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Passing The Baton

Good morning Uni Watchers! I hope everyone had a good long weekend. And welcome to Uni Watch post-Paul.

I had hoped this would be my inaugural post as editor, but unfortunately there was a bit of breaking uni news yesterday afternoon.

What you see above is a photo taken this past Sunday, at Paul’s 25th and final Anniversary Party in NYC (I’ll try to have a rundown of that gathering posted soon). After the Zambonis had finished their set, Paul made a very touching speech in which he introduced me to the assembled patrons as his successor. In that speech, he both symbolically AND physically passed a green Uni Watch baton to your new editor.

That was a bit of light-heartedness in an otherwise very moving tribute…which Paul saw fit to make on HIS day. It speaks volumes of Paul’s incredible generosity both in spirit and in life. I certainly wasn’t expecting anything like that, but knowing Paul as I have for almost 20 years, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. And I’m still completely floored that we as Uni Watchers won’t have Paul at the helm of this incredible community he literally built from scratch going forward. It still doesn’t feel real.

Before I go any further, I’d like to highlight Paul’s Final Uni Watch entry. I still have some tears welling up each time I’ve read it — but even more so, reading the (currently almost 200) comments from you all has also made me realize just how strong a community we have, and it’s all thanks to one Paul Lukas. If you haven’t yet read that, please do so, and feel free to share your thoughts on Paul’s incredible journey that is Uni Watch.

I cannot begin to thank Paul enough personally and professionally, and words are even failing me now. He has not only been a role model, guru, mentor and sage, but has also been one of my best friends for well over a decade. And he’s also been the best “boss” one could EVER have. Personally, I can’t ever thank (or repay) him enough for our camaraderie and companionship — and while that will certainly continue now that he’s stepped away (deservedly so!) from this wonderful incredible community, we’ll all miss his steady, insightful hand guiding the Uni Watch ship.

Thank you Paul, for everything: for plucking me out of obscurity to become the bench coach, to Weekend Editor, to Deputy Editor, and for entrusting this ship to me as your successor…and everything in between. I love you man!

Now then. It’s getting a bit dusty in here.

So, you may be asking, what’s Uni Watch going to be like without Paul? I can’t answer that — at least right now. I can say this: NO ONE can ever replace him; there’s a cliché about “big shoes to fill” and “breaking the mold when they made him” and both are true. I can never do exactly what Paul did, but I’ll do my level best to continue his legacy.

Obviously there have been some changes — but as far as the content going forward, I will endeavor to keep things as they have been, or as close to it as possible. Monday through Friday, I will always have at least one morning article, as we’ve always had for the entire time has been in existence. And as we’ve had since the site redesign a couple years back, on most days there will be multiple articles daily (usually dictated by how much uni news there is). Initially, we will have the Ticker three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), and those will be handled by our own Jamie Rathjen (Monday) and Anthony Emerson (Wednesday and Friday). Ideally, I’d like to expand that to M-F (whether that means I and new Weekend Editor Jim Vilk each take a day, or perhaps we’ll add a new Ticker-er). The site’s appearance will remain the same as well. (I too love green and gold!) Basically, I want to keep the spirit and tenor of Uni Watch the same as it’s always been, even though we’ll no longer have Paul captaining this fantastic voyage. As Paul basically gave me free rein to craft my own style over the weekends (and each August), Jim Vilk will add a new voice and perspective on the Weekends, but I do know he plans to keep some of the things I introduced (like SMUW and the annual Father’s Day “Our Dads In Uniform” retrospective, plus his own “Vilkmas” and other topics on which he and I have collaborated in the past).

As much as Uni Watch and Paul Lukas are synonymous, Paul built an incredible community from the ground up, and I have interacted (or worked) with many of you over the years to bring some pretty amazing articles to the site — you’ll notice a lot of by-lines in August or the weekends aren’t my own. That has been, and continues to be, one of the things I enjoy most: we’re ALL Uni Watchers, and so many of you have talents and abilities that are most welcome additions to the site. I’ve learned as much from you all as I have from Paul. And there are many areas and uni-related subjects in which some of you have way more knowledge than I — and I continue to welcome reader submissions and suggestions. So please…going forward…if there is any uni (or even “uni adjacent”) topic you feel would be great to share with the greater UW community, don’t hesitate to reach out! My e-mail is phil.hecken@gmail, and I look forward to hearing from you. That goes for anything — if you have a suggestion or complaint, reach out to me. We’re all in this together (to borrow a phrase from our COVID days), and I’d like nothing more than to work with the community to bring new and different perspectives to the fore. Whether it’s an idea for a column, or a uniform concept, or even something that might just be “Too Good for the Ticker,” my virtual door is always open!

So going forward, let us all continue to work and share our common bond and love for all things related to the obsessive study of athletics aesthetics and continue to build on the foundation Paul has laid. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too! Let us hereby declare each May 26th going forward as “Founder’s Day.”

I promise to keep UW the great place it’s always been. And with your support, I know it will be. Together we can keep Paul’s incredible legacy going well into the future.

I hope you’ll join me for the ride. Let’s do this!

Comments (86)

    Fantastic words, Phil! Happy to have you and excited to see what the future brings. Love the idea of founders day.

    Look forward to it. Phil. Create and craft your own style – it’s yours now. I too am looking forward to UWs future!

    Is that a Hartford Whalers guitar behind you guys? If so, THAT…IS…AWESOME!!!

    Thanks Phil. Excited to see how UW evolves. I’m sure it’ll be great.

    Would love to see more photo/video/a recap from the party on Sunday night as well (if possible)! I know it timed out with Paul’s last day so there wasn’t a recap on it the next day. Maybe you have that post planned already.

    Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.
    And welcome to the new Master of the Uni-verse. It’s gonna be great.

    There aren’t any I would trust more than you and the Vilker on this, Phil. I’m here if you need anything, and if you do need something I better be the first call you make!

    I think we are in good hands. I know when it comes to the sport uniform stuff you wont miss a beat.
    I guess the only thing I am left wondering is if the sort of uni-adjacent stuff will stay, as that just seemed like something Paul had a very amazing knack for, and often made for some of the most interesting posts. Even if they are gone, I am sure your content that is your specific niche will be equally well presented for us. Best of luck at the helm.

    I’m happy that the Uni-Watch-verse continues and I’m looking forward to seeing how it continues to evolve here.

    This was an incredibly thoughtful and selfless first day message. This hand-off is the best thing possible that could’ve ever happened once Paul was done. Looking forward to it!

    Will we still have purple amnesty day or will we now celebrate founders day in the same way?

    Every day is now “purple amnesty day” ;). I haven’t yet explored the most approrpiate way to celebrate Founder’s Day, but I’m sure the UW comm-uni-ty can offer up some great suggestions.

    How about something like “Fathers in Uniform” but instead its the community in stirrups?

    A Great Future I See,…..all the best and may life be rich with friends, family, and love! Good luck Phil and to Uni Watch.

    Great introductory post to you tenure, Phil! I’m on board! Let’s ride!

    I’m with Kary on this. I’m on-board too, Phil – let’s ride! :)

    One bit of advice:

    Don’t be the next Paul; just be the first Phil. Best of luck to you!

    Like all great teams in sports, just because there is a change in leadership does not change the loyalty of the fan. We are here with you Phil and you have our support!

    Hello Phil, congratulations on the new role. I see you mentioned the Father’s Day “Our Dads In Uniform” retrospective. Has there or will there be something similar for Mother’s Day? I understand women also wear uniforms and it would be great to have an opportunity to highlight that too.

    I’d thought about it and am certainly not opposed — but the weekends are Jimmer’s territory now, so perhaps he can be pursuaded to introduce a new tradition for Mom’s Day!

    Pretty sure I have a picture of Mom in her marching band uniform. Had I found it in time, I was going to suggest a Moms in Uniform tribute. So yes, I’m interested in keeping Dads in Uniform and adding Moms as well.

    Congrats Phil! Know you will make this your own and still keep the spirit alive. Have to say, only having the ticker 3 days as week will take some getting used to. Still, just glad the lights are still on and the community still has a home here. Thanks!

    When a great star or coach retires, they always say “you don’t want to be the one that replaces them…be the one that replaces the first person who tried.” I don’t think that applies in this case. Phil could not be more prepared to helm the ship and will build on the great foundation Paul created. Nobody knows what the uni-verse has in store for us, but it won’t be boring I’m sure. Go Phil!

    I could not have more confidence in Phil and the rest of the team to keep Uni Watch going strong. I treasure the differing perspectives we bring to this community and am looking forward to how this evolves. Onward!

    Just want to continue the drumbeat of supportive voices for you, Phil! I know it’ll be great, and I appreciate all of the work that will go into getting the site up and running with your voice and editorial style. We’re all on your (and Jim’s) side!

    Also, if it makes any difference, I think a three-days-per-week ticker is sufficient for the long term. Especially since the site already covers breaking stories, I think fewer, longer tickers 3x per week is absolutely enough to cover the uni-world, and would probably save you (and Jim) some extra headache. Just one more opinion to throw in the pile, but I wanted to voice it since the ticker change was specifically called out in the welcome address!

    I always said my fave part of Uniwatch was Paul’s “voice”. I look forward to hearing yours Phil.

    Cheers to the Phil Era at UW! Looking forward to seeing your perspectives more!

    Along with so many others that have commented, Phil, congrats on stepping into this responsibility of leading the Uni Watch comm-uni-ty. I’m looking forward to your leadership and I’m pulling for you!

    Phil…It’s gonna be great. The foundation is set and the light’s gone green. ROAR! It’s rare that hirings come from within these days…especially for someone who’s worked their way up through the ranks. For Uni Watch, that’s the only way. The Comm-uni-ty is in great hands.

    Thankfully Paul was insightful, lucky, or both, to have found and groomed you for this day. Good luck! No pressure, but we’re all depending on you ;)

    I, for one, am quite excited about the future of Uni Watch. I have nothing negative to say about Paul in terms of his journalistic talents or writing chops. He’s top-tier in both areas. But as time went on, he seemed to get increasingly grumpy, and eventually it got to the point where I stopped reading the blog regularly because the tone was bringing me down emotionally.

    I genuinely wish him all the best, but I’m also really looking forward to seeing the site get rebooted with maybe a more positive outlook =)

    FYI, as things move forward, the uniform season preview posts probably should be removed from a paywall. I’m sure you are all aware, but there are a couple of competing uni-focused sites that do very well-done previews for free. To me it doesn’t matter because I just read those posts instead of the paywalled UW posts, but you guys probably missed some traffic / clicks because of that.

    Just my two cents. Of course, you might have made more from the paywall than the regular posts and if that’s the case, carry on.

    The King Paul is dead uni-retired, long live all success to The King Phil!

    Paul brought his time as grand poobah of Uni Watch to an admirably elegant close; I look forward with enthusiastic anticipation to the evolution of the site and community under Phil’s stewardship.

    I’d love to see that clever baton prop reflected in Uni Watch’s visual brand identity on the site. A subtle visual nod to Uni Watch’s new identity as a project that now spans multiple generations of editorial leadership.

    I thought it was great that your first post in charge was breaking news. I found that very comforting :)

    Thanks for taking over and keeping the comm-uni-ty alive! Looking forward to uni-watching for a long time to come.

    Good luck, Phil! I’m excited for you and for the commUNIty.

    Phil, I’d say welcome, but you have been here a really long time! So I will just say, congrats on getting the full-time gig, and can’t wait to see what you have in store!

    Phil, I mean this is no way as disrespect and entirely as an ode to the man you’re taking over for, but it’s interesting to me that your own writing style and Paul’s have seemed to gibe closer together over the years, so much so in recent years that I’ll sometimes read something you’ve written and think it was a Paul story, and vice versa. The site is in good hands, and I hope you are able to carry that sort of symbiosis forward with other contributors, including Jim. We’ll all be here watching.

    I am certain you will do very well.
    Best of luck

Comments are closed.