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Welcome to Uni Watch Positivity Week!

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Good morning! Hope everyone had a good weekend, as I did. I have a lot that I want to talk about today, so please bear with me while I set the stage.

Let’s start here: I’m a big fan of a Substack newsletter called Haterade, which is written by a food writer named Liz Cook. Cook’s main writing gig is reviewing restaurants in Kansas City (I’ve never read any of those reviews because, you know, I don’t live in Kansas City), but she uses Haterade to explore more playful food-related topics, like how to make school cafeteria-style pizza, or taste-testing mint-flavored mouthwash against crème de mènthe. She’s a very smart, very funny writer, and I always enjoy her Haterade dispatches (even though the project’s Substack color theme is purple!).

Cook (that’s her at right) says that Haterade got its name because whenever she writes a negative restaurant review, someone inevitably accuses her of being a “hater.” Like any good critic (restaurant or otherwise), she’s done a lot of thinking about the negative criticism she doles out, and she shared some of those thoughts in a speech she recently gave to a local KC arts group. This passage really struck me:

I am a Midwesterner by birth, which means I was raised on a pretty steady diet of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” And that’s such a manipulative phrase, right? I mean, it seems to me that it’s exactly when we’re being nice that we’re so often communicating nothing of value.

That doesn’t mean I think that everyone should have free dispensation to be a total jagweed, okay? Like, it’s good to be nice. But naked boosterism is not a kindness. That’s not nice, because it doesn’t help people become the highest expression of what they want to be. It doesn’t really require courage. It doesn’t even require curiosity. It doesn’t really require much effort at all — it’s safe, which is another way of saying that it’s kind of lazy.

I have a vested interest in defending what I do [as a restaurant critic], obviously, so you should be skeptical of this framing. But I do believe that criticism, when practiced responsibly — and that is admittedly a big caveat, responsibly — is, at its core, a form of love. Because you have to love something to meet it with honest curiosity. You have to love something to take at face value what it wants to be and what it wants to do, and evaluate how close it’s getting. You have to love something to spend hours studying it, and engaging with it, and giving it chance after chance to disappoint you. [Audience laughs.]


Because when you love something, when you believe fervently in its mission, and with the people who are tasked with achieving it, any gulf between what’s promised and what’s delivered is going to feel like an existential threat. When you care about something, the stakes are too high to sit back and watch it fail — or, worse, to actively cause harm.

That all resonated with me. When I write a negative review of a uniform or logo, I know some of you think I’m doing it just because I like being grouchy, or because I’m inherently contrarian, or because I’m old, or because I dislike anything new, or because I’m a “hater.” But the real reason is that I love uniforms. I love how beautiful they can be, how powerfully they can signify, how much emotional capital they can represent, how they embody our passions and memories. And when you care about something as much as I care about uniforms — enough to have devoted a significant chunk of my life and career to them — it can be both heartbreaking and enraging to see them fall so short of their potential. It feels bad; it hurts. It feels like damage is being done to something very dear to me. Those feelings, which are ultimately born of love, are what result in a negative review. To do anything less would feel like something akin to neglect.

But there’s a flip side to this. According to Liz Cook’s LinkedIn page, she is about 25 years younger than I am and has been writing criticism for only a decade, so she may not yet have experienced the cumulative effect of writing lots of negative reviews. In short: Writing negatively, expressing negative thoughts, being in a negative head space — all of that takes a toll on you. Or at least it takes a toll on me. After I’ve written something negative, even if it comes from a place of love, even if I believe passionately in everything I’ve just written, I feel like shit. There are days when the collective impact of that, built up over many years of being a critic (not just of uniforms but also of music, food, and broader cultural issues), feels like a genuine mental health issue, like I’m actually doing damage to my psyche by exposing myself to the toxins of a negative mindset. I know some of you think being negative makes me happy, but believe me when I say I am much, much happier writing about positive things. But assessing the bad along with the good is part of the job, so that’s what I do.

I’ve occasionally discussed this with other critics, and they generally feel similarly. A few of them have even done something about it. The longtime music writer Robert Christgau, for example, who basically invented modern rock criticism in the late 1960s and is still reviewing records today at the age of 82, decided more than a decade ago (I forget exactly when) to stop writing negative reviews and write only about records that he likes.

I’m not ready to banish negative assessments from Uni Watch entirely, like Christgau has done with his work, but I do think it would be interesting to try a short experiment, as follows: For this week, I will do my best to write positively — or at least to avoid writing negatively. That doesn’t mean I’ll be dishonest by pretending to like something I don’t actually like, or that I’ll descend into “naked boosterism,” as Cook called it, or that I’ll just put on rose-colored glasses and have “Don’t Worry, Be Uni” playing in the background. My goal for this week is to keep writing analytically, thoughtfully, and, I hope, intelligently, but in a way that doesn’t put me in that negative head space. That shouldn’t be so hard to do from now through Friday, right? I’m calling it Uni Watch Positivity Week.

Of course, the uni-verse may not cooperate with my plan. So if there’s bad uni news this week (as there almost certainly will be, because that’s just the nature of news), I’ll do my best to relegate it to the Ticker or, at worst, just report the facts without expressing an opinion. And if there’s a major and objectively bad development that demands some serious analysis and critique —the NFL suddenly announcing that they’re going to start having ads on their uniforms, say — well, I’ll figure out how to deal with that if and when it happens. But I’m pretty determined to turn that frown upside-down for the entire week.

You can follow along with all the UWPW posts here. Should be fun! I’m curious to see what effect it has on me — and on you.

(I’m grateful to Liz Cook for getting me started on this line of thought, and also to the Uni Watch reader Francis Simmonds. who turned me on to Cook’s newsletter a year ago.)



ITEM! Uni Watch Headwear Back in Circulation!

After a bunch of false starts, I’m happy to announce that we are once again offering a Uni Watch ballcap! This one is a 100% cotton low-profile strapback (i.e., a “dad cap”). It looks great and, like all Uni Watch products, does not have a visible maker’s mark.

You can order the cap here. My thanks, as always, for your consideration of our products.



Calling All Sons and Daughters (and Grandsons, Granddaughters, Nieces, and Nephews)

Father’s Day is coming this Sunday, and Phil will once again be posting photos of Uni Watch readers’ “Dads In Uniform,” an annual tradition that began in 2013. This is always a very special day, and we’d love for as many readers as possible to participate — especially those of you who haven’t done so before.

To take part, email one photo of your father, grandfather, or uncle in uniform (it can be sports, military, work — as long as it’s a uniform). along with a short description of 100 words or fewer, to this email link by this Wednesday, June 14, midnight Eastern. Again, only one photo per person and limit the descriptive text to 100 words. Phil will run all of the submissions on Father’s Day. Thanks!



Unit Watch

Yesterday I went to a suburban Petco outlet to help a friend pick out some new guppies. It was the first time in many years (or maybe ever) that I’d been in a pet store that was part of a big national chain, instead of a mom-and-pop, and I was amused to find that the price signage was identical to what you’d find at a supermarket, complete with a unit price — “per each.”

Here are some additional examples:

Happily, the animals did not appear to have bar codes.


Can of the Day

So much going on with this one (including a graphic that looks more like a brain than a macaroon). I bought this one — it’s currently on its way to Uni Watch HQ — and plan to put a houseplant in it. Can’t wait!

Comments (38)


    Wish I had the right thing to say. I empathize … was in the biz for more than a cup of coffee, and still am in a different role from a certain point of view. Thing is, I believe there is a difference in just slamming everything just because and being critical. Also, a massive difference between being critical and unfair. Former is fine … latter is not. I trust that UW’s loyal readers will, for the most part, aid in the process (although there’s a few purple jokes and uni ad jokes that could go begging).

    Bottom line is, though, that you already outlined it. If everything is positive, that really doesn’t do anyone any favors. I always found that if you’re willing to criticize, be willing to give credit where it’s due. And you do that.

    Hope something here helps.

    Positivity Week seems like a fun concept. I completely understand what you mean about negativity taking a toll on you. It’s why I have to take breaks things from time to time: social media, news, my kids, the Orlando Magic. Best of luck in the endeavor.

    Congrats on being self aware and proactive enough to try and change things up. A great example for everyone.

    I like this idea and I’m excited to see what the week brings!

    Paul, congrats on being self-aware of your emotions and working to improve things. : )

    Really looking forward to Positivity Week!

    Re: the Return of the Ballcap, will there be different colors offered in the future or will the standard green (which looks great) be the only option?

    No current plans for other colors. We did offer Color Remix caps a few years back, but they didn’t generate much interest.

    Gotcha. I am a proud owner of a brown remix cap and wanted to see if they were coming back. Thanks!

    Practicing positivity is something I can try on for size, but I really need to work on my patience…I recently purchased a new lid in UW colors!
    For a while I held onto the hope that those were going to make a big splash so that eventually a Columbia blue/Red version would have been made available; the Purp Walk cap fits the bill and fills the void.

    I really identify with how you’re feeling Paul, and I appreciate the conscious choice to spend the week focusing on positivity. I am constantly trying to balance a positive approach to my life and world view without totally shutting myself off from some of the darker realities of modern life.

    I couldn’t help but notice that Ms. Cook attended the University of Northern Iowa, the new Official Uni Watch Institution of Higher Learning!

    Great insight, great determination and very inspiring. I am totally curious how this will unfold. That can is an excellent choice, by the way. I like the date of the patent granted very specifically on top of the cookie and probably aimed at the everpresent competition. Added moisture sounds very mysterious.

    I’m going to try and comment one nice thing about a uniform I don’t like this week.

    The Jets’ current shade of green is nice.

    I love this idea! I understand criticism of a uniform for the design elements, but sometimes, the criticism seems like it comes in the form of a reflex – the group-think, automatic reaction to a design choice. Are black jerseys/pants/uniforms a good choice for every team? No. But could they work for some? There’s an argument to be made. And I feel that the retort to the argument shouldn’t ALWAYS start with BFBS or “it’s all about sales” (I would argue that ALL uniform designs have been about sales for many years now, even for teams with “traditional” unis like the Yankees and Packers).

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the week goes :-) Critique is one thing, negativity is another, and sometimes the amount of negativity on the blog makes it not enjoyable.

    This is very interesting. I’ve sometimes been accused of being negative… sometimes I’d show up to work declaring it a “Good Attitude Day” and see how long I could keep it up. I think this is a good idea.

    One of my New Year’s resolutions in 2021 was “assume positive intent.” Given some of the things that happened the first week of January 2021, that…. didn’t last as long as I would’ve liked.

    Good luck this week. I have friends that have gone down the proverbial rabbit hole politically, where now every conversation about anything gets twisted into a commentary about their political beliefs. I finally said to one of them…”It must be exhausting to view the world through this prism.” Likewise, I can appreciate your conundrum of reporting on uniforms, where so many obvious blundered are made. You have always been fair, unlike some writers and critics that seek out negative stories, or allow their biases to overwhelm their stories.

    Thanks for sharing Cook’s thoughts. I was thinking about this concept earlier this year when an acquaintance asked me to read his screenplay for an independent film he is making. He wanted to meet and give my feedback and it was a rough experience for both of us because I decided to be fully honest. I felt that I could best honor his art and efforts by pointing out the many things I liked and disliked about the screenplay. If I didn’t care about him as an artist, or didn’t think thing his work was worth anything, I would have just said “it was good!” As Cook says, that’s lazy and does not push a person or other entity to be better.

    The new/current Julia Louis-Dreyfuss movie, ‘You Hurt My Feelings’ (which is very funny), also wrestles with this question about the best way to be supportive of someone you care about. Is it simply to be positive, or to be honest?


    Like Ms. Cook, I am from the Midwest and have the “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” thing engrained into me. One must understand their biases, but you cannot let that be a crutch to not say what you think. It’s all in the delivery.

    Keeping this wholeheartedly positive, in the 20 years I have interacted with you and your blogs, you have always been fair. The best thing you do is treat every review individually. You always avoid, “well, here’s another piece of garbage from X company. It’s them, so you know it sucks.” You are exceedingly neutral in your reviews even though you are a passionate sports fan.

    I have chalked it up to the fact that your job is to state your opinion. I’d like you to keep doing it.

    I love the Positivity Week idea and it’s inspired me to attempt something similar for the week. Thanks!

    The “per each” seems to be going around; Target sells bananas ‘per each’, which made me laugh the first time I saw it. Either a software glitch where the ‘per’ and ‘unit’ are separate fields, or something like that, or a PICNIC issue.

    “In a shocking move, the Mets announced they are switching from their iconic royal blue to purple. Owner Steve Cohen wants to put his own stamp on the franchise, and will likely include a black alternate jersey even though the main sets will be purple and orange.”

    – Uni Watch shuts down –

    You are familiar with my artwork, and I am proud of it; but I admit it’s frustrating to ask people’s reactions and get bromides and empty compliments rather than the constructive criticism I seek. (Actually, Uni Watch readers give the fairest criticism I have heard.)
    Your pursuit is a worthy one, and I’d do well to follow it. My sardonic sense of humor often causes people to read me as a Debbie Downer.

    Yeah! Liz Cook is a treasure, and we in KC are lucky to have her writing about local topics. Seeing this crossover between UW and Haterade has really made my morning. There’s some positivity!

    What a great idea! I’m interested to see what it brings forth. I do want to add that I do love the cumulative bashing that takes place on the site from time to time when something atrocious, like the Pirate CC uni, is revealed.

    Paul- I think lament is a great word for how you feel about some uniforms. I understand lament to mean ‘seeing what is, should not be.’ That sums up lots of loathsome uniforms for sure!

    “It feels bad; it hurts. It feels like damage is being done to something very dear to me.”
    This resonated with me. I don’t want to dislike new uniforms, in fact I get excited when I hear a team who doesn’t have a timeless classic is going to roll out something new (or at least I did pre Nike empire). That’s the thing right, when someone does something bad to something you love, how are you supposed to react but negatively? Granted something like uniforms are to a degree both subjective and a product of the time they exist in. But there are some objective measures by which everyone can evaluate uniforms on, if they choose to be honest and objective about it.
    Additionally I would suspect it is hard to be a critic, and have your job often require being negative. But I also think culturally we are in a very difficult space for objective criticism today. We are told that things are more subjective now, in some cases it is correct and we allowing more for personal expression and freedom, in other cases it is ignoring important cultural norms and standards in society which in fact are objective truths. This both makes it hard to be critical of things without being call a hater (which is a lazy response to criticism that doesn’t actually attempt to refute the points of criticism, but rather is an ad hominem attack on the critic, devoid of any value). And this can cause someone to feel the need to be more positive, that they are wrong for having a critical, negative, opinion on something, when said negative opinion is in fact valid.
    I’d say critics (assuming they are educated in their fields and are able to be objective) are some of the most important guardians of our culture. If you cannot critically respond to new ideas, to refute and bury the bad ones, we find ourselves in dangerous place. I certainly applaud the reflection by Paul and his push to mindfully be positive for a period. But I’d also suggest that Paul seeming overly negative or putting out more negative content than positive content isn’t a reflection on him at all, but rather him just doing his job, and the subject he covers being in a particularly bad spot.
    I wouldn’t call a city-beat reporter negative if they were constantly writing about corruption and incompetence of elected officials. They are doing their job. I don’t think Paul is negative just because he has to report on the slew of bad uniforms that trickle out weekly, amidst a uniform industry that is now in the hands of companies that make money selling fashion merchandise.

    This is such a better experiment than ‘try parting your hair on the opposite side’ week. ; )

    Man, I’m sorry that it can stir up such negative feelings, but I found your defense of how negative reviews show a love for your subject matter to be on point and downright moving.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last few years. I’ve given up on expecting to like any new jerseys so there is no point in me chiming in about what I don’t like for each new unveiling. As a collector, I limit myself to 1990s and earlier jerseys, and maybe the rare design through the 2010s that I really like. I like the material and cut of the older jerseys much better than present day jerseys. As for what I see on the field or the ice, I rarely attend pro games anymore and barely even watch them on TV. What I do attend are college sporting events (still fun, less expensive, and fewer idiots in the crowd) and the occasional minor league game and I always am bummed out when teams wear a specialty jersey rather than their usual shirts. It could be my one road trip visiting a certain school or team, and all the pictures I’ll have to document the game will be the home team in a novelty jersey. Big letdown.

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