Two weeks back I wrote about Lovie Smith’s inflatable pump jacket. Now, in the interests of equal time, here’s a note I received a few days ago from Colby Taylor, CEO of Innovative Sports, who has some choice words for Lovie’s outerwear:
Just so you know, that Reebok pump jacket is a rip-off of our zip-in heated jacket, which has been selling to NFL coaches and players since 2003. Reebok can’t match our actual heat technology, so they introduced this joke to battle us for players and fans. … We have a pressure-sensitive fabric switch on the chest to control temperature. Do a Google search for “heated jacket,” or a Google video search for “heated jacket” or “Innovative Sports” — you’ll see the heated jackets we did for SportsCenter, Monday Night Football, and Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti, including jackets I personally did for Carl Ravich, Peter Gammons, John Kruk, and Harold Reynolds for the outdoor postgame shows in Chicago during the 2005 World Series. Pump jacket — please.
Frankly, I think putting the pump jacket (which uses the wearer’s body heat to create a buffer of warm air) up against Innovative’s heated jacket (which is battery-powered) is a bit of an apples/oranges comparison. But I was intrigued by the idea of an electric jacket, so I gave Taylor a call. Here’s what we talked about:
Uni Watch: So how does this jacket liner work?
Colby Taylor: It just zips in seamlessly. So Reebok’s still able to maintain their outerwear brand presence…
UW: Or Nike, or whoever, right? Basically, their outerwear logo is still on display, but meanwhile your zip-in liner is doing its thing underneath, out of sight.
CT: Right. Also, one of the provisions of all of those exclusive contracts — whether it’s Nike’s contract with Oregon, or Reebok’s contract with the NFL — is that if they’re not able to supply what the team wants in apparel form, then the team has the right to go get it somewhere else. So in some cases we’ve been able to slide in there as equipment.
UW: You mean you qualify as “equipment,” instead of “apparel,” so the apparel rules don’t necessarily apply to you?
CT: Exactly. So now I’m thinking Reebok’s gonna be going to NFL equipment managers and saying, “We’ve got this pump jacket now, so you can’t wear Innovative’s products anymore.” That’s my main fear. For example, we’ve had teams like Green Bay, which in the past wanted three zip-in jackets for their coaches. But then suddenly this year, they and everyone else went totally quiet about it. And it’s not because it didn’t work. I think it’s Reebok working behind the scenes — that’s been suggested to me. And I don’t know how much warm air Lovie Smith can pump into that jacket, but ours gets 145 degrees. And we’ve got a battery in there the size of a pack of Tic Tacs.
UW: So is it like an electric blanket?
CT: No. It operates on electrical current, but we use stainless steel yarn that’s the conduit — it literally feels like yarn. There’s also a fabric switch mounted on either the forearm or the chest, which the user can use to control the temperature. And the whole thing’s washable.
UW: Wow! Like, machine washable?
CT: Yes. In addition, there are dual USB and FireWire outputs that you can use to charge your phone, iPod, BlackBerry, anything you carry with you.
UW: Double-wow! So I’m curious, what’s your background? How’d you get involved with all this?
CT: I was a scout for the Brewers and Braves for about 10 years. My father is Dean Taylor, former GM of the Brewers and assistant GM of the Braves. I developed that pitching sleeve concept with the Brewers’ and Braves’ trainers and tested it with the players. Once we got that system the way the players liked it, we took those modular components and can make anything with them.
Pretty interesting stuff. Later on, Taylor sent me even more info, as follows:
The first guy to wear a heated sideline jacket in all of major football was [Oregon head coach] Mike Bellotti. This jacket was used in the 2003 Civil War game, in November of 2003. This was not a zip-in — we actually took his Nike jacket apart and inserted the electronics, then reassembled it and added a dial controller in the pocket to control temperature. The zip-in solution came the following season, and is what you see on our web site.
That same year, 2003, we did jackets in the winter for Joey Harrington in Detroit and Jake Plummer in Denver. Alex Smith was using one at Utah, and we also did them for KC and Dick Vermeil and their kicker — I think it was Morton Andersen. The Rams got two jackets as well, although I don’t know who wore them.
In addition to the ESPN jackets in the 2005 World Series, we also did Monday Night Football jackets in 2005 for Al Michaels, John Madden, Sam Ryan, Michelle Taffoya, and producer Jeff Dufine. Unfortunately, some ridiculous apparel deal MNF had with some Italian suit company prevented them from wearing them on air, even though it did not carry our logo.
There’s more, but you get the idea. Taylor has generously offered to send me a jacket to test-drive (and he’s promised that it won’t be purple). Full report to follow.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Never mind what Mo Williams wass wearing on his left shoulder — what the hell did Gerald Wallace have under his jersey the other night? … Not uni-related, but there’s a really fascinating logo creep article here. … As long as we’ve been on an all-star kick, check out what the ABA all-stars were wearing. “I leave it up to you to decide which looks more painful,” writes Chuck Miller. “The satiny uniforms with red-blue spangles and piping, or the two players whose shoes seem to match up with their uniforms — or the large crowd disguised as empty seats in the background.” … The Canadiens retired Ken Dryden’s number last night (long overdue, no?) and wore jersey patches to mark the occasion. There were some cool uni-related moments, like Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak showing up in his old CCCP jersey, Dryden’s brother Dave wearing his old Sabres jersey, and Dryden’s grandchild wearing a tiny Habs outfit. My only gripe: Why did Dryden himself get stuck wearing a jersey with the NHL’s Vintage logo, instead of a clean throwback jersey?