rise of “Big Uni”.

    A tragic aspect of life in a world dominated by commerce is that everything gets commodified. This is something that is well worth opposing. But don’t confuse that ugly phenomenon with the pure and simple urge to express oneself, something with which we ought to be completely comfortable. When you see someone wearing a jersey or a cap, this is what you are seeing. Companies try to harness this natural phenomenon in order to make money from it. The job of thinking people is to keep the companies in their place. But we must not suppose that we need to eschew jerseys and caps in order to do that.

    No matter whether I am wearing a mass-marketed NYCFC hat that has an Adidas logo on the back, or whether I am wearing a hat that I had custom made to read “Ferdinand Cesarano”, I am doing the exact same thing: expressing myself. No company is driving this process; this comes from inside each individual.

  • Wafflebored | September 29, 2016 at 10:32 am |

    Think piece days are always the best days.

    • mike 2 | September 29, 2016 at 11:04 am |

      Agree completely.

      (and my enjoyment of think pieces isn’t affected by whether I agree with the thought or not. Even when I disagree I enjoy reading the opinion and the reasoning)

  • Keith | September 29, 2016 at 10:35 am |

    Devil’s advocate for a moment… has Uni Watch actually played a part in the advance of Big Uni? NONE of this used to exist. I wore jerseys when I was a kid in the 70s, but they were HARD to find and cheaply made. When I was starting reading Uni Watch back on ESPN, it was truly “for those who get it.” I was actually reading something talking about things I thought only I noticed. But the timeline coincides with the rise of Big Uni, in terms that the unis were now getting media attention.
    NOW if you want to get political, you can also add in the extremist attitudes that exist in current social climates. Conformity is expected today, much more so than back in the 70s and 80s. If you go to a game wearing anything but a jersey or at the very least team colors, you’re suspect. Round here (I live in an NHL city) people even wear their “Uni” stuff to work on game days.
    Did we help create Big Uni?

  • Chris | September 29, 2016 at 10:39 am |

    I think the consumer is the main drive behind the uniform changes. If people were not willing to buy these things then they wouldn’t be made. This issue exists across multiple areas – consumers don’t care about the quality of goods so things are no longer made to last etc. I can’t blame a company for producing products that the consumer seemingly demands. I blame the people who will buy anything with their team’s logo on it for whatever outrageous price it is sold at.

  • jd | September 29, 2016 at 10:50 am |

    I have no issue with myslef or anyone buying team jerseys. Sure they are expensive, but its our cash to spend. My issue is with teams having too many uniforms and diluting their visual identity. My second and much bigger issue is the makers mark on everything is going front and center (or rear and center in hockey). Those are so unneeded. People are going to buy the jerseys from nike, ua, etc since they are the ones making them. There is no use in having their logos plastered on them prominently. The tail is wagging the dog on this. The jersey makers are using the teams to advertise which is completely backward. I’m fine with a small and/or unobtrusive logo. The old CCM logos in hockey were relatively large, but they were on the back hem so it was not a massive “look at me” ad for CCM

  • Another Josh | September 29, 2016 at 10:51 am |

    I apparently previously missed the news that a renovation was going to remove Tal’s Hill, and am disappointed by that. Here is a nice article from Forbes about a possible reason why baseball’s on-field oddities are disappearing.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimpagels/2016/09/06/death-of-houstons-tals-hill-continues-demise-of-baseballs-on-field-oddities/#3d88b0874e14

  • Paul Hill | September 29, 2016 at 11:11 am |

    I’m pretty sure the Bears are hoping no one will notice them as the same team they’ve been so far this year.

  • Tornaitbird | September 29, 2016 at 11:13 am |

    In other news, the Raiders are doing a whiteout for their Color Rash. First thing I’d like to say is, why?! The only team in the league with the authority to wear all black is in monochrome? Blasphemy. Also, I swear, if there is no pant stripe, then Nike has successfully made Oakland into Pitt. And one more thing: have the Raiders ever worn white pants, cause at least according to Madden circa 2009, they have.

    • Anthony Verna | September 29, 2016 at 7:04 pm |

      Why not go all-silver if you have to participate in this program?

  • mike 2 | September 29, 2016 at 11:16 am |

    Here’s what I resent the most about Big Uni: that the first impulse it creates in fans is not to say “I like that” or “that looks good” but to ask “where can I buy that”

    With uniforms, its nice to talk about design and aesthetics and not have everything be about money.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 11:38 am |

      Here’s what I resent the most about Big Uni: that the first impulse it creates in fans is not to say “I like that” or “that looks good” but to ask “where can I buy that”

      Or, even worse, “I’m definitely gonna buy that.”

      Or, still worse, “Eh, not so great, but I’ll probably buy it.” (It’s sad enough to think this way; it’s *really* sad to feel the need to express the thought publicly.)

    • HawksPacMan | September 29, 2016 at 11:45 am |

      My counterpoint to that is: You see a steak that looks good, and you want to eat it. You see a muscle car and you want to drive it. It’s natural to see a new uniform/logo and feel the impulse to wear it.

      • mike 2 | September 29, 2016 at 12:16 pm |

        That’s what steaks are made for. To be eaten. Hopefully by me.

        When I see Paul’s culinary corner, I think that’s actually the right impulse.

        Uniforms are made to be worn by other people. Professional athletes. They’re meant to be admired, criticized, whatever. Not consumed.

      • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 12:24 pm |

        You see a steak that looks good, and you want to eat it. You see a muscle car and you want to drive it. It’s natural to see a new uniform/logo and feel the impulse to wear it.

        The notion that this is “natural” is exactly what Big Uni wants you think.

        Some of us don’t feel that impulse at all.

        When I see a nice uniform, I think, “That’s a nice uniform” or “I enjoy looking at that.” I don’t think “I want to wear that,” and I certainly don’t think “I want to *buy* that.”

        That’s the difference between uniforms and merchandise. I realize that they’re one and the same for many people, but not for everyone. And not for the person who runs this website.

  • Alex Parisi | September 29, 2016 at 12:05 pm |

    So who isn’t Big Uni?

    • Adam N. | September 29, 2016 at 2:53 pm |

      Players, coaches, fans, and your aunt who wants the Dolphins to win tonight because “That Dan Marino always seems like such a nice guy!”

      • Ryan M | September 29, 2016 at 3:47 pm |

        I don’t think we can exempt players or coaches, either. I’m thinking of college football, in particular. We traditionalists decry the numerous combinations even the most mediocre program has at its disposal these days. I remember reading on here within the past few years that the higher-ups at these schools have found that having flashy unis appeals to the student-athletes–a definite recruiting tool. So it’s possibly another example (kind of like the NFL, Nike, & Thursday Night Football’s unis) of a client telling its providers, “give us something flashy that the kids like.” Boom, numerous combos, many missing even the faintest hint of a school’s colors… instant recruiting gold.

    • mike 2 | September 29, 2016 at 3:48 pm |

      Majestic seems immune.

      I will admit to being of two minds on Nike. On the one hand, they are the epitome of everything Paul is talking about in this column. On the other hand, completely separate from everything we’re talking about here, they make some really sports clothing and equipment – their Flyknit running shoes are really, really good shoes, and their baselayers are great for cold weather exercise.

      • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 3:54 pm |

        Majestic is definitely part of Big Uni. But as I’ve written before, they’re not a lifestyle brand. They’re mostly in the business of making baseball uniforms, period. Yeah, they also have some t-shirts and such, but it’s not a big part of their business. They don’t make sneakers, they don’t have a big store at the mall, etc. I also get the feeling that they don’t drive much, if any, of the MLB uniform action. They mostly execute what the teams and MLB want.

        So yeah, they’re part of Big Uni. But a more benign part.

  • Bobo | September 29, 2016 at 12:23 pm |

    Radulov needs to wipe his visor down with shampoo b4 games. Fog won’t stick.

  • Sterling84 | September 29, 2016 at 12:26 pm |

    This is such an interesting topic and one I’m deeply conflicted about. I would just ask in a totally serious manner to anyone opposed to “Big Uni”… as opposed to what? What does sports in 2016 even look like absent the retail component? People collect things. People are super interested in minutia whether no matter the topic; whether it’s for sale or not.
    Did the NFL Pro-Line catalog boost my interest when it showed up in my mailbox when I was a kid? Definitely. But I distinctly remember asking my dad for a Packers helmet years and years earlier for Christmas. And he found me one, but even at age 7-8 I knew it was a replica and pointed out all the differences from the real thing. He was stunned (and probably pissed). And I didn’t mean it to be ungrateful. I just obsessed about this stuff and I think we all did (do).
    That part of me (us) was never going away whether there were consumer versions of those helmets or not. And I guess I would make a (super strained apples to oranges) analogy between this market and all markets….including black markets. Demand doesn’t go away, it simply goes underground. In fact, I’d suggest there is a big subset of us who strictly and exclusively purchase (or covet) game worn merchandise only and who find the entire range of retail side products lesser by definition and wouldn’t touch the stuff if you gave it to them for free. And those folks pay huge dollars at auctions and stuff for those pieces.
    So when I close my eyes and picture a world where this stuff isn’t readily available? I see a further segregated marketplace where super rich people get and wear game worn gear and the rest of us DIY or go without.
    If I’m misinterpreting the position I apologize in advance. If what we really wish is that people didn’t want this stuff to begin with? That demand dried up? I guess that’s worth aspiring to, but good luck.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 12:45 pm |

      I would just ask in a totally serious manner to anyone opposed to “Big Uni”… as opposed to what? What does sports in 2016 even look like absent the retail component?

      Uh, maybe it looks more like sports in the 1970s and ’80s, before jersey retailing became the tail that wagged the on-field dog..?

      I see a further segregated marketplace where super rich people get and wear game worn gear and the rest of us DIY or go without.

      You say that as though it’s self-evidently a bad thing. I disagree.

      Your argument is premised on two things: (1) People want to acquire lots of stuff, and (2) therefore it’s OK for people to acquire lots of stuff, regardless of the consequences.

      I agree somewhat with the first point (I say “somewhat” because the levers of capitalism tend to influence people into wanting to be more materially acquisitive than they would otherwise be) and strongly disagree with the second point. When rampant materialism is bad for the uni-verse and for our culture at large — which I think it is — then you don’t just shrug your shoulders and say, “Eh, whaddaya gonna do.”

      Or at least I don’t.

      Not for the first time today (and probably not the last, either), I strongly recommend that you revisit my 2015 piece about the uni-verse succeeding too well for its — or our — own good:
      http://www.uni-watch.com/2015/11/03/the-uni-verse-is-broken-but-not-because-it-has-failed/

      • Sterling84 | September 29, 2016 at 12:57 pm |

        Totally fair points Paul. I think part of your position sort of takes for granted that in the 70s-80s (or even before) things were unquestionably good though. Don’t you agree?

        I personally assign no value judgment one way or the other on any of those eras. I try in a very general way to always zoom out, always push against the impulses of nostalgia. Even in the 70s-80s (for example) uniforms were getting .. let’s say a lot more fun. Colored facemasks, tiger striped helmet decals etc. And much of that was simply technology driven. I think people maybe to fail to understand how much of this is driven by the technological limitations of the day. I don’t think they had better taste in 1983 or 1953. Right? The 90s were full of sublimation partly because that’s when they figured it out technologically. Lastly, materialism is certainly not an a social good necessarily. That feels like the beginning of a much bigger talk though. Like what percentage of the economy is “need” vs busy work/wants. And that’s a question worth asking.

        • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 1:07 pm |

          I think part of your position sort of takes for granted that in the 70s-80s (or even before) things were unquestionably good though. Don’t you agree?

          There may (or may not) have been all sorts of problems in the uni-verse in during that period. But Big Uni using merchandising as the tail to wag was not one of them. We didn’t have an endless stream of pointless and usually poor designs that existed for no reason other than the ability to sell them; we didn’t have consumerism being conflated with fandom; we didn’t have sportswear companies that were more interested in being lifestyle brands than in being sportswear companies; and so on.

          Maybe you don’t find those issues to be problematic. But I do.

  • Sterling84 | September 29, 2016 at 12:35 pm |

    Also, not for nothing. My grandmother was a literal hoarder. When she passed away there was 3 mortgages worth of QVC in her tiny home. I’m not casting a wide net or psycho analyzing your entire readership. I will only say many MANY people assign significant emotional worth to things and objects and for such a wide variety of reasons or to sooth unmet needs. It’s a real problem in our broader society.

    And totally 180 degrees from that? I think if I can paint with a super broad brush? I think I personally like what i would call the mash-up or cross-over culture. When I was growing up I would ask my parents why the Dukes of Hazzard couldn’t help Michael Knight and KITT solve a problem. To me everything I liked existed in one giant overlapping universe. As such? You might be able to guess I’m the kind of easy mark that loves the continuity and comfort derived from something like the MCU. So when that further cross promotes and rugby teams wear Avengers themed uniforms I get a rush out of it. It’s definitely escapism and I’m not even defending it.

    • arrScott | September 29, 2016 at 1:13 pm |

      It’s a real problem in our broader society.

      Strike the word “modern.” It’s a nearly universal human trait to assign emotional worth to objects. This has been observed in most encounters with primitive peoples, and it’s present in nearly all of the earliest human literature. “That thing with assigning emotional worth to objects? Don’t do that” is literally the First or Second Commandment of the Ten Commandments, depending on how one counts them. That in a text written probably 2,700 years ago.

  • Dave | September 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm |

    Thing is Jurgy hated Theismann for the obvious reason (Theismann was there to replace him and/or Billy Kilmer). They used to make Theismann return kicks so a #7 setting up to field a punt with a single-bar would definitely be a startling image these days.

  • Dave | September 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm |

    That distinctive bowling alley smell is the same from the duckpin lanes I bowled on in Maryland when I was 4 to the lanes I bowl on now in Atlanta. There’s no way a lane with a natural varnished hardwood surface coated in oil will compare to a synthetic waxed and oiled surface. Plus duckpin pinsetters are nothing like ten-pin setters.

    That leaves the shoes.

    Think about it.

  • Corey | September 29, 2016 at 1:10 pm |

    Delly is most likely taping over the swoosh because he can’t start wearing his Peak signature shoe until Saturday.

    Also wondering what is up with the jersey Shaun Livingston is wearing in the last pic. https://twitter.com/warriorsworld/status/781020130528690176

  • Drew | September 29, 2016 at 1:11 pm |

    Two of my favorite things, Drew Magary and Uni-Watch, have collided. This is sort of like when peanut butter met chocolate for me.

  • Rich P | September 29, 2016 at 1:14 pm |

    Excuse me if I am late to the party on this, but Delly is indeed wearing Kobe Bryant shoes with a piece of tape over the Nike Logo. If you zoom in on the pic, they’re the same type of shoe that Giannis is wearing. Delly, coincidentally has just gotten his own signature shoe from a company called Peak. Here’s a link for that. http://weartesters.com/peak-delly-1-unveiled/

  • BurghFan | September 29, 2016 at 1:19 pm |

    Go back and (re)read yesterday’s post. While there were a handful of big sporting goods manufacturers 50 years ago, their market was teams, not fans. NFL teams wanted jerseys that met league standards and would last three years. Price would be the next issue. There might have been some value in telling a high school “This is what the Packers wear,” but there were no visible manufacturers’ logos. If teams felt like changing designs, they could, but it was about their identity, not an excuse to sell merchandise.

    Big Uni is all about selling that merchandise. Leagues and teams happily take money to participate. And to the extent that what you see in the stores is more important than what you see on the field, it’s a bad thing.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 1:27 pm |

      To expand upon Jerry’s point (and also expand upon something I said in an earlier comment thread), the legacy sportswear companies were just that — sportswear companies. Rawlings, Wilson, Spalding, Champion, etc. were in the business of selling sportswear to sports teams.

      Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, and the rest are lifestyle brands that are in the business of selling totems of materialism to young and young-ish consumers. They sell sportswear to sports teams as a vehicle to drive the consumer business. That’s it.

      Many people have no problem with that. But some of us do.

  • Andrew | September 29, 2016 at 1:31 pm |

    Anyone else notice that Harden wore “Stockton-esque” shorts ….. and Stockton shows up in the very next referenced photo!?

  • Mark Guttag | September 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm |

    One of the things that I have noticed is that while the brands of the uniform manufacturers have been strengthening, I think the brands of many universities have been weakening.

    For example, on Saturday, when I flip through the channels, it can actually be hard to tell sometimes who is playing who just by looking at the players on the field.

    This used to only be a significant problem for me with the numerous red and white clad football, and even then the helmet color, helmet logo, the stripe or stripes on the helmet, the stripes on the pants, etc. could help me out.

    The colors for a school used to be an important part of their brand. For example, you could look pictures of an Ohio State, UCLA or Virginia Tech game from decades ago, and immediately identify the team the picture.

    But when most people think “Ohio State” is this the image they think of?

    http://image.cleveland.com/home/cleve-media/width960/img/plain-dealer/photo/2015/10/17/-eff4f0ea73598b97.jpg

    Is this the image they think of for UCLA?

    http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/pg-photo/2014/07/02/0ap2000000363026/10-ucla-s-l-midnight_pg_600.jpg

    Is this the image they of for Virginia Tech?

    https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-p2YiX4wmLdE/V9m1pc1e-1I/AAAAAAAAMTU/Bjf9saof3g8CrTW9QdyMhYJn3hLkIVnQQCLcB/s1600/1.jpg

    By the way, in contrast, in the picture of Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee above, I think Tennessee’s incorporation of the orange and white checkerboard stripe on their helmet and pants is a good example of a university actually reinforcing their brand on their uniform. I think many people do associate that pattern with the University of Tennessee, even if it is a relatively new addition to their uniform.

  • Ed | September 29, 2016 at 2:26 pm |

    Those Padres uniforms from the “Pitch” screengrab are more likely the one-time-use road greys that they wore for the ASG.

  • Josiah Bartlett | September 29, 2016 at 3:16 pm |

    In my opinion. the retail uniform/ athletic apparel market is where it’s at due to demand, not forced supply. Colleges are having to adopt all of these crazy uniform designs as recruiting tactics because it matters to the players. So I don’t believe it’s true that Nike/UA/Addidas are doing what they are doing just to sell to consumers. Sure that’s a big part of it, but if that were true then why would Nike spend so much money developing “vapor untouchable” or “Elite 51” uniforms when I’m sure 80% of their retail sales are for the game and limited jerseys? Why spend all the money on performance research to develop a better uniform for the athletes that focuses more on performance than aesthetic if your goal is just to sell a watered down version of the jersey to consumers? I would argue the most extreme uniforms are found in one of the few markets where a brand doesn’t have a monopoly (College Football) and the schools can choose who to outfit them and choose their own designs.
    The way I see it is at the end of the day, these are games. These are games played that are meant to entertain fans. What entertains people today is alot different than what entertained them 20 years ago, as hard as that is for traditionalists to hear. I love collecting jerseys. I love my game day ritual of choosing my “lucky jersey” and shorts or whatever for that day. I also think that Wilson, Russel, etc., products are total shit compared to Nike, UA, Addidas, etc. I buy Nike gear because it’s higher quality, more comfortable, and lasts longer than other brands. Maybe the teams/leagues took a different route because the quality of certain companies fell off? I guess I just don’t understand your disdain for “Big Uni”. Frankly if “Big Uni” didn’t exist and every team had plain and generic uniforms that never changed, Uni-watch wouldn’t last much longer. I am a musician and I don’t see any difference in what these companies do with athletic apparel than what guitar/amp manufacturers do with big artists: give them gear to play for free so all of their musician fans go out and buy their brand. I just don’t get what’s wrong with that when the purpose of sports first and foremost is to entertain us little people who are out doing the mundane jobs. My absolute favorite days of the year are gearing up to watch my team play.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 3:20 pm |

      Frankly if “Big Uni” didn’t exist and every team had plain and generic uniforms that never changed, Uni-watch wouldn’t last much longer.

      1) I think you are badly mistaken.

      2) Even if you are correct, so what? I’d do something else. And even if I couldn’t find something else to do, so what? What I do for a living is not the issue here; the state of the uni-verse, and our larger culture, is. You and I may disagree about Big Uni, and that’s fine, but the whole “Without Big Uni you’d be out of a job” trope is not relevant to the discussion.

      • Josiah Bartlett | September 29, 2016 at 3:32 pm |

        Didn’t necessarily mean that to imply that you’d personally be out of a job (though I suppose you would, haha), I mean that uniform watching and obsessing has become a big part of sports culture, thanks largely in part to your work, and I don’t think that going the mundane route would please 90% of fans.

        • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm |

          No offense, Josiah, but there are sooooo many faulty premises in that comment. The biggest one is that the opposite of Big Uni is, by definition, “mundane.” I would strongly disagree.

        • RobYaz | September 29, 2016 at 5:35 pm |

          Agree with you Paul. I am so much more interested in the one-off quirky “Toronto Maple Leafs wore same color NOB in the 1970s because the owner hated names on jerseys” types of topics than the “87 schools wore pink jerseys this weekend” topics of 2016. Or the Atlanta Braves nickname jerseys. And a thousand other lesser examples. Teams have been doing diverse and interesting things with their uniforms, including changing them every few years, long before the purpose of such was to sell merchandise.

  • Dan T. | September 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm |

    At the end of the day, it’s hard to really see who is harmed by the presence of Big Uni.

    1. They design a product and market it.
    2. People like it, and buy and wear it.
    3. Big Uni makes money, creating jobs and profits.
    4. Fans get to feel more like “part of the team” by being able to wear items that are the same or very close replicas to what the players wear.
    5. The profit motive inspires Big Uni to constantly come up with new designs and explore new ideas. Some of them work, some of them don’t. Often times, the ones that don’t work are replaced with either new designs or return to the old one.
    6. The interest in uniform design increases the number of talented people who want to work in the field, and inspires amateur artists to come up with tweaks and new designs. More people become part of the “uni-verse” and uniforms get more mainstream media coverage.

    Again, it’s kind of hard to see who is harmed here. Maybe traditionalists who believe that old designs are inherently better. But even then, most of the true classic uniforms endure – Yankees, Celtics, Dodgers, Cowboys, Raiders, Lakers, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, etc. mostly stick to their same designs.

    • Sterling84 | September 29, 2016 at 4:40 pm |

      I would hesitantly tend to agree. And that is true even though I probably align with Paul regarding my own personal preferences 75% of the time. I’m just a little hesitant to declare paradigm shifts like this as “bad” or “good” across the board. I think there’s been a lot of both. I think there’s also been a LOT of paradigm shifts in a lot of industries. Corner book shops, pharmacy/soda fountains etc, corner video stores, local music shops to just hit some of the most popular think piece ones. And nostalgia makes us miss those things and a lot of times in fairness something IS indeed lost there. But, it’s very difficult in real time to sort out the noise and get the macro view of what’s actually happening, why and how it is or isn’t going to end up being beneficial.

    • Paul Lukas | September 29, 2016 at 5:08 pm |

      This is the usual false assertion that (a) business practices are, by definition, self-justifying and therefore above critique (b) market forces are self-justifying and therefore above critique; and (c) any and all exposure and attention are self-justifying and therefore above critique.

      None of that is true. Not one bit of it.

      • Dan T. | September 29, 2016 at 6:44 pm |

        I don’t think I made any of those points. Of course businesses practices are not “above critique” or anything like that.

        But on the whole, I like the fact that there are more ideas and designs being implemented, more fans are interested in uniforms and logos, and that there are more resources like UniWatch were people can come together and discuss the uni-verse.

        To a certain extent, the business of America is business, as the saying goes. I mean, do any of us really want to live in a world where we can’t buy t-shirts, caps, and jerseys of our favorite teams?

  • Al | September 29, 2016 at 4:52 pm |

    http://www.pgatour.com/style-report.html

    The PGA tour has its own ‘uni’ section.

  • Mike Fudge | September 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm |

    Re: Joe Theismann… Billy Kilmer wore a single bar his entire career as a QB in New Orleans and,Washington. Kilmer is the QB to whom Theismann is referring, not Sonny J. Sonny J started 4-0 or 5-0 in 1971, but suffered an injury, and Kilmer took them to the playoffs. Kilmer from then on was the starting QB, and was so, although Sonny did rotate,in, from the time Theismann joined the team in 1974.

  • Chris | September 29, 2016 at 6:19 pm |

    Paul and Phil, are there any athletes that you guys ever talk to that are just as uni-obsessed as we are? I’m always curious to know what some of them think when there are significant changes to designs, etc. I’m not talking about the players that are made available to the media by teams, model the new designs at press releases or have exclusive Big-UNI deals. Rather the players that actually have a legitimate interest in the history and aesthetics of the game. I know it can be difficult because they may not want to speak out against their team, league, Big-UNI, but it would be interesting to get “on field expert” opinions.

  • Dave L | September 29, 2016 at 8:30 pm |

    Maybe I reject Big-Uni by only buying team items that are on-sale, last season or bootlegged versions. Maybe I need to re-evaluate what kind of consumer I am.

  • 1vox | September 29, 2016 at 8:42 pm |

    Re: The article about the Steelers helmet…

    It would be a great history lesson if it were entirely true, but they wore a different (albeit similar) logo during the 1962 season and subsequent Playoff Bowl. The writer twice states that they still use that ’62 logo. The current logo wasn’t used until the following (1963) season. Who has time for research, though, right?

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/08/89/f1/0889f1400cc0894d4cff37f4a0473212.jpg

    http://media.gettyimages.com/photos/football-nfl-playoff-bowl-pittsburgh-steelers-lou-michaels-in-action-picture-id151887335

    “In 1962, the Pittsburgh Steelers instructed equipment manager Jack Hart to remove the players’ individual jersey numbers from each side of the yellow-gold helmets they wore at the time and replace it with the now popular Steeler logo.”

    “The 1962 Steelers finished 9-5, the winningest season in franchise history at the time. The team finished second in the Eastern Conference and qualified for the ‘playoff bowl.’ The franchise wanted to do something special for their first-ever postseason appearance so they went a step further. They changed the color of the helmets from gold to black, which would also enhance the appearance of the logo.

    “Because of the different local and national media interest that it generated, along with the team’s newfound success, the organization decided to leave the logo as a permanent look. It has remained on the team’s classic helmets for the past 55 seasons.”

  • Chuck | September 29, 2016 at 8:54 pm |

    Bengals look pretty sharp in tonight’s color rash game. I am a Browns fan who wish they would go back to their classic look.

  • Skott | September 29, 2016 at 9:52 pm |

    The Bengals should definitely make these their permanent roadies.

  • Ryan | September 30, 2016 at 12:55 pm |

    Delly has a new deal with Peak, my guess his sig shoe is not quite ready so he covered the logos on his nikes.