On Monday morning I mentioned and embedded the “NFL Timeline” commercial that ran during the Super Bowl (and, as you can see above, I’ve embedded it again today). It’s supposedly about player safety (you can read more background on the thinking behind it here), although personally I think it feels more generically pro-football than pro-safety.
Today we have two interesting follow-ups on the ad. First, the NFL has created an interactive web timeline to complement the commercial. You could quibble with a few of its specifics, but for the most part it’s filled with interesting information and imagery, much of it uni- and equipment-related. One thing that becomes obvious upon reading through the timeline is that football rules — yes, many of them geared toward player safety — have been in near-constant flux over the years. Of course, that’s because the players have gotten bigger and the game has gotten more violent over the years, although there’s nothing in the timeline about that. In any case, it’s a fun page to play around with — enjoy. (One suggestion: If you’re going to spend more than a coupla minutes with the timeline, mute your computer now. I didn’t think there could be such a thing as too much “What’d I Say,” but I was wrong.)
Meanwhile, almost all of the old helmets shown in the commercial were provided by the folks at Helmet Hut. On Monday morning I spoke with Helmet Hut honcho Curtis Worrell — one of the really nice guys in the uni-verse — and got the lowdown on his involvement with the ad:
Uni Watch: How and when did you first hear about the commercial?
Curtis Worrell: The first I heard about it was about two months ago.
UW: The NFL contacted you?
CW: Right. They said they were doing a commercial about the history, the evolution, of the NFL, and they needed all these helmets from us. They never brought up anything about it being about safety.
UW: Did they give you a list of helmets they wanted?
CW: Not helmets, but players. Like, “These players are going to be shown in the commercial.” And they wanted us to give them the helmets that would be correct for the time frame. So we started getting to work, and and then everything shut down — they said, “Sorry, we’re not going to do it.” And I just sorta laughed and said, “Well, this is Hollywood and the NFL all in one. This is the way it works.” A big build-up, and then crash.
UW: So you were scrambling like crazy and then thinking it had been for nothing.
CW: We hadn’t been building anything yet — we were still getting organized, doing the research, pulling the photos, stuff like that. And of course my staff was a little disappointed when they told us to stop, and I said, “Just you watch — we’ll get a call one week before the shoot, and they’ll say it’s back on.” And that’s exactly what happened. They came back to us last-minute.
UW: When you say “last-minute,” how much time did you have?
CW: Six days. They got back to us right before Christmas, and of course we were dealing with our own Christmas rush, so the timing was just the worst, you know? And we let them know that, too. [Chuckles.] Very nicely, you know, but still.
UW: Did you suggest any changes to the list they provided?
CW: Yes. We put the ’49 Eagles in, because it’s a great design, it’s a championship team, and it’s a really great look from that era. Everything else, we pretty much went with what they wanted. But again, nobody had shown us the script of the commercial or anything — we just had the list of what they wanted. We were very low on the totem pole.
UW: By this point had they told you that it was about player safety?
CW: They never actually came out and said it, and we never specifically asked, but we could tell by what they were asking for — “We want this kind of facemask, we want this kind of helmet.” We could sort of figure out where they were going with it.
UW: How many helmets did you provide?
CW: About 50 or 60.
UW: Did that include leather helmets?
CW: No, we didn’t do those. We’re not sure where they got those — maybe from Past Time Sports or one of those kind of places.
UW: So for these 50 or 60 helmets you provided, did you have any of them already lying around, or did you have to produce all of them on the spot?
CW: We don’t produce NFL helmets for retail sale. We only produce them for the NFL, or if Riddell contacts us direct. So we had to build all of these from scratch. But all the parts were there.
UW: Were any of the designs particularly challenging?
CW: The one we hated — well, we love it the most, but it’s hard to make — is that Eagles ’49 design, because it has a two-tone paint job. And the worst, especially because it was the one they really featured, was Ollie Matson with the two-tone “V” ram’s horns. That’s a yellow-painted helmet, it has to cure, then decals go on, then you paint blue, then you rip the decals off, and there ya got it. There’s a lot of baking and stuff, and it can be tough when you’re under a tight time pressure.
UW: Did every helmet you provided end up being used in the commercial?
CW: Yes — every single one. I was at the Super Bowl, and they showed the commercial on the big screen. Of course, it’s kind of hard to catch everything when you’re at the game, so this morning we all gathered together and watched it on the computer and started to count the helmets. And yeah, they were all there. And of course you put in so much time and effort, and then you see that one helmet streak by for about 1.3 seconds, and you’re like, “Okay, that’s three days of two-tone painting for 1.3 seconds of screen time.” It’s funny, but that’s just the way it is with commercials.
UW: Did you get to see the ad before you saw it at the Super Bowl?
CW: Nope. That was the first I saw of it.
UW: Are you happy with how it turned out?
CW: I think it’s really good. I love the use of the graphics, like when the single-bar facemask slowly wraps around the Rams helmet, and how the leather helmet sort of tears away.
UW: Who were you rooting for at the game?
CW: Well, you know, I’m a Redskins fan, so I was just rooting for a good game. We’ve done some work with Belichick, and he has a lot of our helmets in his office. But we’ve also done some work with the Giants Hall of Fame. So from a business standpoint, I had ties to both teams. I just wanted it to go down to the last play, which it did. But I admit, I would have preferred the Patriots winning — come on, as a Redskins fan, I can’t have the Giants winning.
And there you have it. Big thanks to Curtis for speaking with me just a few hours after getting back from the big game, and for being such a peach of a guy. Always a pleasure, buddy.
Whiskerious Tales, continued: I’ve now confirmed that Pats offensive lineman Logan Mankins did indeed replicate his mustache on both sides of his Super Bowl helmet. In addition to the left side, which we saw yesterday (an even better view is provided this close-up), he also had the ’stache on the right side (screen shot by Brendan Slattery).
After I posted yesterday’s entry about all of this, it occurred to me that someone else on the Pats could have altered Mankins’s logo decals as a prank, without Mankins even realizing it. Another possibility was suggested by in yesterday’s comments by Chuck (he didn’t give a last name), who speculated that the helmet ’stache could actually have been a tribute to Mankins’s former college coach, Pat Hill, who was recently let go by Fresno State and has some serious whiskers of his own.
I was hoping to ask Mankins about all of this. But as I mentioned yesterday, I suspected that a player coming off of a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss would be in no mood to talk about uniform minutiae, plus I figured Mankins might be worried about getting a fine for altering his gear. But it was worth a shot, so I contacted the Pats’ main PR guy (a very nice fellow and a real pro besides), showed him the photos, and asked if I could talk to Mankins and/or the team’s equipment manager. Got this beauty of a response: “I have low expectations for either Logan or the equipment staff participating, but I’ll look into it.”
Didn’t hear anything after that, so I think that’s the end of that. Too bad.
Uni Watch News Ticker: I recently won this super-groovy speaker display on eBay. It arrived in the mail yesterday and is even niftier than I’d hoped. Looks great in the living room. … Here’s how the Braves’ new Sunday alternate looks on a live human. … Whoa, look at the throwbacks New Mexico will be wearing this Saturday. Further details here. … Rhode Island and Temple went color-on-color last weekend (from Tim P. O’Brien). … Yesterday I linked to a photo of a backpack shaped like a giant Cal baseball cap. Two follow-ups on that: Turns out the Reds offer a similar item as part of their kids club, and it turns out that the Cal version is actually a cooler) (from Nathan Hawkins and Brady Phelps, respectively). … The Springfield Falcons wore a “Look at us, we’ve won all these Calder Cups!” jersey over the weekend (from Ronald Nobbs IV). … Wow, check out this Israeli hockey jersey. “It’s like a combo of the Las Vegas XFL team and the old Brooklyn Dodgers’ satins,” says Tim Fogarty. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: When the Giants returned to NY after the Super Bowl, Ahmad Bradshaw exited the plane with his helmet in his hand, complete with the mouthpiece jammed in the top (from Desmond Jones). … Kansas hoops will mark the 60th anniversary of the school’s 1952 championship team by wearing throwbacks this Saturday (from Darin Seidel and Matt Straus). … Remember that artist who made the cool postcards themed around baseball injuries? She’s now produced a new set about players with food-related surnames. … Cross-dressing alert — and it’s a doozy. That’s former Niners lineman Harris Barton competing at a charity golf event (thanks, Brinke). … You know NYC has a serious case of Giants fever when you see things like this. Eric Stangel spotted that in Manhattan yesterday. … In a more conventional gesture, New York State will happily take your money for a Giants Super Bowl license plate (from Dan Cichalski). … Steve Bernier of the Devils, who wears No. 18, was missing one of his helmet numerals last night (screen shot by Neil Vendetti). … The Colorado Rapids are putting season ticket holders’ names on the team’s jerseys (from Ben Karnish). … Really interesting article about how former Marquette basketball star Bo Ellis designed the team’s famous untucked uniforms (from Wolfie Browender). … “I was watching the Duke/Virginia Tech game the other night and the camera caught my attention when it focused on this fan,” says Alex Hartman. … Christopher Jones reports that the American Antiquarian Society recently put together a blog post about the football-related items in their archives. … The Heat wore their Floridians throwbacks last night. … New road jerseys for Louisiana-Monroe baseball (from Chris Mycoskie). … One post-Super Bowl rule is that you have read at least one article about what happens to the championship merch for the losing teams (from Brad Susany). … According to Canadian hockey broadcaster Bob McKenzie, plans for the 2013 Winter Classic — Wings vs. Leafs at the Big House in Michigan — will be formally announced on Thursday. … An Omaha girls’ basketball team was assessed a technical foul for wearing pink uniforms at home, thereby violating the rule that home unis must be predominantly white (from Mike Raymer).