Everyone loves the NHL’s annual Winter Classic game, and who wouldn’t? The outdoor setting, the throwback uniforms, the rare national broadcast coverage, plus the whole thing takes place on New Year’s Day — it’s a blast. You’d have to work awfully hard to ruin something that’s so much fun.
But here’s one way: Turn the game into a corporate branding spectacle.
That will be the situation in a few weeks, when all fans watching the game, both live and on TV, will be encouraged to spot the one player whose uniform is not emblazoned with a Reebok logo. It’s all part of some lame-o contest, the lucky winner of which will get a hand job from Sidney Crosby or something (nauseating details here). Of course, all the other players will be wearing the logo, so the practical effect of this promotion will be to focus everyone’s attention on a corporate mark that doesn’t belong on throwback uniforms in the first place. And now all fans will have a renewed awareness of that logo in subsequent games. What a lovely way to ring in the new year. (And in case that’s not enough corporate bullshit for you, take another look at that last link and you’ll see that the NHL is appending a little “TM” on the term “Winter Classic.” Beautiful.)
Heinous marketing machinations notwithstanding, there’s another issue to consider here: This is a regular season game, not some preseason exhibition or skills contest. By turning the game into a “Where’s Waldo?” exercise, the NHL is basically telling the world not to take this game — or, by extension, the league — seriously. Or to put it another way, this is the kind of promotion I would expect from the Wilpons. My big worry now is that they’ll try to copy it.
There was a long thread in yesterday’s comments about how Canadian fans aren’t eligible to participate in the contest, and how this insulting to the sport’s Canadian fan base and/or a stupid marketing move by Reebok. But really, no self-respecting fan — American, Canadian, or otherwise — should be participating in a contest that spotlights and legitimizes the Reebok’s influence on the game. The whole thing smells. Boycott the contest, and watch the game under silent protest. Or maybe not-so-silent.
Get Your Kicks, Continued: Yesterday’s post re: the Phillips 66ers prompted Doug Mooney to do some archival research. First he sent me this link. Just like in yesterday’s photos, all the players are wearing double-numbers (55, 11, and 66), except for Bub Kurland, who somehow got away with wearing No. 90 (although this time he’s got mis-numbered shorts). Then he sent me this, which shows still more 66ers, all wearing double numbers (also note the bead-striped basket rim).
“So it would seem that the double-number thing was a play on the double sixes,” said Doug. “But then you see stuff like this.” Hmmmmm….
Uni Watch News Ticker: I’ve been aware of the AstrosDaily blog for years, but until yesterday I wasn’t aware that it included a Astros uniform history page. If you scroll down a bit on that page, you find this tequila sunrise prototype, which I’d never seen before. Can’t believe this was sitting there on AstrosDaily all this time without my realizing it (big, big thanks to Clint Loerwald). … The Canadiens have removed the 100th-anniversary center-ice logo from the Bell Centre and replaced it with an All-Star Game logo (with thanks to Jim Thorburn). … Speaking of center ice logos, Todd Morss and Terry Proctor say this, from 1949, may be the first one ever applied to a faceoff circle. … I don’t know nothin’ ’bout no footwear, but Mike Pratt says Tony Romo was wearing new cleats on Sunday. … So when a school switches from, say, Nike to Adidas, what happens to all the old gear? Here’s one answer (with thanks to Mitchell Pinta). … Fun discussion thread here on the topic of baseball people wearing jackets and ties (with thanks to David Brown). … Excellent piece here on Willie Mays wearing No. 14 as a rookie (great find by Dave Grob). … Lots of cool sports-related T-shirts here (with thanks to Skott A. Wade). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: The “Dial-a-Down Tuf-Wear” logo, which used to be visible underneath the down numeral on the Dial-a-Down thingie, has been absent from NFL sidelines this year. Guess they didn’t want to pony up some sort of fee. … Interesting NOB note from Randy Smith, who writes: “In the under-17 world hockey championships, there are five teams from Canada, so they wear their region on their nameplates, which can either be a province or a geographical area.” … Dave Lawllr notes that the orange-to-white ratio on the Islanders’ throwback pants is inconsistent. Compare this, for example, to this. Both versions are shown here. … Really nice sleeve patch here. Here’s the full eBay listing. … Remember this book? Here’s an article about the guy who wrote it (thanks, Vince). … The Red Sox will unveil some new uniform elements this Thursday. I can’t tell you all the details, although this alternate cap has already leaked. … New uniforms for the Columbus Clippers. … Very cool old uniform available here. … Everyone loves BYOB — that’s Brigham Young on back (with thanks to Bryce Christensen). … Two good finds by Andy Chalifour: (1) Terry Pendleton appears to have been wearing a soccer shinguard on his forearm. (2) We can add Jeff Tackett to our list of MLB catchers who’ve worn a brimless helmet. Andy thinks it’s actually a modified hockey helmet, although I’m not so sure — opinions? … Truly bizarre new uniforms for the Yokohama Bay Stars. The Y-neck collar is for Yokohama, natch, and the sleeves have a little notch (which I like). And look, they’ve even got logo-emblazoned scarves. Oddest of all: The home and road uniforms were designed by two different outfitters (all this courtesy of Jeremy Brahm). … Interesting book of basketball portraits here, and an interview with the author here (Vince again). … Under Armour is getting into the footwear game. That sound you just heard was Matt Powers‘s head exploding. … OK, so it’s not very big, but that there is a Quebec Nordiques baseball jersey, worn by Michel Bergeron in a charity game (with thanks to Gabe Kleinfeld). … Look, a uniform in a box! What’ll they think of next? … Greg Riffenburgh notes that Jeff Gordon was wearing a Hendrick Motor Sports lapel pin at the NASCAR awards ceremony in New York. … Good spot by Stu Taylor, who writes: “I noticed Matt Schaub had a sideline jacket emblazoned with ‘QB’ on the chest.Is this normal? I’ve never noticed it before, and I didn’t see any other position-designated jackets on the Houston sideline.” … The Greene County Tech (Ark.) girls’ hoops team has some interesting socks (with thanks to Brian Rosener).