I took a quick glance at the Insurance Bowl last night, just as a penalty was being called. As the ref announced the particulars of the foul, I noticed something odd: He was wearing eyeglasses.
Some quick Googling revealed that the game was being officiated by a Pac-12 crew, with the white hat being worn by one Jay Stricherz. Sure enough, he’s a four-eyes. He’s been wearing specs on the field for at least five years now, maybe longer. Judging by comments I found on an assortment of blogs and message boards, he also appears to be the object of considerable scorn among west coast NCAA fans, but I don’t watch
many west coast games much college football, so I hadn’t been aware of him until now.
It’s interesting to see that a bespectacled ref just happens to be a hated ref. I mean, okay, all refs are hated to some degress, but a lot of the online commentary about Stricherz is extra-harsh. I see three possible explanations for this: (1) Stricherz is an unusually poor ref. (2) Fans feel more comfortable or even emboldened to bitch about a ref who wears glasses, because he seems like an easy target. (3) Most refs look generic and anonymous, but Stricherz’s glasses make him more readily identifiable, so he ends up generating more commentary simply be virtue of being “that guy with the glasses.”
(Actually, Stricherz isn’t the only bespectacled NCAA zebra. There’s at least one more: Brian O’Cain. And he doesn’t appear to be loathed like Strickherz is, so maybe Strickherz just sucks.)
Of course, for all we know there could be dozens of zebras out there wearing contact lenses. But glasses are a very public symbol, and they’re apparently still a touchy topic. I know of no four-eyed zebras in the NFL, and I’m pretty sure there’s never been one in the NBA or NHL either. All of which is a bit surprising given that the eyewear barrier for baseball umpires was broken way back in 1956, by Ed Rommel and Frank Umont. If baseball arbiters could wear specs more than half a century ago, why not officials in the other sports? (CORRECTION: As reader Steve King has pointed out in this morning’s comments, NFL ref Ron Winters wears glasses. Not sure how this has escaped my notice before. Embarrassing omission on my part.)
The notion of glasses as an officiating taboo was addressed in this 2009 article in Referee magazine, which includes several quotes from Stricherz. The article’s conclusion: “Wear glasses as an official is no longer taboo.” Maybe not, but it’s still rare enough that I did a double-take when I saw Stricherz last night.
Oh, and Michigan wore some pointless “sleeve” stripes and a spindly-looking number font. Remember when they were a team you could count on to maintain a consistent look? But hey, Jay Stricherz probably couldn’t tell the difference anyway.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Late-breaking detail from the Rose Bowl: It looks like Wisconsin’s helmets had two little roses beneath the BCS logo decal. “Oregon didn’t have any roses, and neither of the Fiesta Bowl teams had any additional marks underneath the BCS decal,” writes Zack Kurland. “I would think this was like a star on a soccer jersey, designating a Rose Bowl title — except Wisconsin has won three Rose Bowls, not two.” … “My neighbor’s father, James Rossi, was a cyclist on the 1956 and 1960 US Olympic teams,” says Eric Bangemann. “Here are some photos of his jerseys.” … Keith Winney notes that Tony Jefferson of Oklahoma went NNOB in the Insight Bowl.
Anyone know why? Ah, multiple readers and commenters have now informed me that he was the latest Sooner to be wearing the late Austin Box’s number, which is worn by a different OU defensive player each game. … Casey B notes Bills kicker Brandon Coutu had a non-standard NOB last Sunday. “It drove me nuts every time I saw him,” he says. “He was signed as a free agent on the Wednesday before the game, so they should have been able to get their shit together and give the guy an appropriate uniform, unless maybe the seamstress was on vacation for the holidays.” … Utah is now saying they’ll stick with their current logo after all. … It’s not often that you see a rock song that’s specifically uni-themed, but here’s one called “All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit,” by the British group Half Man Half Biscuit. “It’s about a kid playing subbuteo,” says Chris Cruz. “The key lyrics are: ‘And he’d managed to get hold of / A Dukla-Prague away kit / His uncle owned a sport shop / And he’d kept it to one side.'” … Texas A&M-Corpus Chisti hoops will be wearing this Spanish-language jersey for tonight’s game against Lamar (from Chris Mycoskie). … Here’s a pretty cool time-lapse video showing the Citrus Bowl stadium being repackaged from the Corporate Sporting Goods Chain Bowl to the Credit Card Bowl (from Tom Van de Kieft). … Speaking of the Credit Card Bowl, the Rev. David Staples attended the game and counted the following (for the purposes of this item, we’ll refer to the credit card company in question as Banking Scum, Inc.): 90 separate Banking Scum logos placed around the stadium; nine giant Banking Scum logos on the field; 70,000 plastic bags — one taped to every seat in the stadium — each with six Banking Scum logos on it and a Banking Scum postcard and a set of Banking Scum bang sticks inside of it; and a Banking Scum jersey patch and Banking Scum helmet decal being worn by every player on the field. “If you include the programs that were sold, with at least 20 [Banking Scum] logos in it, my rough estimate, is that there were 1,170,611 [Banking Scum] logos in the Citrus Bowl,” says David. “Or in that vicinity.” … Here’s a video clip on the official ball for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (from Kenny Loo). … Fun story from James Comfort, who works at a GameStop outlet: “The other day a guy bought Madden 2011 (last year’s game) and then came back a few hours later to exchange it for Madden 2010. His reason blew my mind: He said he was looking for the last Madden game before the 49ers redesigned their uniforms. I had never been happier, because here I had a chance to use three of my obsessions in one conversation: sports, video games, and uni-watching. But I couldn’t remember the exact year the 49ers went from this to this, so I pulled out copies of Madden ’10 and then Madden ’09, which is the one that had the uniforms this guy was looking for. Personally, I love the new 49ers unis much more than the old ones, but hey, the guy got the uniforms he wanted and paid about $20 less for them. Not too shabby.” … With brothers Britton and Dustin Colquitt playing against each other in last Sunday’s Chiefs/Broncos game, their mother wore a hybrid Denver/KC jersey (from Chad Todd). … Major find by Jeff Flynn: an inflatable Jags helmet with the original prototype logo. Someone snap this up! … Have I mentioned lately that 17-year-olds like shiny objects? That’s the Halloween costume or whatever for some high school all-star game. If you look closely, maybe you can discern which sportswear company is sponsoring it (thanks, Phil). … Ray Lewis broke the center vertical bar on his facemask during the fourth quarter Sunday’s game. “He continued to play with it like that for the rest of the game,” says birthday boy Griff Shirley.