Yes, that’s me. The photo was taken in my apartment in the autumn of 2000 (I’ll explain why later on). I’m using it for today’s entry because last Tuesday’s post about Passover Coke led to a bit of soda pop discussion in the comments section, and at one point I mentioned that the cola wars have a generational component that’s very similar to some of the uniform-marketing conflicts we frequently discuss here at Uni Watch. It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about for years, and today I want to explore it a bit further.
First, some quick history (and bear with me here — I promise this will lead back to uniforms): For roughly the past 50 years, Pepsi’s marketing campaigns have emphasized youth and generational themes. Here are some of the company’s slogans during that time: “For Those Who Think Young”; “You’re in the Pepsi Generation”; “The Choice of a New Generation”; “The Taste That’s Generations Ahead”; “Be Young, Have Fun, Drink Pepsi”; “Generation Next”; “Taste the One That’s Forever Young”; and “Every Generation Refreshes the World.”
You might think youth appeal is basic soda marketing, but Coke has never gone this route. The company’s slogans over the past century have tended to emphasize timeless, universal messages with no generational pitch: “Enjoy Coca-Cola”; “Coke Is It”; “It’s the Real Thing”; “Things Go Better with Coke.” The closest they’ve come to a generational slogan is “For People on the Go” (and maybe “Catch the Wave,” which was paired with the supposedly youth-directed Max Headroom character and was also widely perceived by mid-1980s ad critics to be an attempt to align the brand with new wave music, although I always thought that was a bit of a stretch).
The thing about constantly pitching yourself as the hip new thing is that you constantly have to reinvent your image to keep up with current trends and fashions. That’s why Pepsi’s logo has changed so much over the years, while Coke’s has remained relatively consistent.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking of sports franchises as either Coke teams or Pepsi teams. This has nothing to do with which soda is sold at which stadium; it’s about whether the team’s approach to marketing — including, but not limited to, its logo and uniforms — reflects Coke values (stability, universality, timelessness) or Pepsi values (youth, change, generational themes).
Obviously, I’ve made some generalizations here, and not every team fits into a neat little Coke or Pepsi box. But some things are pretty obvious: The Yankees are the ultimate Coke team; Oregon football is probably the ultimate Pepsi team; for a while there the White Sox were about as Pepsi as a baseball team could be (tons of uni changes, logo changes, team color changes, first MLB team to wear NOBs, etc.), but over the past 20ish years they’ve become paragons of Coke-ism; and so on.
Here in New York, the Coke/Pepsi dichotomy is easy to see. The Yankees, obviously, have always been a Coke team (which is why it made such perfect sense when they developed a player named Phil Coke — too bad they traded him to Detroit). And for a long time the Mets were fairly Coke-ish, too — they wore pinstripes, stayed NNOB until the late 1970s, were one of the handful of teams that never wore sansabelt pants, held Old Timers’ Days (a Pepsi team would never do that), and generally adhered to a set of relatively traditionalist baseball values.
But in the late ’90s the Mets began to change. Remember, this was when the Yankees were re-establishing themselves as a dominant force on the field and at the box office, and it’s almost like the Mets said to themselves, “Okay, we’re never gonna out-Coke the Yankees, so we may as well embrace the Pepsi approach.” That’s how the Mets ended up adding black throughout their design program; it’s how they introduced a new alternate cap design for three consecutive years; it’s how they almost completely stopped wearing their primary home cap and listed their black alternates as their “preferred” uniforms in the MLB Style Guide (how can an alternate be preferred and a primary be almost completely put out to pasture?); it’s how they were the first team to go with those embarrassing two-tone Cool-Flo batting helmets; it’s how they took the 1999 TATC promotion a ridiculous step further by coming up with the Mercury Mets; and so on.
Coke and Pepsi approaches go beyond uniform choices, of course. A team’s cola protocol can be evident in everything from the style of its P.A. announcer (the NBA is pretty much a Pepsi league in this regard) to the music it plays at its stadium or arena (there’s nothing more Coke than a live organist, right?) to its commercials and other advertising.
Again, I realize this paradigm doesn’t work for every team, but it’s good food (or drink) for thought. And even if you think this whole concept is silly, we should at least be able to agree that this is a Coke uniform. Now if we can just get Phil Coke to wear it.
Meanwhile, here’s another odd intersection of the cola wars and sports: When I attended Game 5 of the 2000 World Series, a Pepsi Challenge booth had been set up in the Shea Stadium parking lot. I not only took the challenge but wrote a small item about it for Fortune, the fee for which conveniently covered what I’d paid for the Series tix. For reasons I still don’t understand, the story’s editor insisted on using me, instead of a model, for the photo accompanying the story — which is how we got the photo shown at the top of today’s entry. It is, of course, not the least bit representative of how the Pepsi Challenge actually works, but the editor had his mind made up about it. (He knew I thought he was nuts and tried to make it up to me later by sending me a big print of the photo, which is sort of like Homer Simpson trying to smooth things over with Marge by getting her the bowling ball he really wants for himself.)
As a little epilogue, or postscript, or denouement, or free bonus tracks, here are three items not mentioned in the story:
• I’d had several beers and a cigar by the time I stepped up to the Pepsi Challenge booth, so my palette wasn’t exactly pure.
• The chucklehead in the article who yelled, “They put crack in the Pepsi!” happens to have been me.
• My then-girlfriend, a lifelong Coke partisan from the South, chose Pepsi and was mortified. It really challenged all her assumptions about herself, like discovering she was adopted or something, and she was pretty inconsolable. Ah well — within a few hours, that seemed like the least of our worries.
Actual good news!: As you may have heard, a Federal judge decided yesterday afternoon that America can sit on its ass every Sunday and watch football this autumn after all, whoo-hoo! (Rumors that the judge’s ruling was sponsored by Bud Light are almost completely untrue.) In apparent celebration of these glad tidings, the new Bills uniforms were leaked in a Madden video clip last night. But then YouTube took the video down, so someone re-posted it, but then YouTube took that one down too, and look, we could go on like this for hours but instead let’s just go straight to the screen shots that someone was thoughtful enough to make.
Looks pretty good, am I right? Whichever poor sap gets picked by the Bills with the third pick in the draft, at least he’s gonna look sharp next season.
Travel plans (and tremendous personal loss) revealed: As a handful of you knew yesterday, the flag shown at right is for the city of St. Louis, which is where I’ll be working on an ESPN story toward the end of next week. I’d like to point out that I’ll be in town for Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby, which means I’ll be missing some totally kickass parties back here in NYC (and that everyone at my friend Dawn’s annual Derby Day party won’t get to eat my very delicious derby pie). Never let it be said that Uni Watch doesn’t involve great individual sacrifice.
Anyway: I’d like to convene a Uni Watch party on the evening of Thursday, May 5. Haven’t settled on a venue yet, although a pair of Show Me State readers have already provided two strong possibilities:
1) St Looie-based reader Marty Hick has suggested the Bleeding Deacon — an intriguing option, given their bizarro curly hot dog, which looks like my kinda sandwich. So I was penciling in the Deacon as the presumptive favorite. But then…
2) Ben Traxel, who used to live in St. Louis and now lives in the bootheel, has suggested the Corner Bar & Grill, which is the only remaining venue in America — the only one, ladies and gentlemen! — for cocked-hat bowling, which looks like a total fucking hoot (further photos and info here and here). Now, I’ve bowled tenpins, candlepins, duckpins, rubber band duckpins, Canadian five-pin, mini-bowling, and feather-bowling, plus I know about Texas kingpins, but I’d never heard about cocked-hat bowling until now. And just in time, too, cuz this is the last remaining place to cock one’s hat! Apparently you have to reserve the basement ahead of time, which sounds totally worth it.
Let’s put it this way, people: I’m definitely gonna eat that hot dog while I’m in town, and I’m definitely gonna toss a few games of cocked-hat bowling. The only question is which one I’ll be doing with you folks. I’m kinda leaning toward the hat-cocking, since that seems like more of a group activity than eating a hot dog (and since I’d rather not have to rent out the Corner Bar & Grill’s basement all by my lonesome [although I will if it comes to that!]).
Got other suggestions? Want to point me toward other cool stuff to do while I’m in town? Do tell.
Bobble Birthday Boy: Please join me in wishing the happiest of birthdays to our own Robert Marshall (shown at left in “Go away, I haven’t had my coffee yet” mode). Whether he’s selling stirrups, putting his own spin on bags, or just spewing his unique brand of wisdom in the comments section, Robert is one of the handful of people in my life who remind me that there’s always room to work harder and be more creative, and that not being awesome is basically unacceptable. In short, he is an inspiration.
In typical Marshallian fashion, Robert’s chosen today — the day when we should be getting gifts for him — as the day when he’s bestowing his latest batch of custom-made bobbles on an unsuspecting world. You can see the latest 10 designs on this page. As I think you’ll agree, they’re some of his best work yet, with tons of great little details (I especially like the ref’s whistle lanyard, and also the collar on this one).
Congrats on a sensational round of bobbles, Moose, and happy 41st. Hope you get everything you wish for when you blow out the candles.
Collector’s Corner, by Brinke Guthrie
Got some great stuff this week, including this great helmet plaque. I always wanted one of those (I was intrigued by how the facemask was cut right in the middle) but never got one!
In other eBay finds:
• Here’s an absolutely cool 1970s DeLong brand NFL logo sideline jacket.
• Look at these 1960s Keds NFL sneakers, with some Riddell trim.
• Here’s a nice selection of MLB mini-pennants and buttons from the 1950s.
• This may be
the only time one of the few times in your life you’ll see the words “World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.”
• In keeping with our recent mini-theme of athlete-owned restaurants, here’s a nice vintage ashtray from an eatery owned by the Colt’s Alan Ameche.
• Just another tequila sunrise.
• Chris Yarolimek sent this one in: a big album of MLB patches.
• And Paul came across this great Durene football jersey [which I’d bid on myself except it’s too big for me, grrrr — PL].
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Vanderbilt baseball wore a red-white-blue “patriotic” uniform on Sunday. … Ronnie Poore spotted a textbook case of unfortunate typography. … Jonathon Binet notes that Hueytown High in Alabama has a helmet logo that looks a lot like the Under Armour logo. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Check out the wedding band on the Los Angeles Dons kicker (thanks, Ricko). … Also from yesterday: Good piece about how the Red Wings tape their sticks. … Marc Malfara notes that Walgreens and Wegmans have settled a lawsuit over their respective “W” logos. No word on any comment from the Nats. … Good news from Chris Cruz, who reports that UCLA’s shoulder stripes, which had practically disappeared when the team switched to super-stretchies last season, reappeared for the Bruins’ spring game. … Why would a Washington Caps polo shirt have an NFL hologram tag? Paul Barrett recent spotted that shirt at a store. … I haven’t mentioned anything about the Giants’ World Series rings until now, but I really like that they’re mostly white gold instead of the usual yellow gold. Handsome. … “I was at my in-laws’ place over the weekend and saw a book about the history of BYU football,” says Eric Westover. “The first part was about when it was Brigham Young Academy, and there were some interesting photos. In this team portrait, some of the players appear to have their positions indicated on their uniforms. And in the 1940s, they added orange to their uniforms so ‘they could be seen easier.’ That didn’t last long.” … Yesterday I mentioned that 1951 was the 50th anniversary of the National Association. Now Terry Proctor has provided scans showing that logo being used on the front and back covers of a 1951 Montreal Royals program. “The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues was established at a meeting of minor league presidents in Chicago in 1901 with Eastern League (now the International League) President Pat Powers serving as the NAPBL’s first president,” explains Terry. “The NAPBL office was based in Auburn, New York, Powers’s home town. The NAPBL is still in business today but goes by the name ‘Minor League Baseball.'” … Check out the game match-up that was shown on the MLB Network crawl the other night (good catch by Brice Wallace). … Also from Brice: Check out this 1986 shot of Marshall’s placekicker with some serious toe-strap action. That was legal?! “Yup,” says Ricko, to whom I showed the photo. “A number of high school and college kickers tied off in various versions of same. Didn’t work as well in the NFL with ball right on the ground, no tee. As far back as Ben Agajanian, who had a special shoe because he was missing toes, modified shoes were permitted for kickers. Tom Dempsey only reinforced the concept. Once you allow a ‘modified’ shoe, how the heck do you define an appropriate modification and an inappropriate one?” Nowadays, of course, modified shoes are off-limits. … MLB is promoting the All-Star Game in Phoenix with a bunch of cacti. … A columnist in Hawaii has had enough with the pink uniforms already (with thanks to Bill Sodeman). … Darwin Barney of the Cubs is shaping up as my new hosiery hero (with thanks to Neil Berger). … Interesting news about the organ at the College World Series — check out item No. 9 on this list (with thanks to Matt Mitchell). … Add this to Jim Tressel’s transgressions: playing dress-up soldier. “I’m a veteran, and am all for supporting our troops, etc., but this is downright silly, and on the wrong side of offensive,” says John Kimmerlein. … Bill Scheft opines that the Giants’ last-’60s road uni had the most perfect jersey-to-pants-to-sock stripe sync-up of all time.” … Betsy Nichols knows someone who made a bunch of short “Upstate New York Olympics” videos. Most of them are either too cute or not quite cute enough, but two of them are genius: abandoned building bowling and drive-in movie tennis. … Check out the logo at the top-left of this page. Has the NBA been using that for a while, or is it new? Is it just for the online store? (As noted by Marcelo Cordoba.) … Jon Beckman reports that Nick Swisher used Russell Martin’s bat in the 7th inning last night. … A high school baseball coach in Tampa is our kinda guy, at least judging by the second graf of this story (with thanks to Dwayne White) … Your co-workers will love this one: the sound of every NHL goal horn (this public service brought to us by Seth Moorman). … Check out the unusual facemask that Blake Sloan was wearing back in the 2000 Stanley Cup finals (nice find by Jared Rosen).
Save the date: See this? See the bit in the right sidebar where it says it’s coming to NYC on May 11 as an ESPN co-production? I think it’s gonna be really good. Further details soon.