Paul here. Bryan’s busy with a bike race today, so I’m on weekend duty for a change. And while I realize some of you are probably expecting an entry relating to the NFL draft, I’ve decided to use the day to publish an interview that’s been languishing waaaaaay too long.
Last summer, shortly after the membership program started, I received a check in the mail from Karen Hibbitt. She was signing up at the Satin Piping level, which means the check was for a very generous $500. “I’m joining at this level because it is comparable to the support I give to other activities and organizations that give me great enjoyment,” she wrote, which was one of the nicest, most humbling thing anyone had ever said to me about Uni Watch.
And how did I repay Karen’s kindness? I conducted an interview with her (one of the benefits of a Satin Piping membership) — and then sat on it for months. Karen, who’s the self-deprecating type, said she didn’t really care about the interview anyway, but that’s no excuse — I was simply too lazy to transcribe the tape, and the longer I put it off, the more embarrassing the situation became, so I kept putting it off even longer. Shame on me.
Here, finally, is Karen’s long-overdue Uni Watch Profiles interview. Karen (who’s shown above in her Uni Watch membership T-shirt alongside Screech the Nats’ mascot), I’m really sorry about the delay. Hope it was worth the wait, and thanks again for your support and kind words — means a lot to me.
Uni Watch: Where do you live, and what do you do for a living?
Karen Hibbitt: I live in Arlington, Virginia, and I’m a registrar at the National Archives.
UW: What does that mean?
KH: I work in our exhibits office, and basically everything that goes on exhibit passes through my hands.
UW: So you’re like a gatekeeper.
KH: Sort of, yeah. The curator is the more glamorous job, but museums would just crumble to the ground without registrars.
UW: That sounds like a common registrar’s lament.
KH: Yes, we can be a little touchy about our profession.
UW: I think I need to get myself a Uni Watch registrar, for my collection.
KH: Definitely, you need someone to tell you if you need mylar sleeves, or acid-free folders, or whatever.
UW: How did you discover Uni Watch?
KH: I read your column on Page 2 a bunch of times, and I felt like we had a similar aesthetic. You complained about a lot of the same things I complained about.
UW: I don’t just complain, you know.
KH: Well, yes, but basically I agreed with your tastes. And then I started reading more and more of your stuff, and became notorious among my friends for having lots of useless things to say about uniforms.
UW: What kind of sports fan are you?
KH: I grew up in Rhode Island and always loved the Red Sox. I spent a year after college working for my father, whose company was in Pawtucket, and I must have gone to about half of the Paw Sox’s home games that year. Baseball’s my favorite sport.
UW: Are you still a Red Sox fan?
UW: And how do you feel about their uniforms?
KH: I like them. I pretty much like the classic looks. As much as it pains me to say so, I think the Yankees’ home uniform is probably one of the nicest ones out there.
UW: How did you feel about the Red Sox’s solid-red alternate jerseys?
KH: I don’t like them. There are certain teams that shouldn’t have alternate jerseys, like the Original Six NHL teams. I feel like the Red Sox fall into that category too.
UW: What are your other favorite teams?
KH: Having lived in Washington for about 15 years now, I love that we have the Nationals. It’s great that we have a team. And that they’re so incredibly hapless.
UW: And how do you like their uniforms?
KH: They’re OK. I don’t object to them too much. There’s nothing fabulous about them, but there’s nothing objectionable about them. I haaaaaate teal, sort of the way you hate purple, so I’m just glad they didn’t go with teal.
UW: Any other uni-related pet peeves, or things you really like, the way I like striped socks?
KH: Again, I like a classic look — high cuffs in baseball, no biker shorts in football. Classic. Probably one of my favorite uniforms is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
KH: Well, starting with the name. Nothing inspires fear in an opponent’s heart like vegetation. “Oh my god, it’s a leaf! It’s gonna fall on me!!” And then it’s Leafs instead of Leaves. And their uniform is so simple — it’s that classic thing again. For a more modern uniform, I like the Carolina Hurricanes. The line of hurricane flags, or whatever they are, along the bottom of their jersey is one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen.
UW: So do you have one of those jerseys?
KH: You know, I have this fake reproduction Hartford Whalers jersey that I wear to the games, and I get more compliments on that than for anything else I own.
UW: That’s the same franchise as the Hurricanes!
KH: I know! Everyone loves that jersey. You know, I lived in Hartford for two years, and it’s the biggest armpit of anyplace I’ve ever been — horrible.
UW: Are you aware that the Whalers are one of the two NHL teams that wore Cooperalls?
KH: Yes, thanks to Uni Watch. Which was the other one?
UW: The Flyers. When people refer to Cooperalls, they’re usually thinking of the Flyers. The Whalers get sort of overshadowed.
KH: I didn’t even know what Cooperalls were until I started reading Uni Watch.
UW: You know, a surprisingly large number of people tell me that the Whalers logo ranks among their all-time favorites. And what a lot of them tell me is that they especially love how the negative space forms an “H.” Frankly, I hadn’t noticed that myself until a reader pointed it out to me back in Uni Watch’s early days, around 2001 or so.
KH: It really is a good logo. Nice and simple. A lot of these new logos are too busy — my brain can’t cope with all that. And I like how 1970s it looks. People complain about some of the stuff from that era, like the Padres and Astros, but I like a lot of them. I mean, I’m not going to paint my bedroom yellow and brown, but they had something going on there.
UW: You know, I went to college in Binghamton, in upstate New York, and back then they had the Binghamton Whalers, which was Hartford’s top farm team. They just turned the logo on its side, but they lost the negative space aspect of the design.
KH: So here’s a question for you: What’s the etiquette for wearing jerseys?
UW: You mean for fans?
KH: Yes. I have strong opinions on this. Like, nobody should ever wear a basketball jersey, because it doesn’t look good on anyone except, like, Gilbert Arenas.
UW: What if there’s a T-shirt under it?
KH: Maybe, but it still looks hokey. You look like the fat kid at the pickup game. Even if you are Gilbert Arenas.
UW: What other rules do you have for this sort of thing?
KH: Anyone can wear football or hockey jerseys, but only at the game. You can’t just walk around town in them.
UW: What about in your house?
KH: Oh, you can wear whatever you want in your house.
UW: What if you have friends over?
KH: It’s okay to wear the jersey if you’re watching a game, like if that’s the purpose of the friends coming over. Or maybe also if you’re going to a bar to watch the game.
UW: What about baseball?
KH: Similar rules, I guess. The thing is, I think most people look a bit pretentious in a baseball jersey. Unless you have that nice, trim physique, the buttons aren’t going to look good.
UW: Now, for football and baseball jerseys, should they ever be tucked in? The players tuck them in, after all.
KH: True. But no. Not unless you’re showing up in baseball pants, stirrups, and cleats. And the only ones who should do that are Little Leaguers. They’re the only ones who should bring their glove to the ballpark, too.
UW: Hmmmm, I might beg to differ on that one.
KH: If you’re there to catch a ball, you’re not enjoying the game.
UW: But that is part of enjoying the game! And it shows you’re paying attention to the game, instead of just jibber-jabbering with your friends.
KH: Or yakking on your cell phone. Holy moses, don’t even get me started on that.
UW: So when you go to a Caps game, you wear that Whalers jersey?
KH: Yes. But I don’t put it on until I actually get to my seats.
UW: So you pull it out of your bag or something?
KH: Yes. I’m kind of embarrassed at the idea of wearing it while riding the Metro or something like that.
UW: What about cap etiquette?
KH: You can wear a baseball cap anytime, anywhere.
UW: You know, getting back to baseball, you chose No. 49 for the back of your Uni Watch membership card, because, as you put it, “Tim Wakefield has been my baseball boyfriend for quite some time.” What’s that all about?
KH: Just a little joke between me and my friends. Everyone has their baseball boyfriend.
UW: Got a little crush on him?
KH: For years. I love the knuckleball. I love how it’s unhittable when it’s on, how it messes up people’s swing for days.
UW: Have you ever tried to throw one?
KH: Yes, I have.
UW: How’d that work out for ya?
KH: Not so much. The only pitch I can throw with any skill is a curveball. I marvel at what baseball players can do.
UW: Have you ever written a fan letter to Tim Wakefield?
KH: I have not.
UW: Have you ever considered it?
KH: No. Speaking with you right now is about as close as I’ve ever gotten to someone I was a fan of.
UW: Awww. Now, over at the Archives, you folks had that exhibit about Presidents in their formative years, which included lots of photos of young Presidents-to-be playing sports. Did you help put that together?
KH: Yes, in my registrarial capacity.
UW: Ooh, good adjective, “registrarial.”
KH: It’s mostly photos, but we did have some original items, like Gerarld Ford’s letter sweater.
UW: And when you saw that, did you think, “Ooh, this’ll be good for Uni Watch”?
UW: You’ve mentioned to me that you read Uni Watch “at the end of your morning routine.” So it’s sort of like your morning dessert?
KH: Yes. There are a bunch of sites I check before getting down to work each day, and Uni Watch is usually the last one.
UW: How do your friends and family feel about all this? Do they Get It™?
KH: Well, my family has no idea.
UW: And what about your friends?
KH: They’re exceedingly amused. I have this core group of friends, and I’m the one who’s into this kind of stuff. They don’t quite Get It™, but they respect it.
UW: That’s good.
KH: Once I was at a Caps game, and I said, “Look, Ovechkin’s skate laces are yellow — I wonder why?” This was long before you’d written about it on the site. And then you wrote about it and it turned out that his skates are made by a Russian manufacturer that uses yellow laces or something like that, right? So I told that to a friend, and she told one of her friends, “Look, Ovechkin’s laces are yellow, because they’re made by this Russian company.” So this information does get passed along.
UW: Like a virus.
UW: If you were the commissioner of the NHL, or MLB, or whatever league strikes your fancy, what uniform-related rules would you institute?
KH: I don’t have any big issues with the NHL. They don’t do much in the way of customization or accessorizing.
UW: What about white-at-home vs. dark-at-home?
KH: Oh, I prefer white at home. So yeah, I’d do that. And for baseball, it really bothers me that the players look so different. If the team wants to go with a baggy, pajama-style trouser, then everyone should do it. If they want to go with knickers and striped socks, then everyone should do it. The uniform should be uniform.
UW: I hear ya.
KH: You know, I’d like to see more of the 1960s and ’70s cartoon-y logos. Like the Padres’ swinging friar, and Mr. Met, Mr. Redlegs — totally cool. And some of those minor league teams have such great logo characters, too. I’d like to see more of that. Totally charming.
Indeed. Thanks again to Karen for her support, and for her patience.
OK, I’m outta here — be nice to Bryan and Vince next week while I’m gone.