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The image shown above is from a 1918 circus poster, and it’s probably the most bizarre animals-playing-sports illustration I’ve ever seen. I especially love that the elephants are wearing old-school nose guards, even though their trunks are way too long to be protected by them. Also, note the elephant in the background, who’s wearing a cap — I believe he’s supposed to be the ref.
This poster is currently up for bids at Robert Edwards auctions. It’s one of several notable items that Mike Hersh recently flagged in the current Robert Edwards and Mears listings. Here are some others that I particularly liked:
• I can never get enough of these old Cubs program cover illustrations by Otis Shepard (here’s the full listing).
• Even more fascinating: In 1970, Topps produced a set of trading cards for its own employees. The cards featured the entire staff and were distributed in-house. I’d never heard about this before (full listing).
Culinary Corner: I love oysters, but they’re such strange-looking creatures. They don’t exactly look like successful examples of evolution. If you look at the shell of a clam, or a scallop, or a mussel, those look very geometric, very designed. Your typical oyster shell, by comparison, looks so random and primitive, like an abstraction or maybe a defective product. If a clam shell is a neatly appointed kitchen and a scallop shell is a well-arranged living room filled with mid-century modern furniture, then an oyster shell is a 12-year-old’s messy room with an unmade bed and dirty clothes lying all over the floor.
I’ve thought a lot about oyster shells over the years, in part because they figured prominently in an episode that has had a lasting impact on me. The story goes like this:
In 1996 or so, I went to the Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan to have lunch with a magazine editor I’ll call Richard (not his real name). I hadn’t met Richard in person before, but I knew a bit about him. He was about my age and was good friends with a writer acquaintance of mine. The writer acquaintance came from rarefied stock — his mother was a big shot in the publishing world and his father was a Federal judge — and I assumed Richard probably came from a similarly privileged world of old money.
That assumption was reinforced when I arrived at the Oyster Bar and met Richard, who wore a very snazzy suit, had impeccable posture, and had the WASPy visage of someone whose family gene pool had likely been free of external contaminants since approximately the 1600s. There was nothing snooty or off-putting about him, mind you, but he just exuded that feel of coming from a certain kind of stock. I wasn’t intimidated or bothered by this, but it would be fair to say I felt very aware of the apparent differences in our backgrounds. I figured Richard was aware of them, too.
Since we were at the Oyster Bar, we ordered a dozen oysters. They came, as oysters often do, on a bed of crushed ice. As we ate them, I noticed Richard doing something I’d never seen before: After consuming each oyster, he gently placed its shell back onto the crushed ice, face down.
I had three immediate reactions to this. First, I could see that Richard’s system had a certain practical utility, because the face-down shells made it easy for our waitress to chart our progress at a glance and see when we had finished. Second, I liked the ritual of it, the air of custom and tradition and protocol. It all felt very Ivy League eating club.
Mostly, though, I felt like Richard’s oyster shell routine encapsulated the differences between his background and mine. I imagined his father teaching the ritual to him at some fancy club in the Hamptons when Richard was very young: “See, after you eat the oyster, you turn the shell upside-down, like this. That’s how it’s done.” I then imagined his father schooling him in a few dozen additional social graces, most of which Richard had probably mastered by the time he was 11. I envisioned Richard being given classic masculine heirlooms as he grew up, like his grandfather’s cufflinks or his great-uncle’s golf clubs, all of which helped connect him with the unbroken lineage of WASPy etiquette and propriety that was now being expressed in the face-down oyster shells I saw in front of me.
Meanwhile, I had grown up as a Long Island Jew, I had zero sense of family heritage and few if any social graces, I’d attended a hideously ugly state university where the only “eating clubs” were the frat goons who’d competed to cram the most french fries into their mouths at the dining hall, nobody in my family had ever played a round of golf that didn’t involve a windmill on the 10th hole and shooting the ball in the clown’s mouth on the 18th, and my father had never imparted any life lessons to me about women, cocktails, or even how to tie a necktie. I was generally fine with all of that — or at least I always had been up to that point. But sitting there at the Oyster Bar, a lifetime’s worth of repressed class insecurities suddenly sprung to life, and I projected all of them onto Richard.
My introspections notwithstanding, the lunch went fine. I pitched some story ideas, Richard liked them, and I ended up writing a few short pieces for him over the next year or so. But then he left that editing gig and I lost track of him.
I didn’t think much about Richard again until the fall of 2000, when he wrote a feature for the New York Times Magazine. To my surprise, the feature was about how his marriage had fallen apart due to his dysfunctional finances. He had bounced some checks, bought some fancy clothes he couldn’t afford, kept buying his wife expensive gifts even though she knew as well as he did that he was overspending, and so on. The overriding theme was that he had a very unhealthy relationship with money (sort of like some people have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol). It was a sad tale, told with the unsparing voice of someone who knew he’d fucked up and hadn’t yet forgiven himself for it.
Once again, I had three immediate reactions. The first, I’ll admit, was a feeling of schadenfreude. Like, “Okay, buddy, you may have good genes and your granddaddy’s cufflinks, but none of that will buy back your credit rating.” The second, I’ll also admit, was a sense of jealousy, because Richard had somehow managed to parlay his foibles into a New York Times Magazine feature, which was something I’d never been able to score. (Still haven’t, actually.)
Mostly, though, I just felt foolish. I’d constructed this narrative about Richard — a narrative that clearly had more to do with me than with him — and now it had been exposed as a fairy tale. I was able to laugh at my own stupidity, but I also tried to absorb the larger lessons, namely that I shouldn’t judge people based on superficial nonsense and that I should also try to be comfortable with who I am, no matter who I’m interacting with.
Richard has since remarried, had a few kids, and written a book (or at least that’s what the internet says about him). He still lives in NYC, but that one lunch at the Oyster Bar was the only time I’ve ever met him in person. I think of him often, however, because every time I eat oysters, I turn the empty shells face-down on the bed of crushed ice. I can’t fully explain why it’s such a satisfying ritual, but it is. I heartily recommend it to any oyster eater.
There’s a new entry on the Permanent Record blog, and I promise it has nothing to do with oyster shells.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Yesterday’s post on Nike owning the rights to Mississippi State’s “MSU” logo prompted Chris Ray to point out that Swoosh Inc. also owns Michigan’s old shade of maize. … Good article on the NFL’s latest attempts to market merch to women. … Can’t Make It Up Dept.: Under Armour is one of many apparel companies that are now making fashionable clothing that’s specifically designed to conceal a handgun. Can’t wait to see that feature incorporated into Maryland’s football uniforms. … An Ohio high school has been asked to stop using Moorehead State’s logo (from Tom Pachuta). … “While watching some Rangers post-game interviews on Tuesday morning, I noticed that Brad Richards has some old-looking Jofa shoulder pads that he has apparently had repaired with new Warrior shoulder caps,” writes Luke Rosnick. … “I’ve been poking around the U.S. Patent and Trademark web site in hopes of seeing if the Brooklyn Nets have filed any trademark or service mark applications for the new logo,” writes Joe Juettner. “Nothing yet, just wordmarks. However, I did find an interesting application they filed for Brooklyn Nets in Cyrillic for clothing. Seems like Mikhail Prokhorov is interested in branding the Nets to a broader range of basketball fans in coming years.” … The Feds busted a flea market in Baltimore that was selling lots of counterfeit Ravens merch, among other items (from Duncan Wilson). … Latest organizations to go BFBS: the California lottery and the webmag Salon.com (from Mike Cooperman and Andrew Levitt, respectively). … Russell Athletic has created a new uni-builder app for the iPad. … Good article about the decline of sports cartooning. … Adidas has launched what it’s billing as the world’s lightest basketball shoe. … Attention refs and other officiating types, or anyone who likes whistles: You’ll never find a better whistle web site — complete with audio samples! — than this one (big thanks to my buddy Jon Hammer). … Amelie Mancini’s latest batch of letterpressed baseball postcards, due to launch next week, will focus on baseball facial hair. … Interesting WSU NOB here. “There’s no other Bucannon the team,” notes Matthew Eng. … New logo for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (from Gerry Muir). … Jon Forbes sent along links for a bunch of new international soccer kits. I suspect some of them have been Ticker-linked before, but here they all are, just in case. … This just in: Adidas can no longer claim to have “the world’s lightest basketball shoe,” because Nike owns the rights to that term. … They Don’t Pay Me Enough to Deal with This Crap Dept.: Got a note yesterday from a publicist, as follows: “We just had a 2pm opening tomorrow in our interview schedule for the NY Giants equipment manager. He’s touring on behalf of Tide’s new partnership with the NFL, so you could ask him about the weirdest stain he’s ever had to get out, or anything else that might be fun.” I explained that
it’s gratifying to know I’m the first person they think of when someone else drops out of the 2pm slot Joe Skiba is already a friend of mine and that I’m not particularly interested in helping to sell Tide. … “Taylormade held a special ‘Relive Golf History’ event at this week’s Zurich Classic in New Orleans,” writes Clint Richardson. The Taylormade-sponsored players played in throwback-ish attire, and even the caddies carried period-appropriate bags! Very cool idea! Too bad about the logo creep, though.” … Nike is offering e-mail notifications so fans can know the very nanosecond when NFL draftees’ jerseys are available. That news, unsurprisingly, comes our way via the Swooshkateers’ favorite mouthpiece. … Speaking of the NFL, Kyle Allebach reports the following: “I was told by a guy at Lids that along with the three draft day hats New Era has released, they’re going to release three different training camp hats (they had one at the store; it was like the spring training hats), three different sideline hats for the athletes, three different coaching hats, etc. Basically, there’ll be three hats for everyone in the NFL, reaching somewhere like 16 or so varieties of hats New Era is making.” Which just goes to show that the old line about a sucker being born every minute is 1/16th correct. … Evan Shanley notes that the MLB logo on the back of the Marlins’ orange cap was originally supposed to be blue, white, and orange (see the thumbnail of the back view) but was then changed to black, white, and orange. For the record, the MLB Style Guide has the black version, so anyone with the blue version of the cap may have a collector’s item. Rumors that the blue version had to be pulled because Nike owns the rights to that color combination are probably almost completely untrue. … Latest team to go for the bat knob decals: the Twins. “They’ll be sporting those in about two weeks,” says David Sulecki. … “Royals catcher Humberto Quintero was wearing an odd glove under his catcher’s mitt against the Indians on Tuesday night,” writes Tommy Daniels. “It looks like a batting glove but only covers his exposed index finger. The logo matches his Mizuno gear.” Interesting. … HHH found a pretty good blog about a hockey jersey collection. … Excellent catch by Matt Lesser, who spotted a little “SDP” inscription — or maybe it’s “SOP” — on Brandon Phillips’s cap last night. Since “Phillips” starts with “P,” I’m assuming this is a shout-out to a relative, but I’m trying to get confirmation. … New logo for Purdue athletics. According to the comments, no plans to put it on the football jersey, at least for now (from Austin Chen). … Whatever You Did Last Night Sucked Compared to This Dept.: It’s not often one gets to see Mr. Nick Tosches Himself holding forth onstage like the crazed genius he is. It’s also not often one gets to be inside the Friars Club. But last night I had the privilege of doing both. Tosches was just introducing T. Valentine’s set, but his 10-minute intro was better than anything Valentine did. As for the Friars Club, it’s a pretty swank space. And hey, free peanuts!