We have sooooo many things to cover today, boys and girls, so let’s get right to it:
• The Rams wore their royal blue throwbacks yesterday. Like everyone else, I love the horns on the jersey shoulders, but I also love those pants. And hey, Steven Jackson got into the retro mood during pregame warm-ups by wearing Dickerson-style goggles. (Also prior to the game: They retired Isaac Bruce’s number. As an aside, did you realize Bruce donned a Cardinals jersey to throw out the first pitch at a ballgame in late September? I’d missed that one.)
• Throwbacks were also on tap in Foxboro, although the truncated shoulder stripes ruin a lot of the design’s beauty.
• The Cardinals really need to stop wearing this set.
• Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to wear his wedding band on the field. He’s been doing this all season.
• You know things have gotten out of hand when we’re seeing placekickers’ armpits.
• That’s no way for a champion to dress. That game also marked the first appearance this season of the Steelers’ white jerseys.
• Some fans showed up to the Steelers/Saints game dressed as blind zebras. Okay, I know they’re supposed to be blind, but they have the wrong stripe pattern on their jerseys, the wrong stripe pattern on their socks, the guy in black slacks is missing the white stripe, etc., etc. If you’re gonna denigrate NFL officials (and blind people), do it right!
• On Saturday, Notre Dame and Tulsa both wore a memorial decal for Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan, who died earlier this week. Interesting gesture for Tulsa to wear the decal along with the Irish.
• Oregon wore solid white with silver shoes. And while the jerseys appeared to be NNOB, closer inspection reveals that they actually had white-on-white NOBs. (My thanks to Joshua Brisco for the screen shot.)
• When Army unveiled this year’s uni set a few months back, nobody said anything about them wearing full-body camo. Phil wrote about this in yesterday’s entry. I gave my own thoughts on the matter in this comment thread.
• While I’m not a fan of Nike’s Amateur Tranquility program, I have no problem with Florida’s design. Definitely among the least offensive entries in this particular product line.
• It’s a little hard to tell from the game photos, but the NOBs on UCLA’s super-stretchies looked like total shite.
• All week long we heard the hubbub about Mississippi asking Auburn to wear navy on the road so the Rebels could wear something “special” at home. And then the special design turns out to be — wait for it — solid gray. Is that an anti-climax or what? Someone in yesterday’s comments speculated that the grays might be “a shout-out to the Confederacy after all the bru-ha-ha of doing away w/ colonel reb etc.” That’s a good conspiracy theory, but I’d like to think it’s no more than that.
Finally, it’s worth noting that today marks the first day of November, which means we’ve officially entered the post-pink portion of the calendar. Thank the lordy.
Peel session: Serious uni-numeric snafu in last night’s Jazz/Thunder game, as the 2 on Paul Millsap’s jersey was peeling off in the first half. Normally, this would just rate a quick mention in the Ticker, but in this case it raises some questions about the NBA’s new mesh-fabric uniform numbers. The league had originally told me that all numbers would be heat-sealed this season, but then they specifically told me they’d changed their plans and were having the numbers sewn on. Millsap’s peel-off numeral sure doesn’t look sewn, though.
So I sent a quick note to NBA apparel director Christopher Arena, who responded almost immediately: “Not the first and certainly not the last time a local team embellisher forgot to sew down a number.” Fair enough. (And my thanks to Leondrus Thornton for the screen shot.)
Head(band) games: As I mentioned in the Ticker last week, the NBA has banned upside-down headbands, a move that seems to have been aimed specifically at Rajon Rondo. Reader Robert McNamara has written an interesting defense of Rondo’s headband style, which I’ve decided to present here in its entirety and without further comment:
As a diehard Celtics fan I wanted to give a little perspective:
1. Rondo just doesn’t look right without the headband, especially from the upper deck. He’s been wearing one his entire career, and the upside-down thing was his look. Also, the headband helps minimize the Sam Cassel effect.
2. He doesn’t do it to spite the league. Unlike Rasheed Wallace who turned his headband inside out, Rondo wears his upside-down out of quirkiness. He had a good game, realized his was upside-down accidentally, and made that his thing.
3. Given Rondo plays with possibly the most superstitious player in sports, I’m concerned this could throw off the team.
4. Seriously, does anyone in the league use the headband for its functionality?
5. If revenue is the league’s goal here, they should embrace Rondo’s quirk because it brings attention to the brand. If I were to go as Lebron for halloween, I could use any generic headband; if I wanted to be Rondo, it has to be an NBA headband.
Zero Tolerance!: The latest Freakonomics podcast is devoted to a topic near and dear to our hearts: corporate advertising on sports uniforms. At first glance it seems like a relatively solid introduction to the topic — Uni Advertising 101 — but it’s actually a very superficial treatment. Instead of discussing the many potential arguments against uniform ads, the report simply boils all of them down to “tradition” (cue the Fiddler on the Roof music, which just further marginalizes the anti-advertising position), which means there’s no chance for a nuanced assessment of the subject. There’s no discussion of teams as civic entities with civic responsibilities, no mention of the endless encroachment of corporate messaging throughout our culture, no mention that fans went ballistic when MLB tried to put Spider-Man 2 ads on the bases, not even a simple recap of how ridiculous the revolving door of corporate stadium names has become, and how it’s made fans more cynical than ever.
One reason none of this is addressed is that, as is often the case with Freakonomics reports, the author (in this case it’s Stephen Dubner, the journalist half of the Freakonomics duo) is so eager to come up with a counterintuitive narrative that he’s trying to create an air of inevitability. If you listen to the podcast and read the accompanying text, it’s pretty obvious that Dubner’s premise here was, “Well, why not have ads on uniforms?” Treating that question as anything more than rhetorical (by, say, interviewing the only professional sportswriter working the uniform beat, hint-hint) would have ruined the construct he was setting up.
That sense of inevitability is precisely what must not be allowed to take hold in the discussion about uniform ads. Every time a report or article comes out with various team owners and branding brokers saying, “Oh, it’s bound to happen eventually, and maybe sooner than you think” with no counter-offensive, no push-back, that makes it more likely to happen. Of course, all the people saying, “It’s bound to happen” have a financial interest in having it happen.
Fuck all of them. Ads do NOT belong on pro sports uniforms, they are NOT inevitable, and I’ll keep saying so every time someone floats a trial balloon like the ones in this podcast. To paraphrase Edmond Burke, all that’s required for uni advertising to come to pass is for good men to do nothing.
Culinary Corner: My friends Jack and Ashley were in town a week ago, so I had them over for dinner and made this stuffed duck breast recipe. It came out a little dry, but that was my fault (Jack, if you’re reading this, I know you’re too polite to have said anything, but I apologize for overcooking the duck). It’s a good recipe, and I recommend it. But that’s not what today’s Culinary Corner is about.
One of the nice things about cooking duck — even when you overcook it — is that you end up with a bunch of rendered duck fat, which is good for all sorts of things. For example: As I was riding my bike in Prospect Park yesterday, I was trying to decide whether I should go see the Magnetic Fields documentary at Film Forum in the afternoon. And then I thought to myself, “Hey, I could use a bit of duck fat to pop some popcorn and bring that with me to the movies!” And that settled it. I biked home, showered, popped some corn, put it in a giant Tupperware thingie, and headed off to Manhattan.
Thanks to some unusually good subway luck, I got to Film Forum about 25 minutes before showtime. That presented a conundrum: I was dying to taste the popcorn, because I’d never made popcorn with duck fat before and was certain it’d be extra-yummy, but I have a rule about snacks at the movies, which is that I don’t start eating until the feature starts. I thought about breaking my rule — after all, duck fat popcorn was a special case, right? — but managed to hold out until the lights went down. (No coming-attractions previews at Film Forum, thankfully.)
Once the movie started, I opened the container and dug in. It tasted … like popcorn.
Was that really it? I ate some more. Yup, I thought, that’s definitely popcorn. It was good popcorn, mind you, but not particularly remarkable popcorn. Nothing special, nothing extra-scrumptious. If you’d told me it was cooked in corn oil, I would’ve believed you.
So the point of today’s Culinary Corner, dear hearts, is that sometimes there’s nothing special about duck fat. But don’t tell anyone I said that.
Uni Watch News Ticker: While looking for something else, I stumbled upon an Etsy seller who specializes in sports-themed model cars. … Also found on Etsy: three MLB mini-pennants; a gorgeous baseball-themed cowichan cardigan (I’d totally buy this myself, but it’s too small for me); a magnificent 1950s White Sox pennant; a great baseball wristwatch; a completely awesome Seattle Pilots placemat; a very nice cheerleader’s sweater; some wonderful football-patterned cotton fabric; and a Chargers blood-donor T-shirt. … Very interesting article about a football helmet graphics/painting company (big thanks to Dan Kaempff). … Did you know that it’s illegal for a pitcher to seal up a blister with super glue? It’s true! … Here’s a major find that I can’t believe I didn’t know about: When Gil Hodges managed the 1970 National League all-star team in Cincinnati, his uniform didn’t arrive in time for the N.L. workout the day before the game, so he ended up wearing Reds pitcher Jim Maloney’s uniform. I can’t link directly to the photo, because it’s a watermarked Getty shot, but I encourage you to go to the Getty home page and copy/paste 90117649 into the search field (great, great find by Steve Presser). … Terence Kearns is another reader who’s been playing around with Uni Watch varsity jacket concepts. … Very nice gallery of old goalie masks here. … Looks like LeBron was wearing one of those vampire mouthguards on Friday night. Hope that was just a Halloween thing (screen shot by Logan Light). … Anyone know why Alex Frolov of the Rangers insists on wearing his sock stripes so annoyingly low? (As noted by Chris Hernandez.) … Also from Chris: MSG had the Ducks logo reversed and upside-down the other night. … Here’s something interesting: North Marion High in Farmington, West Virginia, wears two different helmet logos — one for the right side and one for the left. We’ve seen teams with a logo on only one side (Steelers) and asymmetrical helmet designs (Boise State earlier this year), but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen two distinct logos on opposite sides of the lid. Anyone else..? (Very nice submission by Jamie Howell.) … Here’s a 1984 newspaper clipping explaining how the Browns had to modify their home uni numbers (rare non-Pittsburgh-centric contribution from Jerry Wolper). … Andrew Mocella reports that the Montreal Alouettes wore solid white for the first time ever on Friday night. … Nate Dion was at an Arizona Fall League game and spotted an NOB with an accent. … Pascal Dupuis’s lace-up collar didn’t have any laces on Saturday night (good spot by Jeff Camputaro). … Johnny Flanagan sent along this style guide spec sheet for Army sports (and whaddaya know, there’s no camouflage on it). … Some good vintage NHL shots from Scott Kneeskern, including a goalie’s pants with some very interesting stitching and a fascinating all-star jersey (those concentric loops on the shoulders and arms are like nothing I’ve ever seen before). … Oh baby, check out this great hockey varsity jacket. … While looking at varsity jackets like the one I just linked to, I came across a rather mediocre-looking jacket with a sensational tag design. … Holy moly! Larry Bodnovich says that’s a color original, not a colorized b&w shot. The team wearing gold/navy is Kansas State; the Technicolor guy is from the Fort Riley service team. Love the zebra jersey, too. … Dig this awesome Oregon State sign from the 1950s. “The initials on the sailor cap say ‘OSC’ because the school was called Oregon State College from 1937-61,” explains Phil Amaya. “The other feature I really like is the nail through the bat!” … The idea of a football coach wearing football pants seems silly today, but it didn’t look so bad back in the canvas pants era. That’s Loyola Academy High School coach Len Jardine in 1960 (with thanks to Mako Mameli). … Good thing this bowling shirt doesn’t fit me, or else I’d be sorely tempted. … Soccer note from Bernd Wilms, who writes: “In Sunday’s Galaxy/Sounders MLS playoff game, LA keeper Donovan Ricketts had his goalkeeper’s uni number 1 not just on the back of his jersey, but also on the front opposite the club crest [sorry for awful screencap]. This is standard for national team players, but it’s not usually done by club teams, and isn’t standard in MLS (or for Ricketts, for that matter).” … Back in 1978, the Broncos wore orange pants on the road, but only for that one season. Why didn’t they stick with them? Apparently because the pants were a fiasco from the start (great find by Jerry Wolper). … Bon voyage, RPM — travel safe.