I’m fairly certain that no Uni Watch reader has sent me as many contributions over the years as Jeremy Brahm, and I’m absolutely positive that no other reader has sent so many highly specialized contributions. Search the site for Jeremy’s name and you’ll find a wealth of information relating to volleyball, cricket, Aussie rules football (which he wrote about last weekend), African youth soccer, African amateur athletics tournaments, sumo wrestling, and, of course, Japanese baseball, where he reigns as our foremost authority.
The volume and specificity of Jeremy’s contributions have made him something of a celebrity here on the site, so about two months ago I did an interview with him. And then, as is my too-frequent habit, I back-burnered transcribing the tapes for way too long. But hey, there’s nothing like tape transcription to take your mind off chickenpox (trust me). So here, finally, is the long-awaited Jeremy Brahm installment of Uni Watch Profiles — enjoy.
Uni Watch: How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?
Jeremy Brahm: I’m 36, I live Tigard, Oregon, and right now I’m a business development associate. It’s a new job I just started.
UW: What exactly is a business development associate?
JB: It involves trying to identify clients to bring to the business, but also kind of taking clients from my old business.
UW: Which was..?
JB: SpecialtyVehicles.net. I researched different truck bodies and their manufacturers, in America and Canada predominantly. You know the UPS big brown trucks, right? I would research the companies that would put the box on top of the truck chassis. Kind of a unique kind of market research and analysis. My clients would more or less be anybody from Freightliner to an international to investment groups, to even suppliers of aluminum or a company like 3M that needs to know how much paint to sell. Interesting, odd markets — things you see every day, but nobody thinks about them. [Update: Since we conducted this interview, Jeremy has left this job.]
UW: Are you from Portland originally?
JB: Yes, born and raised.
UW: Have you always been interested in uniforms?
JB: Before I could read anything else, I could read the sports page in The Oregonian.
UW: Yeah, but what about uniforms and logos?
JB: When I was a kid, whenever I was doing coloring or drawing, I’d try to do it with a sports motif. I always wanted to keep track of the [football] scores, so I had all these pens and I’d draw each of the different logos on a helmet. The helmets themselves weren’t perfect — I could never figure out how to do the ear-mold flap area — but I’d replicate the logo as closely as possible.
UW: So you’d create a scoreboard this way?
JB: Yes. On Monday mornings I’d say, “Okay, this was the Seahawks score,” because that’s the team I grew up watching, and so on. [Jeremy wasn’t able to find any of these scoreboard drawings, but he did provide some childhood NFL helmet tracings, MLB and CFL logo drawings, CFL Huddles, which he created by tracing the NFL versions and adapting them for CFL teams. — PL]
UW: Any other childhood uni-related activities?
JB: My mom, as one of her side hobbies, she did a little bit of knitting and sewing, and she’d create little outfits for me to put on my teddy bear. So she’d use white sheets or old T-shirts to make a little white shirt for the teddy bear, and then I could write and draw on it to design a uniform for him.
UW: For the teddy bear?
JB: Right. So if I wanted to make a little Portland Beavers uniform for him, or a Cubs uniform, I could do it. So one day I was watching the North American Soccer League, and the Chicago Sting were playing, and I thought, “It looks like a bumblebee — that’s what I’m gonna do!” So that’s what I did.
UW: Did you play sports as a kid, or in school?
JB: Oh, yeah, I played Little League, basketball. Never played organized football, though.
UW: And did you pay special attention to your uniform in those days?
JB: I know we had stirrups, and I remember thinking, “Which way do these things go? Does the big loop go in the front or the back?”
UW: When did you first discovered Uni Watch?
JB: Around 2004, when you started writing for ESPN. I liked some of the history stuff, and I thought, “Oh, this is interesting.”
UW: Do you recall the first contribution you sent in?
JB: It was either about the Portland Trail Blazers changing to “Portland” on their road uniforms, or else when you asked about teams that put the players’ names below the numbers, so I sent you some photos from the J-League in Japan.
UW: Do you collect jerseys, or anything else that’s sports-related?
JB: I do have baseball cards, but I’m not a big collector.
UW: You have some jerseys, though, right? I remember you wore a Rangers jersey to the Uni Watch gathering in Portland, which was a very nice way of making me, as a New Yorker, feel welcome in your town.
JB: That was actually a gift I’d received from my aunt.
UW: You’re a big volleyball guy, right?
JB: Yes, I played in the 1990 Junior Olympics volleyball championships.
UW: That’s so cool. How’d you get into that sport?
JB: From watching the U.S. win in the 1984 Olympics, and again in ’88. Always had an interest in the game. So I learned al lot about the uniforms and so on. I’m still a big volleyball fan today.
UW: You realize you’re something of a celebrity here on the site, right?
JB: Yeah, yeah. I always find it funny.
UW: And people have basically requested this interview, for that matter. How does that feel, knowing that you’re sort of a character on the site?
JB: It’s — not strange, exactly, but being known as kind of an expert is not a problem.
UW: It’s fun to be an expert!
JB: Yeah, just like my job doing all the things with the trucks.
UW: You’re a man of very specialized knowledge, is what you’re saying.
JB: Yeah. It’s nice when people know that you know what you’re talking about. For me, a lot of the stuff with Japan, I had an interest from having gone there as a student…
UW: Yeah, let’s talk about that. You’re known on the site for having a few specialty niches, especially Japanese uniforms. How did you become so interested in Japanese sports and culture?
JB: I first got interested in Japan as the Japanese economy was growing in the late ’80s and I thought, “Hey, it’d be a good idea to study Japanese.” Then, as I got into college, I thought, “Why not actually study in Japan for a year?” My parents basically said to go for it, so that’s what I did.
UW: So you spent a year there?
JB: Yes. I went to Waseda University — basically one of the Japanese Ivy League schools. And there was plenty of baseball there. So I decided one of the best ways for me to improve my language skills was to follow sports.
UW: Right, it was an easy way in, it was something you were interested in…
JB: Exactly. When I got there, I just soaked it up like a sponge. It really improved my skills.
UW: Did you attend games?
UW: You also send in a lot of contributions about some fairly obscure sports. Volleyball is one thing, since you’ve played it competitively. But you’ll also send me stuff about cricket, or Australian rules football, all sorts of sports that aren’t in our mainstream North American consciousness. Are you actually interested in these sports? Or do you just go searching for obscure little things to send me? Like, if Uni Watch didn’t exist, would you still be coming across this material?
JB: Sometimes it’s just searching to search. As I’ve grown and met more people from more cultures, my interests have grown. I traveled to India in 2005 and saw cricket for the first time. In the ’80s, when ESPN had Australian Rules Football, I kind of became intrigued by it. And of course the uniforms haven’t really changed. The colors are the same — the only difference is that maybe they have, say, three stripes as opposed to five.
UW: You’re obviously into mainstream sports as well, but you almost never send me information on those. My impression is that you’ve decided to leave the mainstream material to everyone else — because let’s face it, I can get that from anyone — and to focus on what we might call, for lack of a better term, the Jeremy sports.
JB: You know, if I’m watching a Mariners game or a Seahawks game, those are my teams — I root for them. So usually I’m too busy enjoying the game to think about the uniform aspects.
UW: Some days you’ll send me multiple contributions — sometimes many multiples — and I’ll end up using only one or two of them. Be frank: Does that annoy you?
JB: Uh, I understand there’s a lot of stuff you have to go through. Plus it’s your site. Some of the things can be frustrating, like that time I sent you the link for those Japanse baseball dresses — it was like, “You’ve got to use this one, Paul, come on!”
UW: Do you sometimes find yourself thinking, “Why’d he use that one, instead of THAT one, which was so much better?!”
JB: Sometimes. But at the same time I kinda just say, look, it’s your site.
UW: You know, there are some days when I make those choices for very specific reasons — “I like these two a lot, but these two don’t do so much for me.” And then there are other days when I’m really busy and the volume of stuff you send can almost be overwhelming and it’s almost like I end up pulling them out of a hat.
JB: And I understand that.
UW: I gotta tell you, I do feel guilty sometimes. I try to use as much as I can, but I also want to be fair to everyone else who contributes stuff…
JB: I know, I understand. There’s only so much you can throw in, or else you’d be up 24/7. Also, with the time difference from Japan, their day is basically over when I my day is starting. So a lot of the things I send to you, they’ll either be at around 5am or 6am my time…
UW: Yes, I’ve noticed that.
JB: …because that’s when the news come up from Japan, first thing in the morning, so I check some of the Japanese sites really quick to see if I can find something.
UW: Now, back in August of 2008, you came to the Uni Watch party in Portland, which is the first and only time we’ve met. Did you have a good time?
JB: Oh yeah, it was cool. It’s always good to be around people with similar interests and see what they actually look like.
UW: You brought all sorts of Japanese sports publications. I confess that it was a bit overwhelming when you started showing them to me.
JB: The hard part was trying pick out the stuff you wouldn’t expect, like the hawk’s-head helmet.
UW: Did you acquire all those publications when you lived in Japan?
JB: Some of them. Others I’ve acquired here in the States, or during other trips to Japan. [You can see Jeremy happily playing show-and-tell with other Portland party attendees in the background of this photo of Pennant Race Gear honcho Ryan Wantland. — PL]
UW: What was that Roadkill jersey you brought along?
JB: That was from one of my youth volleyball teams. I was the only one on the team who had a car, so I had to drive all over the place to pick up everyone else on the way to a match.
UW: Leaving roadkill in your wake?
JB: That was the idea behind the shirt, yeah.
UW: Have you ever considered having your own blog or web site?
JB: I’ve thought about it. But it would basically be an offshoot [of Uni Watch], so then maybe I’d have to do a lot more research or get into markets I don’t normally focus on, like China. Would that be worth it? Would there be enough demand?
Conversation rambles for a bit, and then this:
JB: Mike Kinkade, he was a classmate of mine.
UW: Really? Mike Kinkade who briefly played for the Mets?
UW: Wow. What I remember most about him is that when the Mets traded Kinkade and Melvin Mora to the Orioles for Mike Bordick, Steve Phillips — who was the Mets’ GM at the time — announced that the Mets had acquired Bordick “in exchange for utility infielder Melvin Mora and utility catcher Mike Kinkade.” And I thought, boy, “utility catcher” — could they possibly make him sound more worthless?
JB: Yeah, he was a classic four-A player. The thing about him, though, is that he later played in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers. I actually have a replica jersey with his name on it. But it’s pretty tight on me, because that was the biggest size they had for the replicas over there.
Want more of Jeremy? He’s recently been working with Phil to produce this survey of 1990s Taiwanese baseball uniforms — a classic Jeremy topic.
And here’s the perfect coda to this interview: As I was putting the finishing touches on this entry last night, Jeremy e-mailed to tell me, “Paul, the Blazers’ and Bulls’ warm-up uniforms are basically the same, aside from ‘Chicago’ across the chest.” He was at the game, had taken that photo, and had e-mailed it to me on the spot. Now that’s dedication! Big thanks to Jeremy for sharing his story, for patiently waiting for me to transcribe it, and for everything he brings to the site every day.
How do you spell “wyld-kat”?: It’s rare that you see documentation of a uniform typo from over 60 years ago, and even rarer to find that the typo was discussed in print at the time. Becky Taylor found that bit of proto-uni-watching
in the 1/30/48 issue of the UGA newspaper, The Red and Black. As you can see in the second graf, The New Yorker apparently mentioned the typo as well. If anyone out there has the complete CD-ROM set of New Yorker archives, perhaps someone could track down the item in question, yes? Yes.
Uni Watch News Ticker: What team is this? That’s the Packers, circa early 1950s, says Tom Farley. “The Packers had the metallic gold helmets from 1951 — after they bought them from the first NFL Baltimore Colts, who folded after the 1950 season — through the ’53 season,” he says. “They wore the gold jerseys over the green pants in all three seasons.” … A very surprising entry in the “no gloves” camp: Adrian Peterson. He wore gloves in previous seasons but has been bare-handed this year (big thanks to Amos Miller). … Other gloveless wonders, both pointed out by Chris Fox: Larry Johnson and, in the retired category, Shaun Alexander. I’ve gotta admit, I’m stunned that there are any receivers or backs who go bare-handed. … Two Texas Tech notes from Susan Freeman: Taylor Potts went NickNOB, literally (“Nick” is his nickname), and Rajon Henley, who normally wears No. 91, wore number 40 and NNOB in honor of DB Nathan Stone, whose season ended early due to a neck injury. … As everyone and his pet weasel knows by now, Texas will be wearing throwbacks on Thanksgiving against A&M. But what’s this? A counter uni-maneuver by the Aggies — the battle is joined! “The ribbon on the helmet logo commemorates the 10th anniversary of the bonfire tragedy that took the lives of 12 students and injured 27 others,” explains Andy McNeel. “In addition, every player’s helmet will have No. 12 on the back, instead of their own numbers.” … Interesting note from Aaron Rich, who writes: “I saw the new Nick Cage movie, Bad Lieutenant, over the weekend (pretty bad) and there’s a scene when the bad cop is meeting with his bookie and they’re watching a football game. It’s definitely a USFL game (the movie takes place in 2008, but whatever) between the Memphis Showboats and a team in blue (maybe the Oakland Invaders or the LA Express). I got to wondering if there are other movies that use USFL footage for generic football footage rather than using NFL or NCAA footage. Also, I wonder if this is done because of trademark rights or NFL being hard to deal with. It might be a fun thing for the readers to see if they can make a list of the movies that use USFL footage.” … Check this out: a NORAD (that’s North American Aerospace Defense) hockey jersey. “They’ve fielded military hockey teams for many years,” says Ryan Connelly. … What’s with the two different uniforms? Turns out the seniors are wearing dark, underclassmen in white (good find by Tris Wykes.) … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Photos of all the rest of the riflery uniforms can be accessed here (with more LSU shots here and here), can we just play football now? … Yesterday’s screen shot of Mike Smith’s parking lot-sponsored play-calling sheet prompted the following note from Falcons assistant equipment manager Jimmy Luck: “Great pic of Coach Smith — the marketing people wish they had thought of it! Coach always has a copy of the itinerary with his notes, for timing reasons (bus departures, warm-up times, etc.). All away game itineraries have a map of how to get to the Parking Spot on the back. Just so happens he put it in the back of the page protector this time and the whole TV audience got a free Parking Spot ad.” … Hey look, the Detroit chain gang goes FiNOF (good catch by Jared Camden).