As most you probably know, I don’t follow college sports as closely as I follow the pros, and I don’t root for any college in particular, so I’m sometimes oblivious to certain uni- and logo-related controversies about a given school. A good case in point came during my visit to Bristol on Wednesday, when one of my ESPN editors, Dave Wilson, asked if I’d seen the new U. of Houston logo. “Yeah,” I said. “Kinda heavy on the beveling.”
I didn’t realize it, but I’d stumbled upon a sensitive topic in the world of Texas collegiate sports. As Dave explained to me, many Texas A&M fans have spent the past dozen years trying to get the school to scrap the Aggies’ beveled logo, which was introduced in 1999. So when Houston unveiled its own beveled logo this week, lots of A&M fans started comparing the relative merits — or lack thereof — of the two designs.
Dave, who attended A&M himself in the early 1990s, pointed me toward a discussion thread on TexAgs.com where this all played out. That thread is behind a paywall, so I can’t link to it, but here are some of the pertinent quotes from A&M fans regarding the new Houston logo:
• “Ours is worse. Great company we’re keeping on this, Tech and Cougar High.”
• “It makes about as much sense visually as ours does.”
• “Actually, theirs is pretty much technically correct.”
• “At least UH’s bevel makes sense. Ours does not. It drives me up a tree. It’s not that complicated.”
• “Please, please, Mr. Cook, no more bevel.”
That last quote is referring to Jason Cook, A&M’s VP for Marketing & Communications. “He actually jumps into the fray sometimes and discusses the beveling with people on the forum,” Dave explained to me. Then he pointed me toward this recent interview with Cook, where the talk turns to beveling at about the 8:30 mark. Here’s a transcript of the relevant bits:
It’s very important for us to have a consistent mark with that block “TAM” as we move to the SEC. A couple of months ago we made the decision to start phasing out the T-star mark. It really didn’t say A&M. It didn’t give a lot of context to our new conferencemates that were going there.
We’re more and more looking at the marks and making sure we have a consistent portfolio moving forward.
Of course, that brings up the conversation about bevels here. We’re not gonna bevel the A and the M. That was a mistake and we’re going to try to get to the bottom of that pretty fast.
The bevel’s been around since 1999. It was designed by Nike to give a little bit of focus to the T. We have no intentions to move away from that. I think I mentioned last time that our licensing revenues are up 27%. The whole bevel argument… I know it’s passionate to a lot of folks on TexAgs. But for us, whether the T is beveled or not beveled, it does not impact the integrity of the mark. The proportions are the same, it’s the same mark.
We understand that there is some demand for a flat “TAM” mark out there, and I think that we’ve demonstrated that we’re getting some additional product in the marketplace to suit that demand.
Faaaascinating. A&M fans getting agita over the bevel sounds a lot like Mets fans doing a slow burn over all the black uni elements (which, as it happens, were introduced at about the same time as the Aggies’ bevel). Just goes to show ya how passionate people can be about a seemingly simple change.
“For the record,” says Dave, “I have no issue with the A&M bevel, especially in the official identity. A lot of folks want to ditch the A and the M completely, especially with the move to the SEC, just to ‘claim’ Texas, like they did in the Bear Bryant days.”
Beveling, incidentally, is waaaaay easier to do on a computer than by hand, which is why we’re seeing waaaaay more beveling nowadays than we did, say, 30 years ago. It’s supposed to make the letterforms look all stately and majestic, liked they’re carved from granite or whatever, but I think it usually just looks cartoonish, at least the way it’s usually employed in contemporary sports design.
Meanwhile, Dave also pointed out a flaw in the new Houston logo. Here, take another look and see if you can spot it:
Do you see it? Here, see if you can spot it now.
Shouldn’t that triangle of negative space be red, like the rest of the background? And there’s sort of a reverse-field version of the logo with the same problem. Looks very odd. And now that I’ve pointed it out to you, good luck not fixating on it every time you see the Houston logo. Fortunately, I can blame Dave.
Update: A bunch of readers have quickly pointed out another flaw in the UH logo, namely that the two serifs at the top of the H are beveled inconsistently. It’s now official: No Uni Watch reader will be able to watch a UH game this fall without his or her head exploding.
ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, my latest ESPN column, about uniform ads possibly (but probably not) coming to the NBA, is here.
That column prompted an e-mail from reader Reed Evans about the state of sponsorship in swimming. Now, swimming is an individual sport, not a team sport, so the things I talked about in that ESPN column don’t really apply here. I’m just presenting Reed’s note because it provides interesting info about a sport we don’t often discuss here on Uni Watch:
Since 2007, swimming’s governing body, FINA, has forced everybody at the world championships to wear caps that have the logo of one of their sponsors (Yakult, which makes a Japanese smoothie or something) printed on one side. Typically national teams have either a flag or their country’s name on the cap. So when you take a photo of the field from one side, it looks like all eight of them are swimming for the heretofore undiscovered country of Yakult.
Also: One of the conventions of the sport is the parade of finalists out to the starting blocks before the event. It used to be that the swimmers would wear warm-ups out there and start taking them off once they reached the block, but no longer. Since (I think) 2005, FINA has made it a rule that you have to have a bib (similar to those in track) on your warm-up, and you can’t remove the warmup until the camera has finished with you. Why? Because the swimming bibs don’t serve any purpose other than advertising. They have a lane number, but so what? Everybody knows who’s in what lane, because unlike track you have to stay in it! They’re purely for ad revenue.
So they made this rule that you can’t take the warm-up off until the ad has been shown, to protect the sponsors. This presents a problem for the people in the last two lanes, because they’re supposed to get their asses up on the blocks quickly once they’ve been introduced. But they have to change out of their warm-ups, obviously. So what’s developed is this unintentionally hilarious situation where sometimes the guy in lane eight will take his warm-up off but has to hold the bib up in front of him for the camera, which makes it abundantly clear what’s going on.
That section, which will debut at noon on Monday, is called Playbook, and it will be produced in conjunction with ESPN the Mag (whose front of the book is also being renamed Playbook). Contributors will include some of the Page 2 writers, some of the magazine’s writers, and some new people. Playbook will consist of seven sections:
1) Fandom: Stuff about fans and stuff fans are into. This is where my material will run.
2) Visuals: Lots of video and other visual content. My content will often be cross-posted here.
3) Sounds: The intersection of sports and music.
4) Trending: Celebrity culture.
5) Tech: Mostly video games.
6) Dollars: Sports biz. The magazine folks will run this section.
7) Coordinates: International stories. The magazine folks will handle this one as well.
Each section will be formatted like a multi-contributor blog, and I’ll be providing content to Fandom on a fairly regular basis — probably about three times a week. The plan for now is to keep most of Playbook’s content on the shorter side. This may mean that I do fewer feature-length ESPN pieces and more shorter pieces, and/or it may mean that some of my longer pieces get broken up into segments (for my NFL season-preview column, for example, maybe we’ll publish my coverage of the AFC teams on one day and the NFC teams the next day). Playbook will no doubt be a work in progress for a while, so I suspect all of this may evolve a bit over time.
What does that mean for us here on the Uni Watch site? It shouldn’t mean any changes at all, although maaaaaybe there’ll be days when I take a post that would normally have run here and give it to Playbook instead (today’s “Battle of the Bevels” is a good example). In any case, I’ll post links for all my ESPN work here on this site, and will also post the links on my Twitter feed.
Onward, upward, etc.
Uni Watch News Ticker: A little birdie has this to say about the new Missouri uniforms: “There will be a new color added to the color scheme: a dark gray. I can confirm that the M will be removed from the helmet and replaced by the tiger head logo. The soccer team will have three uniforms: white, black, and gray. Also, the gold has been standardized on all uniforms, which is a plus. There’s a new font, known as Mizzou bold. And Mizzou has a new equipment contract With Nike for eight years and $16 million.” Man, it’s amazing how this gray thing keeps proliferating, no? Official unveiling is tomorrow. … Speaking of little birdies, I’ve seen the Steelers’ throwbacks for the upcoming season. Can’t say what they are, but I can say a little bit about what they aren’t. Batman uni, as many had hoped? Nope. Same design as the 1994 throwbacks, as had been rumored? Double nope. And that’s all I can tell you, at least for now. … I needed some vintage milk bottle caps for a home improvement project, so I bought 10 of them from this Etsy seller, who picked 10 random caps from her stash and sent them my way. Ended up with these beauties. So, so nice. And they click against each other very satisfyingly, like poker chips. … New logo for One World Trade Center. … Fun piece about the Twins’ Dairy Queen uniforms (from Jesse Gavin). … Also from Jesse: The I-Cubs wore Iowa Oaks throwbacks the other day. Look at the size of that cap logo! … On Tuesday night, in connection with Passover, our local PBS station ran a program called Jews and Baseball,” writes Paul O. Dillon. “It was terrific! The baseball sequences were great and the pictures of uniforms were outstanding.” … Peter Cech’s headgear has apparently become so iconic that he wears it in photo shoots (from Gerry Muir). … The latest football team to play G.I. Joe is Old Dominion (from Leo Thornton). … Sandia High School in Albuquerque wears red stirrups with baby blue sannies (from Rob Montoya). … Ryan Connelly is another Uni Watcher who was lucky enough to receive one of those custom bottle stoppers from Comrade Robert Marshall. … Check this out: Carmine Marcantonio with ANOB — that’s abbreviated name on back (big thanks to Kenn Tomasch). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Pretty cool slideshow of Arizona State baseball history. … Orioles infielder Robert Andino mug shot has undergone an amusing transformation over the years. … I’m not sure why anyone would want a snakeskin LeBron James jersey, but here, be my guest (from Jason Bernard). … Towson is letting its fans vote on its next football helmet design (from Nick Phillips). … Some insights into the Astros’ 2013 uniform redesign here. Sounds like they’re looking for something fairly traditional and timeless, although I think you could argue that that’s what they have right now (from Nicholas Roznovsky). … Here’s an item we missed back around the time of the Super Bowl: crystal-encrusted NFL helmets (from Jon Solomonson). … Oooh, look at this cap with a really short brim and what appears to be a logo on the squatchee! … Here’s a better shot of Santiago Casilla’s wrong jersey from Opening Day in Colorado (from Brad Dugan). … Real Madrid has dropped the Christian cross from its logo in order to have greater appeal with Muslim fans (from Camryn Brown). … Hey, look at this: The Dodgers apparently use a blue resin bag. Is that a new thing? I’ve never seen that before (and neither has Dan Cichalski). … Arizona State is reportedly considering a plan in which students would get to vote on which uniform the football team would wear for three home games this season (from Brooks Simpson). … TJ Oshie of the Blues, who wears No. 74, lost the 4 on his helmet last night (screen shot by Stan Capp).