A couple of Sunday nights ago at about 10 p.m., someone posted a comment that read, “Women’s Nazi Hockey Team.” It linked to the photo shown at right (here’s a larger view). Since Sunday night is a low-traffic period for the site, nobody responded and the whole thing passed unnoticed.
Coupla things here: First of all, this is not a Nazi team. In fact, this is an Edmonton team called the Swastikas, which played in 1916 — four years before the National Socialist German Workers Party (i.e., the Nazis) adopted the swastika as its symbol. And the Edmonton gals were hardly the only group to make pre-Nazi use of the swastika, which was a fairly common graphic symbol a century ago. It was used by, among many others, the Finnish Air Force, the Boy Scouts (Girl Scouts too, although I can’t find a web reference to it), and many groups that produced good luck promotions or talismans. (For more on the swastika’s background, which dates back to the Stone Age and spans many different socio-ethnic cultures, look here.)
My research on the Edmonton photo led me to this book, written by the Canadian artist/mystic known as ManWoman, who’s spent years trying to rescue the swastika’s image its association with the Nazis. After I got in touch with him, he was kind enough to provide me with several additional examples of pre-Nazi swastika-clad teams:
• The Fernie Swastikas played in British Columbia in the 1920s. If team’s use of the swastika itself doesn’t make you uneasy, then the Golliwogg mascot doll being held by the Fernie player in this photo probably will. (If you’re not familiar with Golliwoggs, look here.)
• Hockey isn’t the only sport with swastikas in its past. Here’s a baseball uniform, which was worn by a 1920s team in Swastika, Ontario. (Yes, there’s actually a town called Swastika, Ontario — look.)
• ManWoman says this baseball cap was originally worn by the 1917 Canyon City Swastikas.
• And here’s a swastika-stamped golf club — not sure of the date.
There are several other books out there that examine the swastika’s graphic history. This one, by the design historian Steve Heller (who happens to be a friend of mine), is particularly good, although it doesn’t have any non-Nazi sports examples.
As Steve and many other writers have noted, the swastika is a spectacularly successful piece of design — elegant, balanced, solid yet fluid. But it’s become so inextricably associated with one particular chapter of history that it’s hard to conceive of it in any other context. In a way, this reaffirms one of Uni Watch’s underlying premises: the notion that logos and symbols can pack an emotional punch that goes beyond any rational reckoning. Intellectually, I know the swastika worn by those Edmonton girls had nothing to do with the Nazis, just as I know the Mets I grew up watching in the early 1970s had nothing to do with the Mets of today. Emotionally, however, the connections seem obvious in both cases, even though the only real connection involves a swastika in one instance and the Mets’ logo and colors in the other. That’s the power of design for ya.
To see how complicated the swastika’s history really is, check out this 1931 photo, which I found while doing photo research for this entry. It shows the basketball team from Freedom High School in Freedom, Pennsylvania, and was published in the school’s yearbook. And what did a town called Freedom use for the title of its high school yearbook in 1931? As you can see if you scroll down beneath the photo, it was called The Swastika.
Research Request: I’m compiling college hoops uni changes for an ESPN column next week. This is always the toughest column of the year, because there’s no single resource or office that keeps track of the college basketball changes. I’ve compiled a pretty good list, but feel free to let me know about any changes you’re aware of. Thanks.
HOLIDAY SALE: Face it, holiday gifts have nothing to do with the recipients. If you’re giving a gift, it’s all about you. And there’s no better way to show how cool you are — and spread the Uni Watch gospel in the process — than to give someone a Uni Watch membership.
With that in mind, I’m offering a discount on gift memberships for the next month. Instead of the usual pricing structure ($25, $60, $100, $250, $500, $1000), you can give the gift of Uni Watch for $20, $50, $90, $225, $450, or $900. These rates are only good for gift memberships, so the name on the card has to be different from your name. They must be ordered by November 15th to ensure delivery in time for Hanukkah, or by December 1st for Christmas.
Allow me to anticipate some of your questions:
Why not extend the discount to all memberships, not just gifts?
I thought about doing that, but I think it wouldn’t be fair to the people who’ve already paid full price.
Will the membership materials be sent to me, or to the gift recipient?
To you. It would get too logistically crazy if I had to keep track of multiple addresses, “Please send it to him exactly three days before the holiday” requests, and so on. I’ll just have everything sent to you, and then you can send or present it to the lucky giftee.
I don’t want the giftee to know about his gift ahead of time. Can you leave his name off of the membership roster and his card design out of the card gallery until after the holiday?
Yes. If you want me to keep the gift membership “private” until a certain date, just say so when placing the order.
For further details, look here.
In other membership news, new Uni Watch assistant Nina Dubin is already paying dividends. She found all the missing names on the membership roster, which is now back up-to-date.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Gamecocks will memorialize the students killed in that beach house fire with a helmet decal. Details here (with thanks to Mike Orr). … Latest evidence that the pink thing has gotten out of hand: Pilot Point High School in Texas wore pink spats the other night (as spotted by Brian Thompson). … Yet another pink-clad team: the Middlesex Cricket Club (courtesy of Jordan Owen). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Good article and video here about the Penguins’ masks. … Jonathan Papelbon is apparently a Dropkick Murphys fan, at least judging by the embroidery at the base of his victory parade kilt (good spot by webmaster John Ekdahl). … The Huntsville Stars have a new logo (with thanks to Zack Bennett). … For a second there, I thought the headband on this baseball card said, “Tits” (a characteristically excellent find by the Rev. Nørb). … Got a note yesterday from Bill Turianski, who specializes in making sports-based maps (a few dozen of which are showcased on his site). Most of them are devoted to soccer, but there’s some baseball, football, and hockey content too. Worth exploring. … Holy-moly! … Several people have written to alert me to this Sports Illustrated photo of Clinton Portis, because it shows that he doesn’t wear socks (or, more likely, wears “no show” socks inside his cleats) and that his football “socks” are actually leg warmers. True enough, but it’s nothing new — he was doing the same thing two years ago (although he obviously had some other sock issues in that infamous game). … Other SI tidbits (courtesy of Greg Riffenburgh): the disturbing ascendance of neon mucous in Seattle and an even more disturbing photo. … The Lakewood Blue Claws have a new alternate logo (with thanks to Ted Kerwin). … I’m gonna be busy for most of today and on the road tomorrow, so if you have any site-related issues (spam filter acting up, abusive commenter, etc.), please tell Vince. Ticker contributions and membership orders can still come to me.