The WNBA preseason begins today, and the league kicked things off yesterday by unveiling a new set of uniforms for all the teams. The truth: I don’t really give a rat’s hairy little tuchis about the WNBA, and I know most of you don’t either. But the new designs still provide some useful object lessons — most of them, unfortunately, negative.
WNBA teams already face serious visual identity challenges, because many of them are affiliated with, and aesthetically modeled after, NBA teams. So why make things even worse by imposing the same design template on every club in the league? If you’ve got a league that’s struggling for recognition and high-profile coverage, wouldn’t it make sense to allow your teams to develop their own unique looks? But instead each WNBA team now has an elongated design panel running down from the jersey through the shorts; each team now has player names appearing below the uni number (a fun device when used sparingly; pointless overkill when imposed league-wide); each team name will appear on the players’ butts; and so on. In other words, these aren’t really individual teams with their own distinct characters — they’re just interchangeable pieces of Team WNBA. Or at least that’s the message this kind of design program creates.
The template might be tolerable if it were a good template — but it’s not. Each team has its own piping pattern (described on the league’s web site as “a dramatic pattern design formed from core elements of each team’s logo”), and some of them are pretty embarrassing. I mean, c’mon, what is this? Or this? I do like this one, but the shape of the jersey panel is still so weird and forced-looking — it all feels like a badly failed experiment. (You can see more images of the new uniforms here.)
This hive-mentality approach is the unfortunate hallmark of small, new-ish leagues these days, because they insist on having the league office coordinate all the uniform designs. Fun logo characters like Pat Patriot and odd uniform quirks like the Steelers wearing their logo on only one side of the helmet could never happen in leagues like the WNBA or the AFL, because the uniforms are all created under the same roof. I understand why they do it — they’re trying to create a league-wide brand identity — but I think it’s a serious miscalculation. If you’re an upstart trying to compete with the major sports, you don’t need a league identity — you need lots of distinct team identities. People don’t say, “Hey, let’s go to the WNBA game tonight!” They say, “Hey, let’s go see the Mystics tonight!” Or at least that’s the idea.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Holders for placekicks usually go bare-handed, so I was surprised to see this photo. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a double-gloved holder before. … There are a lot of odd things in this photo, but the one that interests me most is that the ump is wearing his uni number on his ball bag (with thanks to Jeremy Brahm). … Kudos to Phil Richardson, who’s got his entire Little League team wearing striped stirrups (additional pics here and here). … Yet another case of a municipal icon being draped in a jersey: Check out this photo gallery (with thanks to Aaron Stilley). … Willie Harris is back in the bigs, this time with the Braves. As you may recall, he’s that rarest of creatures: a non-switch-hitter who wears a double-flapped batting helmet. … Good discussion of college softball uniforms here. … Juhem Navarro notes that Tigers closer Todd Jones has some issues with MLB’s uniform regulations (but then he lots of issues, so I don’t take his opinions too seriously). … Interesting rugby news from Caleb Borchers, who writes: “The French have just changed their national rugby jerseys from this to this, and seem to have done it to force New Zealand’s famous ‘All Blacks’ into not wearing all black if the two meet in this year’s World Cup. If all goes as expected such a matchup would be in the Finals of the tournament.” Further details here. … This should be fun. … Nice documentation here of Julio Lugo wearing Jason Varitek’s jersey during pregame warm-ups. … Enough already. … Coming tomorrow: a really interesting story about golf (and believe me, I never thought I’d be typing those words).