Yesterday afternoon at about 5:30 I got on an airplane. After I landed (never mind where), I went straight to a live theater performance thingie. After that I mingled with friends for a bit. It wasn’t until about 1:30 a.m. that I got to my host’s house. I was reeeaaaaaally tired (for reasons not worth getting into, I hadn’t slept the night before, plus I’m fighting a respiratory infection), and my plan was to crash without even bothering to check my e-mail. But then I thought, “Oh, what the hell,” and I broke out my laptop.
And that’s when I discovered what I’d missed.
In case you were even further off the grid than I was: Four Virginia Tech jerseys were missing prior to the start of last night’s game against Georgia Tech. Since the Hokies were wearing white, the host Yellow Jackets provided some of their white jerseys for the Va.Tech players to wear. The replacement jerseys were “customized” with handwritten nameplates (all rendered in cap-lowercase, which gave an eighth grade arts and crafts feel to the proceedings), plus the Yellow Jackets wordmark and Russell Athletic logo were blacked out and little Nike swooshes were drawn in (backwards, for some reason). Virginia Tech won handily, which means Georgia Tech lost to their own uniforms.
The incident apparently got big play on SportsCenter, where they did a little mini-feature on other jersey snafus, including “Angees” and “Gretkzy” (not really the best comparisons) and the time MJ wore No. 12 because his jersey had been stolen (better). Although I haven’t yet seen the report, they apparently didn’t mention anything about umpires whose uniforms get lost in transit, which might be the most apt comparison of all.
Anyway: I had nearly 100 e-mails waiting for me when I opened up the laptop. About 20% were of the “What the fuck is going on in that game?” variety, another 60% began with some variation on “I’m sure you already know this, but…,” and most of the rest were eager to inform me of a “hot scoop” (a few of these are still trickling in, which is pretty amusing). Plus two people were very angry about SportsCenter “totally ripping you off,” and two more wondered why I wasn’t appearing on SportsCenter myself at that very moment.
The bad news is that I have a lot of social obligations today and don’t have time to give this topic the full treatment it deserves. The good news is that there’s loads of other coverage out there. Here’s where to look:
• Last night’s comments provided a running stream of info on the situation, as Uni Watch readers kept passing along updates and reactions. If you pick up the discussion here, you’ll get a good sense of how things unfolded.
• If you’d rather have mainstream media coverage, there’s a good boilerplate treatment of the situation in this article.
• There’s a decent video recap of the incident here.
• Reader John Okray took lots of screen shots, which you can view in this fine slide show.
As for me, I have two major thoughts here, the first of which is that the whole thing is wonderful — and not just because it’s such good Uni Watch fodder. As many of you know, one of my biggest gripes about contemporary sports is that everything seems hyper-calculated and pre-scripted. But there was nothing in the script about this, and that’s what makes it so much fun. And I love that the handwritten nameplates were done in cap-lowercase, instead of all-caps, which perfectly captured the spontaneity and playfulness of the situation.
Unfortunately, there was one major turd in the punchbowl: those handwritten swooshes. I wasn’t watching the game, but according to several readers’ accounts of the game broadcast, Nike’s people specifically insisted that the Russell logo be blocked out (which I can sort of understand) and that the little swooshes be drawn in. If that’s true, it’s beyond pathetic, and goes a long way toward canceling out the playfulness. Nike didn’t manufacture those repurposed jerseys, so what exactly was the point of adding the swoosh? If your answer (or Nike’s) is, “Because Virginia Tech is a Nike school,” then you’re pretty much affirming what I’ve been saying all along — i.e., that the brand has become more important than the school or the uniforms. And that gives this fun story a bittersweet aftertaste.
One last thing, for now: Lots of readers have asked if anything like this has ever happened before. I’m honestly unsure — there are plenty of examples of players wearing someone else’s number, like the MJ example cited above, but I’m not sure about players wearing their opponents’ jerseys — that might be a first. If anyone knows more, this is definitely a topic for further research.
(Extra-special thanks to readers who provided screen grabs and other crucial info, especially John Okray, Miguel Rodriguez, and Bryan Redemske.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: The single-A Casper Rockies have renamed themselves the Casper Ghosts — and will wear a glow-in-the-dark cap. Details here and here. … The Gamecocks’ memorial decal referred to in yesterday’s Ticker will look like this. Further details here (with thanks to Andy Shain). … Speaking of decals, Chris Willis, who runs Athletic Decals (the company that provides most NFL and NCAA helmet decals), checked in yesterday with this tidbit: “We produced some decals honoring the San Diego firefighters. These will probably be worn by SD State for this weekend’s game with Wyoming, and SDSU equipment manager Nick Pettit got enough so Wyoming could wear them too. Now, don’t bet on them being there, though — I can’t tell you how many times I’ve busted it getting a decal out and someone ends up ‘kiboshing’ it at the last minute.” … Yesterday I mentioned that the Lakewood Blue Claws have a new secondary logo. Now Dan Cichalski tells me they’ll be using it on a Friday-night vest, which looks really cool. … Joe Girardi will wear No. 27 with the Yankees, to symbolize the team’s quest for a 27th championship. … Bob Sherron notes that Amare Stoudemire’s NOB has some letter-spacing issues. … Eric Stangel found something interesting on eBay: a game-used Astros St. Patty’s Day jersey. And check out the NOB! Anyone ever seen any game photos of this jersey?