Greetings, people! I come to you with glad tidings, for today I have good news and better news.
The good news is that the results of our Bengals-redesign challenge are now available on SI.com.
The better news is that this is the last freelance piece I’ll be doing for Sports Illustrated … because I’ll be joining SI as a staff writer on Aug. 12. Or to put it another way, my Dallas Keuchel-like free agency, which began back in mid-March, is finally coming to an end.
You probably have questions. Allow me to anticipate some of them:
So were your freelance pieces for SI basically an audition, and then they decided that you passed the audition so they hired you?
Not exactly. SI actually wanted to hire me almost from the moment that I announced I’d be leaving ESPN (it turns out that their top digital editor has been a fan of my work going back to my 1990s zine days, although I didn’t know that until he got in touch with me last winter), but their hands were tied because they were up for sale and had a hiring freeze.
Although they couldn’t formally hire me, they did have a freelance budget, so we decided to have me do a series of freelance pieces — first the MLB season preview, then the Jets unveiling, then the piece about the Game Face inventor, and now the Bengals redesign — with the hopes that they’d eventually be sold and get the go-ahead from the new owners to make a new hire. That’s what happened.
What if someone else had made you a serious offer before SI had been sold?
If I had received a fair offer for a situation I felt good about, I would have taken it. As it happens, I had reasonably serious discussions with three other outlets over the past few months (and more informal chats with several others). In fact, I was about to sign a contract with another outlet, literally that same day, when SI came up with a last-minute offer. So there was a bit of drama and brinksmanship, all of which was both exciting and stressful.
How did the other outlet feel about losing out on you at the last minute?
They weren’t happy. I felt badly about that, because we had been engaged in talks for some time, I liked the guy I was dealing with, and I was looking forward to working for them. But in the end, they couldn’t or wouldn’t match the SI offer, so that was that.
You used the term “staff writer” — so you’ll be an SI employee, not just a contract freelancer?
Yes. That means I’ll get full benefits, including health insurance — my first employer-provided health insurance since 1996 (!).
Does that mean you’ll stop complaining on the blog about your insurance situation?
Probably, at least for a while. But it’s still nuts that health insurance is treated as an employment benefit, rather than as a necessity. As a nation, we need to do better on this.
Since you’ll be on staff, will you have to go to the SI offices?
I’ll still be able to work from Uni Watch HQ, although I expect I’ll choose to go to the office from time to time. Since ESPN’s offices are a nearly three-hour drive from Brooklyn, I only went up there about once a year, which I think led to a certain “Out of sight, out of mind” factor among the editors and other ESPN people I worked with. Going to the SI offices now and then should make it easier for my new colleagues to remember that I’m a human being, not just an email address, and it’ll also make me feel more like I’m part of the SI family.
Why are you starting in mid-August, instead of right away?
I have a trip to Ireland coming up from July 28 to Aug. 8 (my first real vacation since the Utah trip more than a year ago), so we figured it would make sense to wait until I got back from that.
How long is your SI contract for?
There’s no contract. I’ll simply be an at-will employee. That means I can be laid off or fired at any time. It also means I can leave or quit at any time. (Obviously, I’m hoping neither of those things comes up any time soon.)
How much are they paying you?
Less than ESPN paid me, but with better benefits.
Enough about you. What does all of this mean for this website?
SI will permit me to keep blogging, so the arrangement I’ll have with them should be very similar to the one I had with ESPN — I’ll do big stories for SI, smaller stories here on the blog. I may make a few tweaks to my internal assessments of what constitutes a big story vs. a small story, but overall you shouldn’t really see much of a difference from the way things were before.
So all of the season previews that you usually do in the late summer and fall — college football, NFL, NHL, NBA, college hoops — will run on SI?
Yes. So will my annual gift guide, and pretty much anything else that you would have expected to see on ESPN in previous years.
Will you also do non-uni content for SI?
I hope so. I already have a few ideas for for features that aren’t uni-related but are very much in keeping with my sensibility, if you know what I mean.
Will you still take your annual August break from the blog?
Yes. Phil will run the site in August, just as he has in previous years. I’ll have more to say about that soon.
I’ll probably cut back on that so I can concentrate on my SI work. SI will be my first responsibility and priority going forward.
Hasn’t SI been undergoing a lot of turmoil? I read some stuff about how they were sold, but I found it confusing.
For many years, SI was owned by Time Inc. In late 2017, the Time Inc. magazines were sold to Meredith Corporation. But Meredith never intended to hold onto SI — they planned to flip it. In May of this year, they sold SI to Authentic Brands Group. ABG is not a publisher (their interest in SI is primarily the value of its name, which they feel they can leverage in various ways), so they temporarily licensed the magazine and website operations back to Meredith for a period of up to two years. But that period ended up being only a few weeks, because ABG then struck a new publishing agreement with a Seattle-based startup called the Maven, which will now essentially be my boss (or more like my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss, or something like that).
That still sounds confusing! Are you sure SI is a safe place to work?
The reality is that there are no safe places in journalism anymore. As we’ve discussed here on Uni Watch several times, the old media business model, based on subscriptions and advertising, no longer works. New models, like the one being used by The Athletic, are propped up by venture capital, which is notoriously fickle. There’s no perfect option.
That said, I’ve been assured that SI’s new publishers want to invest in the magazine. The digital editor who brought me on board tells me that his new bosses have asked him who he wants to hire, not how he can cut costs. The main editor I’ve been working with — an SI lifer who’s been with the company for 21 years — sounds enthusiastic about sticking around for this new chapter in SI history. And they both sound excited about working with me. Here’s hoping we all get to do that for a long time.
I’m surprised you’d work with a company that produces the annual swimsuit issue. Are you really okay with that?
I’m generally fine with pornography (let’s call it what it is), although I don’t see any reason why a sports magazine should be producing it. So yeah, I wish the SI swimsuit issue didn’t exist. But it’s not a dealbreaker. Frankly, ESPN did some things I wasn’t crazy about either (ditto for just about every other place I’ve ever written for), but overall they were a reputable company that I was happy to be associated with. Same goes for SI.
There are certain places I would never work for under any circumstances because they’re just too toxic, but SI and their swimsuit issue certainly don’t cross that line.
Now that you’re no longer a free agent, does this mean you’ll stop begging us for money?
The emotional and financial support that you people have provided since I left ESPN has been nothing short of amazing. We processed as many membership card orders in the first half of 2019 as we got in the previous four years combined. In addition, there have been generous financial donations, items donated for raffles and auctions, and more. So many of you have also sent thoughtful notes telling me how important Uni Watch is to you, and those notes mean a lot to me — really. All in all, I feel like I’ve been on the receiving end of a big outpouring of love and support from the comm-uni-ty. Thank you!!
Now that I’ll be getting a steady paycheck from SI, I won’t need to lean on you so hard for financial support. It’s worth pointing out, though, that this website does not write or pay for itself. We still have monthly web-hosting fees, I still have a staff to (under)pay, and the content still takes a lot of time to produce (all of which was also the case when I was at ESPN, of course). If you value that content, I hope you’ll continue to support Uni Watch with membership enrollments, shirt purchases, and so on.
I think that’s it. If you have additional questions, feel free to post them in today’s comments and I’ll do my best to answer. Thanks.
Click to enlarge
Bouton/Ball Four recap: Last night’s tribute to Jim Bouton and Ball Four at Le Poisson Rouge was a blast. That’s me in the photo above, with three of the other four sportwriters who participated. As you can see, Jay Jaffe (at far right) went full Bouton by wearing a Seattle Pilots jersey. Had No. 56 on the back, too. I took a more subtle approach, wearing my Pilots-inspired StripeRite socks:
Several Uni Watch readers were on hand, including Ryan Dornan, who was decked out in Uni Watch finery (and bought me a beer besides — thanks, Ryan!):
The event was audio-recorded. I’ll let you know when the audio is available on the internet.
ITEM! Big uni-versary news: As you know, we are currently in the midst of celebrating Uni Watch’s 20th anniversary. So far I’ve rolled out uni-versary patches and T-shirts, plus the special shirt that celebrates the dual 20th uni-versaries of Uni Watch and MLB’s futuristic uniforms.
But I wanted to do something special — something that really said, “20th anniversary!” So I looked up the list of traditional anniversary gifts and learned that the 20th anniversary is the “China anniversary.” That’s China as in plates, dishes, and so on. So I decided that we would have a commemorative Uni Watch 20th-anniversary plate!
The design took a bit longer than I expected (mainly because I’m a terrible art director), but I’m really happy with the way it came out. Dig (click to enlarge):
Pretty swank, right? The design was done by Scott M.X. Turner, except for the little cherubs who are hoisting the Uni Watch script into place, who were drawn by longtime Uni Watch pal Rob Ullman. Let’s take a closer look at them (click to enlarge):
Isn’t that great? In addition to their angels’ wings, they’re also wearing little winged stirrups, just like the one in our logo!
The good news is that the plates are being made and sold for us by the fine people at Uncommon Goods (I went to college with their founder). They have plenty of experience with commemorative plates, so you can be assured that it will be a high-quality made-in-USA product and that they’ll do a good job of packing and shipping it.
The bad news is that custom-designed plates are expensive. The price will be $59 (that’s only $10 over cost, and I plan to give all of the profits to Scott and Rob), plus $6.95 for economy shipping (4-8 business days). For two plates, the shipping is $8.95; for three plates, $9.95; and for a set of four, $10.95.
Will many of you want to buy something like that? Will any of you want to buy something like that? I really have no idea, which means we have no idea how much inventory to purchase — which means I’m asking for pre-orders on this one.
So! If you’d like to eat off of a genuine Uni Watch commemorative plate, or just display such an item in your home, send the appropriate amount, including shipping (that’s a total of $65.95 for one plate; $126.95 for two; $186.95 for three; and $246.95 for four) to me via Venmo (use @Paul-Lukas-2 as the payee) or Zelle (email@example.com). If you’d like to use Apple Pay or mail me a paper check, get in touch and I’ll give you the info for those methods. Sorry, no non-USA orders for now, but we may offer them later.
After sending payment, be sure to let me know your shipping address.
Thanks for listening. I don’t really expect many people to purchase this, but I thought it would be fun to have a piece of Uni Watch China for our China anniversary — and I was right! Very conceptually satisfying!!
I have some other fun merch in the pipeline — more on that soon.
Membership update: Oh man, is that gorgeous or what? The colors, the graphics — so good! That’s Will Scheibler’s membership card (go ahead and click to enlarge — it’s worth it), which is based on this curling sweater. What a beauty!
Will’s card is one of several that have been added to the membership card gallery. I also want to give a shout-out to 11-year-old reader Nicklaus Wallmeyer, who saved up his allowance to order a Steelers bumblebee throwback card!
Ordering your own custom-designed membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch. And remember, a Uni Watch membership card entitles you to a 15% discount on any of the merchandise in our Teespring shop and our Naming Wrongs shop. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me.) As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here, and you can see how we produce the cards here.
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: The FBI is investigating alleged baseball card fraud (WaPo link), which collectors have long suspected (from Tom Turner and Mike Chamernik). … Phillies OF Bryce Harper’s Philly Phanatic headband got a lot of attention yesterday. … The Double-A Bowie Baysox have some pretty insane/awesome unis to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing (from @ClancyKolzig). … The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters of the Northwoods League will play as the “Gorgeous Grandmas” for Grandmothers Day on July 23 (from Cullen Holt and Nicklaus Wallmeyer). … Brice Wallace sent us some cool late-’70s/early-’80s amateur sports pics from West Virginia, with lots of uni goodness.
NFL News: Here’s our first look at the helmet decal the Broncos are wearing for Pat Bowlen (from Kary Klismet). … The Packers will wear their alternate against Denver on Sep. 22, week 3 (from Brian Kerhin, Christopher Rucinski and @Zannerzas). … According to this article, the XFL’s unis are coming this summer, probably in August (from Ted Bloss). … We’ve seen this before, but Pro Football Journal’s rundown of NFL facemask oddities is pretty great (from Brad Eenhuis).
College/High School Football News: Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has given QB Terry Wilson the green light for wearing the late Jared Lorenzen’s jersey number for the season opener (from Josh Hinton). … Here’s our first look at the CFB150 patch on Iowa State’s unis (from Lauryn Feauto). … And here’s the CFB150 logo on Iowa’s unis (from @PensChronicles). … And here’s the same for Michigan (from Mitchell Thomas and Justin Essa Zayid).
Hockey News: TSN’s Bardown site has listed “seven retro jerseys that need to be used as alternates next season” (from Gershon Rabinowitz). … The AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals have unveiled their 50th-season logo (from Brian Kerhin). … And it turns out, the Admirals were not named after high-ranking naval officers; they were named after a line of home appliances one of the team’s investors sold, so the team will wear a sweater with a refrigerator on it for one night next season (from Andrew Wagner). … The Minot Minotauros of the NAHL have unveiled new sweaters (from Kary Klismet).
NBA News: As part of the ongoing lawsuit surrounding Kawhi Leonard’s personal logo, Nike has now counter-sued Leonard (from many readers). … Bulls big man Luke Kornet will wear No. 2 (from Etienne Catalan).
Soccer News: Juventus signed an exclusive video game deal with eFootball PES 2020, meaning that the world-famous Italian club’s stadium, crest and kits will not be in the 2019 edition of EA Sports’ more popular FIFA series, replaced by a generic team to be called “Piemonte Calcio”. … In a related note, here’s a list of the worst generic team names in soccer video game history, inspired by the “Piemonte Calcio” name. … You can catch Josh Hinton’s daily download on his Twitter account, including Atlético Madrid’s leaked new alternate kits and Tottenham’s formally unveiled home kits. … Speaking of Spurs, their Twitter account posted an interesting video of the NOB application process, revealing that new signing Tanguy Ndombele will wear no. 28 (from Kyle Dawson). … Boca Juniors new kits have been leaked (from Ed Żelaski). … Also from Ed: Liverpool Women have a new shirt advertiser, matching their kits with the men’s team. … Aston Villa went NNOB during a friendly match in Minnesota against Minnesota United.
Grab Bag: Two Indiana high schools have changed their athletics logos after Kansas State and Missouri State declined to renew their licensing arrangements (from Geoffrey Miller). … Here’s a list of the best uniforms in pro track and field this season (from Anthony Gonsalves). … Golf.com has a kind of inexplicable flowchart telling you what to wear on the course in what situation (from @walbergLines). … Did you ever imagine an iced tea-branded sneaker? AriZona and Adidas have you covered. And it only costs 99 cents! (from John Cerone). … Also from John, here’s a rundown of the most expensive Jordan 1s on the market. … New logo for Sony San Diego, which makes the MLB: The Show video game (from Kary Klismet). … The ACC Network has released its “Creative Elements and Animations Package” (from Joel Mathwig). … College Gym News has a rundown of recent Alabama leotards (from Griffin T. Smith).