My article + video about the making of the Super Bowl footballs in Ada, Ohio, is up now on ESPN. For today’s blog entry, I wanted to show you a few things that didn’t make it into that ESPN article, including the really charming movie theater in Ada. Here’s how it looks at night (sorry for the shitty image quality — I took that photo through a car windshield).
But you’re more interested in what went on in the football factory, right? Here are some details:
• My article shows a worker cutting panels from a sheet of cowhide with a cookie cutter-like die. But it doesn’t show this photo of all the other cutting dies used at the factory. Each one is for a different kind of football — NCAA, high school, Pop Warner, etc.
• Similarly, my article shows the machine where a worker stamps type into the cut panels. What’s not shown in the article is that the plastic walls around the machine are covered with little stamped leather swatches. I liked that a lot.
• I bet some of you already knew this, but I didn’t: When the pebbled surface is stamped into Wilson’s NFL football leather, they also stamp little Wilson “W”s into it. This has apparently been going on for about five years. I have several official NFL balls, but I’d never noticed this before.
As for the rest of the scene at the factory, you’ll have to check out the article for that.
Baa-aaa-aa! Weekend report: I had a great weekend, beginning on Friday night, when I went to a gallery reception for an art show by the great Tony Millionaire. Hadn’t seen Tony in years, and he promptly said hello by trying to autograph my face. Fortunately, I was able to convince him to autograph Danny Hellman’s head instead (more surface area, much better). Lots of additional photos here.
Then on Saturday I went to a lamb butchery class at a Manhattan restaurant called Back Forty. On my way there, I walked down a random East Village block and passed a paint store I’d never noticed before, with what appeared to be a very interesting wall display. So I went inside and discovered that the wall was basically a massive swatch catalogue, all painted by hand — so cool! I took several additional photos, which you can see here.
From there I went around the corner to the butchery class, where Back Forty’s chef, the lovely Shanna Pacifico, taught a dozen of us the particulars of taking apart half a lamb. As you can see, the head and feet had already been removed, and it had also been gutted, so there was nothing gory about the proceedings — just lots of cutting and sawing.
There were some hands-on segments, too. This guy got to remove the leg from the hip socket, and then I got to de-bone it. Shanna later slathered the boneless leg with an herb paste and tied it up into a roast.
The roast was one of several lamb dishes we feasted on, beginning with an amazing lamb tartare. What you see there is raw minced lamb, herbs, and little pieces of salt-brined lemon rind (an amazing ingredient that makes so many things so much better). Shanna added a little bit of mayo as a binder and then used a ring mold to create perfect pucks of lamby goodness, which we then spread on toast. Best thing I’ve eaten so far this year.
That was the appetizer. Then we sat down to dinner, which included lamb pâté with pickled onion and mustard; smoked lamb croquettes (doesn’t look like much, but it was my second-favorite thing after the tartare); chickpeas with braised lamb shank; and assorted cuts of roasted and grilled lamb. Oh, and apple crisp for dessert.
It was all really, really good. If you want to see more photos, I’ve put a few dozen images here.
Sunday got off to a good start when I won this item on eBay. It’s gonna look totally boss in my bathroom.
In the late afternoon I went down to the Bell House, where my longtime friend and softball teammate Phast Phreddie was hosting one of his periodic “Big 10-Inch” parties, so named because the DJs play nothing but old-timey 78-rpm discs. All the cool kids turned out, and it was a grand time.
Afterward, a few of us went out to the Draft Barn, a Hungarian-style beer/schnitzel joint. To our surprise, we were the only customers. I said, “Slow night, eh?” to our waiter, who responded with the Funniest Thing Anyone Has Ever Said in the History of Ever: “Yeah, but it might pick up — the Pro Bowl is on.”
Slow night or not, the chow was superb. We started by sharing some “hunter’s bites” (i.e., little hunks of sausage) and beer croutons (dark rye bread soaked in beer, fried, and tossed in salt), and then I got a sausage sampler. Great stuff, but my favorite thing about this place is that they can’t even spell “vegetarian,” which is an unmistakable sign of a kitchen that has its priorities straight.
Which is lamer: the Pro Bowl or the Pro Bowlers Tour? Discuss. For all my jokes about the Pro Bowl, one legitimate uni-related storyline did emerge from yesterday’s game, as several of the players chose to wear long pants. Naturally, I’m opposed to this, since it de-emphasizes the socks, but it makes a certain kind of evolutionary sense. The refs, who for generations had been the classic exemplars of knickers/hosiery protocol, now wear the long slacks for cold-weather games (and, as we’ve all seen, for plenty of not-so-cold games as well), and of course bringing the pants down toward the ankle also mimics what’s happened in baseball.
The common denominator in all of these examples, methinks, is the low-maintenance aspect of not having to fuss with one’s socks in order to get them (and keep them) just so. Okay, I can kinda see that, but fussing with one’s socks is one of life’s great pleasures, is it not?
In any case, I assume the Pro Bowl pants were just an experiment that won’t have any immediate bearing on team uniforms, but it’s an interesting hint of where the game may be heading. It’s also a noteworthy reminder that for all the chatter about Nike’s imminent takeover of the NFL uni contract, this is still Reebok’s league for now.
Membership update: A new round of membership kits will mail out this morning, including Lance Rostad’s throwback Chargers treatment, shown at right (he didn’t ask for the lightning bolts, and we don’t usually include sleeve/shoulder treatments, but I guess Scott was feeling inspired when he designed that card). As always, you can see the full gallery of membership cards here. And if you haven’t made good yet on that New Year’s resolution to sign up, you can take care of that here.
Last call for the football: Today’s the last day to enter the raffle for the Super Bowl ball. Details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Titans owner Bud Adams still likes to wear an Oilers bolo tie (as noted by Jonathon Binet). … This is pretty funny: a team-branded hockey glove, sort of, that doubles as a cup-holder. “No Islanders glove, though,” says Brooks Simpson. “You know those fans need a drink.” … The Angels will be wearing throwbacks for their Friday home games this season, including on Opening
Day Night (with thanks to Jessica De Leon). … New uniforms for the Mizzou marching band (with thanks to Kate Sutter). … Tris Wykes reports that Cornell goalie Andy Iles has former Cornell star Ken Dryden depicted on his mask. … Rob Holecko has provided our first look at the Super Bowl field. Interesting to see that both end zone logos are stencil-style. When’s the last time that happened? … Additional photos of the field and stadium being prepped for the game here (with thanks to Jeff Flynn, Jr.). … Here’s a good site devoted to Iowa State football jerseys (nice find by Shawn Hairston). … Here’s an excellent video on how the Blue Jackets’ third jersey was designed. … Speaking of third jerseys, the Senators will have a new one next season. … Several small inconsistencies in the NHL skills competition: Zdeno Chara’s captain’s C was slightly off (compare the lower-left corners), and so was Tyler Seguin’s NOB (note the lack of serifs on the I). Meanwhile, Montreal’s P.K. Subban wore Jeff Skinner’s Hurricanes jersey in a bid to attract the hometown fans’ support. Coverage of some additional uni-notable issues can be found over at Icethetics. … No photo, but Matt Lesser reports that Alabama hoops player Hunter Jeffery was NNOB in Saturday’s game against LSU. … Speaking of college hoops NOBs, Mike Page notes that Ashton Gibbs of Pitt had his NOB badly off-center on Saturday. … The Tri-City Americans — that’s a WHL team — wore “Nuclear Night” jerseys on Friday. Further details here (blame Michael McLaughlin). … Someone has come up with a bunch of NFL-themed soccer jerseys, complete with city-appropriate sponsors (fun find by Rob Leavell). … Chivas USA has a new shirt sponsor: Corona Extra beer. “I believe this is the first time an American team has worn a shirt sponsorship sold by a beer/liquor company,” says Ric Jensen. “I had thought Major League Soccer banned shirt sponsorships by liquor/beer companies when they introduced the concept years ago. Is that right?” Would any of you soccer-savvy readers care to weigh in on this? … New super rugby jerseys for New Zealand. “Appallingly ugly,” says Caleb Borchers. “Don’t know if I can watch.” My prediction: He’ll watch. … New uniforms for the Nippon Ham Fighters. Here’s the back view, the road jersey, the road back, and the BP jersey (all this courtesy of Jeremy Brahm). … Attention MISL fans: The Missouri Comets wore their long-awaited throwbacks the other night. Sweet (big 1-thanks to Jeff Husted). … Somebody who didn’t give his name sent shots of this super-cool softball jersey. … Ball State wore their red road uni at home on Sunday, with Ohio wearing white on the road (as noted by Dylan Buell). … Gotta love the packaging on this underwear. … The sponsor of the Chicken Sandwich Bowl is taking some heat for supporting a group that opposes gay marriage. … Some serious mismatched jerseys on Bob Cousy and Eddie Macauley, plus Cousy’s jersey number doesn’t match the number on his shorts (with thanks to Allison Ambrous). … The Lakers wore throwbacks yesterday, although Paul Lee noticed a typographic inconsistency. Tons more photos from the game here. … Matt Mitchell notes that Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims wears multi-colored nail polish. … A Wisconsin company is designing some genuinely hideous bowling shirts (with thanks to Jeff Ash). … Word has leaked that the Mets will host the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, which has prompted Justin Kerr to envision what the game’s logo will probably look like.