Life is always full of tragedy. But there are some tragedies that transcend the ordinary and become part of our larger collective consciousness. Sports uniforms, oddly enough, are a good measure of this: If a disaster is big enough to affect uniforms — not just for one team, but for multiple teams, or even multiple sports — then you know it’s serious.
The most obvious recent example is Hurricane Katrina, which prompted a wide range of uni-driven responses in September of 2005. MLB teams wore Red Cross helmet decals, the Yankees wore Salvation Army sleeve patches (bet you forgot about that one, right?), and lots of college football teams — mostly based in the South — added helmet decals featuring hurricane warning flags and a map of the affected states.
Another recent example: the Virginia Tech shootings. I wrote about the wide range of uni-related responses to that tragedy several years back (lots of link-rot in that entry, sorry).
The current crisis in Japan is shaping up as something similar. Reader Jeremy Brahm brought two developments to my attention yesterday:
• The J-League — that’s Japanese soccer — has responded to the tsunami disaster by creating a new slogan and logo for this season, called Team as One. “The five people holding hands represent the J-League, the 38 teams, the players, the fans, and the people in the devastated Tohoku region,” explains Jeremy. Nice enough, although these “Let’s all hold hands” logos are getting a bit clichéd.
It remains to be seen whether the tsunami disaster will inspire further uni-driven gestures, but I suspect it will.
Meanwhile, the recent Christchurch earthquake has had several uni-notable effects as well:
• In my last ESPN column, I noted that several cricket teams and umpires have been wearing simple black armbands.
• In Super Rugby, several teams wore red and black tape armbands — the colors of the Christchurch-based Crusaders team — a few days after the quake.
• And in rugby, it now turns out that the All Blacks may swap their signature silver fern for a red fern. “This seems a bit much,” says reader Caleb Borchers. “The silver fern on the All Blacks jersey is iconic. Also seems weird to give up a national identity marker for a local one.”
Caleb raises an interesting question: Is there a point where such gestures go too far, either because they compromise the team’s own identity and/or because it all just gets to be too much? My own feeling is that this is a case-by-case thing, plus I find that I’m much more likely to instinctively say, “Sure, why not?” if we’re talking about a sport I don’t follow (like, cricket, rugby, Japanese soccer, etc.), because I have no emotional stake in the purity of the uniforms. In any case, I think this is an interesting topic for discussion — what do you think?
New sponsor shout-out: As you may have noticed, we have a new advertiser at the top of the right sidebar: Dealometry. They’re a new company that’s a lot like Groupon (which I assume you’re familiar with, right?), except Dealometry is geared specifically toward guys — no spas, no yoga classes, no scented bath beads. Their current deal, as you can see, is a discount offer on Chucks. Not bad, right? (And yes, I know Converse is now owned by Nike, but it’s still a good deal.)
I’ve been working directly with Dealometry founder Bob Crimmins over the past week or so, and I’ve really been impressed by him and his operation, so this one gets my personal stamp of approval. And even if the Converse deal doesn’t interest you, you can get on the notification list for future Dealometry offers by signing up here. Give ’em a shot — I think you’ll like.
Contest reminder: I’m currently sponsoring a design contest to create a logo for the Baseball Project. Full details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Some 1920s film footage of Babe Ruth has been rediscovered. … Here’s an excellent view of the unusual helmet design for the 1974 Montreal Alouettes (with thanks to Mike Hersh). … Brendan Hunt notes that Caps defenseman Karl Alzner was wearing clear skate guards last Friday. … While looking for something else, I came across a photo of Ken Griffey Sr. wearing what appears to be a mesh-backed cap. Caption says it’s a regular-season game, too, although I have my doubts about that. … The Dayton baseball squad is another unusual case of a baseball team wearing football-style UCLA stripes. … Speaking of Dayton, yesterday I was interviewing their baseball coach, Tony Vittorio, for an ESPN piece I’m working on. At one point he mentioned that he wanted to switch his team to pullover jerseys, and then he said this: “The button-front jersey style, that’s been ‘in’ for a while now, but I’m kind of an old-school guy, so I’d like to go for the pullover.” Pretty interesting that someone would view button-fronts as a fad and pullovers as old-school. In case you’re wondering, Vittorio is 44 years old, so he grew up in 1970s and ’80s — the pullover era. … Ever wonder what an MLB contract looks like? Take a look here (with thanks to Chad Todd). … Remember those White Sox logo stirrups that Ozzie Guillen was wearing? Now Juan Pierre is wearing them too (big thanks to Dan Cichalski). … The L.A. Kings will have new uniforms next season, at least according to this item. Further analysis of the situation here (thanks, Teebz). … Way better than Fatheads: Check out this super-cool wall treatment (big thanks to my Scotland travel partner, Amy Fritch). … USA soccer’s third jersey has been leaked. … Sensational article about pre-Seahawks pro football in Seattle here — highly recommended (major thanks to John Doodigian). … Last week I mentioned that the Rhode Island baseball team was wearing a rip-off of the Rays’ uniform. Turns out they’re not the only ones. That’s Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida. “At least they bothered to change the colors!” says Nick Hanson. … The Kansas athletic dept. is auctioning off a yellow uniform from the 1988 championship season. “This yellow uniform set was worn only once,” explains Brad Barker. “The negative response from fans caused coach Larry Brown to vow to never wear it again. I don’t recall anyone wearing #3 on that team — must be a just a spare jersey.” There’s further info on that yellow uni design here. … “So much has been made this week of former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl’s single-handed creation of the university’s hoops jones, right down to his blazer selection and swagger,” says the always articulate Scott Gleeson Blue. ” But I (and many other Vols fans) would argue that Pearl simply resurrected the spirit and enthusiasm of Tennessee’s Ray Mears era, right down to the blazer selection and swagger.” … A.J. Frey reports that Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn) played goalie in the Congressional Hockey Challenge and wore a Brooklyn Aces jersey. … Here’s a really fun project: A Texas gal went to Cooperstown and liked it so much that she’s doing a drawing of every Hall of Famer. I really like her style (thanks, Kirsten). … Ooh, the Say Hey Kid looked even suaver than usual in this tux (with thanks to Doc Ginn). … Cool DIY project by Alex B, who enlisted his Mom’s help to create a series of porch-style banners. “You can see that the threads are fraying a little bit after all those years,” he says. “Do you know of any tips to keep them at bay?” Nope. Anyone else? … And still more DIYage, this time from Frank Bitzer, who wanted to make a gift for his friend Steve’s elderly father, Nick Shundich, who was one of the captains of the Sid Gillman-coached Cincinnati Bearcats back in the early 1950s. After starting with this photo of Shundich, he came up with an excellent reproduction. “Steve told me that when his father was presented with the jersey, it changed his personality,” says Frank. “He’s old and his health isn’t what it used to be, but Steve told me Nick sat up telling him all types of stories from his college football days that he had never heard. It turns out Nick had an opportunity to play for the L.A. Rams upon graduating, but he took a higher-paying job as a manager trainee at a local bank in Cincinnati. My how times have changed.” … The package of NFL rules changes approved yesterday includes this: “One proposal was adopted unanimously, giving the commissioner the power to approve or deny requests to change the color of the playing field from green. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the concern was that sponsors could approach teams and suggest a deal that involved altering a field’s color.”