Interesting news yesterday from the NFL, where knee and thigh pads will be mandatory starting in 2013. As most of you know, those pads are mandatory in college football but have long been optional in the NFL, and more and more players have been choosing to play without them for various reasons (speed, machismo, vanity, etc.).
A few thoughts:
• The best possible byproduct of this rule, as several readers immediately noted in e-mails to me yesterday, would be the end of the biker shorts plague. After all, you can’t have knee pads unless the pants are covering the knee, right? Then again, maybe you can — what if players keep wearing the biker shorts and just wear the knee pad above the knee? We’ll have to see how that plays out.
• By far the best article ever written about the modern era of NFL pads (and the players’ disdain for them) is this piece by Stefan Fatsis, which originally ran in the Wall Street Journal in 2004. Highly recommended. Two years after that piece ran, Stefan worked out with the Broncos as a placekicker, an experience that formed the basis of his book A Few Seconds of Panic. As longtime Uni Watch readers may recall, I interviewed Stefan before the book came out, and of course I asked him about pads. Here’s the relevant passage:
Uni Watch: Now, when you suited up for the preseason games, did you insert the thigh and knee pads into your pants?
Stefan Fatsis: Oh, no. I was like everybody else on the team.
UW: Meaning, no pads.
SF: No pads. We’ve talked about that before. And the reality was, I wasn’t going to get hit.
UW: Right. But I was wondering if you wanted, y’know, the sort of gladiator feel of putting on the armor.
SF: Kickers don’t want armor — they go padless. I understand it with kickers. I don’t really understand it with other players. Like, is this pad the size of a coaster really going to be an impediment to your 250-pound frame? But because I wasn’t a “real” player, the pockets were still in my pants — they hadn’t been removed.
UW: Your pants had pockets?
SF: To insert the pads.
UW: Oh, the inner pockets.
SF: Right. And most players will have those removed, if they’re not wearing the pads. I didn’t feel I was in a position to ask for the pockets to be removed from my pants — particularly given that the Broncos didn’t practice much in pads.
• A few conspiracy-minded readers sent me notes yesterday suggesting that the rule change was just a stunt to promote Nike’s newfangled pants with the pads built in. Just two problems with that: First, Nike’s new pants do not have the pads sewn in — or at least the ones at last month’s unveiling didn’t. They had traditional pockets for the pads. And besides, If Nike can come up with a pads-inclusive pant design, good for them. I have no problem with that (unless each pad has a visible swoosh or something like that — which, admittedly, is a concern, but we’ll worry about that if and when it happens).
The players’ union plans to contest the new rule, because it wasn’t collectively bargained, but that just seems petty. At a time when former players are suing the league over brain safety issues and the union is refusing to go along with the idea of an 18-game schedule due to player safety concerns, it doesn’t look too good to be challenging a rule that’s designed to enhance safety and cut down on injuries. Suggestion to the union: Wear the fucking pads already and shut up.
Sign of the times: An interesting discussion broke out in the comments last night when reader Billy Duss noticed that Twins pitcher P.J. Walters had inscribed “AFW” on the
U.S. Cellular Comiskey mound. Duss then did a bit of additional research and discovered that Walters had added the initials to the mound during his two previous starts. The initials are apparently a memorial for his daughter, Annabelle, who was born prematurely in February of 2010 and lived only 52 days.
Obviously, losing an infant is an unthinkably terrible experience that most of us can’t even imagine. But does that make it okay to put a public display on the mound more than two years after the child’s death — a display specifically positioned to be visible on television?
A few of us went back and forth on that question in the comments last night. Phil had a particularly sharp analysis (read: I’m gonna let him be the heavy here; the quote that follows is taken from two separate comments he posted):
You have to feel sorry for anyone who’s lost a child, but that is a “Look at me” move if there ever was one.
Wear a shirt under your jersey, write her initials on your cleat, shit, get a tattoo … but for the love of Christ, keep the mound clear of that.
And this seems like a total ratchet move too. If someone else loses a kid, or their wife, or their mom or their sister, or their childhood friend … what’s to stop them from expressing a similar sentiment? You’re gonna have all kinds of mound graffiti.
Nay, there are other and more appropriate ways to mourn someone than defacing the bump. …
First game back after her death, as a one-off? OK, I’m down with that. Three (at least) games approximately two years after her passing? No.
Reader Jim Hamerlinck took a different view:
I would cut the guy some slack. … Baseball is a funny game with a rich history full of ideosyncratic moments, events, and characters. That’s part of the reason why we love and follow the sport. A man carving the initials of his dead daughter into the mound doesn’t strike me as particularly egregious. What is his motive? What’s going on with him? Maybe he needs help.
I’m with Phil on this one. I’d be more okay with it if the initials were on the side of the mound, where the TV cameras couldn’t pick them up — then it wouldn’t have as much of a “Look at me” factor. As it is, it’s the mound equivalent of some guy who stands behind a TV correspondent and waves because hey, he’s on TV!
Frankly, I don’t want to see anything on the mound except the pitcher, the rosin bag, and that thingie that cleans the spikes. I’ve hated team logos on the back of the mound ever since they were introduced (and I hate them even more now that more of them are appearing in color), and Walters’s move seems like a fairly predictable outgrowth of that trend. If you start putting “official” things on the back of the mound, don’t be surprised if unofficial things end up there too.
But Jim raises a good point, namely that baseball is full of eccentric lore. If we were told that a pitcher had put his dead daughter’s initials on the mound back in the 1940s or ’50s, that might seem quaint, because we tend to react differently to things from the past than we do to things in the present. Similarly, I’ve always loved the story of Big Klu ripping the sleeves off his jersey — but if someone did that today, I’d be the first one to roll my eyes and call bullshit. Why the differing responses? Part of it is temporal context: Big Klu lived in an era when athletes didn’t “act out” as much as they do today, so it’s easier to view his sleeve stunt as a personal quirk instead of a calculated move to enhance his personal brand.
A more recent example: When MLB ran the TATC promotion with the futuristic uniforms in 1999, I pretty much viewed it as the end of the world. Whatever dignity the game had managed to retain over the years had now been flushed down the crapper, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I suspect many people here felt similarly. Thirteen years later, I still think the TATC promotion was a terrible idea that never should have gotten off the drawing board. But it’s also an interesting chapter in a sport full of interesting chapters, and I wouldn’t want to live in a world where such chapters could never be added to MLB’s storyline. In years to come, maybe I’ll take a similar view of Walters adding his daughter’s initials to the mound. For now, though, I still think it’s inappropriate.
Finally, I seem to recall that there was a pitcher a few years ago (can’t remember who) who got in the habit of inscribing something on the back of he mound (can’t remember what, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a memorial), until another pitcher on an opposing team (can’t remember who) very pointedly used his foot to scratch out whatever had been on the mound, and that was the end of that. I know this happened — I just can’t recall any of the details. Little help..? (Update: Reader Dan Wohl thinks the incident I’m referring to may be when Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants scratched out the Padres logo on the Petco mound. That might be it — not sure. Either way, kudos to Sanchez. Too bad more pitchers haven’t followed his example.)
Some of you are probably expecting me to crack some sort of joke here. That’s understandable, since I’ve made it clear that I really like meat. I like to write about it, I like to talk about it, I like to think about it. But I realize some you people are vegetarians, and I figure it’s probably a bit of a drag for you when I write about my latest blow-torched steak or whatever. Yeah, you can just scroll down to the next section, no biggie, but I’m aware that there’s a certain air of glee in my tone when I write about meat, a sort of carnivorous evangelism that could easily be interpreted as a finger jab aimed at the vegetarian community’s collective eyeball. Still, not one of you — literally not a single one — has ever complained. Nobody has ever said, “Paul, could you dial down the meat angle just a smidge?” or anything along those lines.
I’ve known lots of vegetarians over the years (even dated a few, which was a bit of a trip). Many of them have told me, “Don’t worry, I’m not one of those preachy vegetarians,” which is funny, because I’ve never encountered a preachy vegetarian. Frankly, I’m way preachier about meat than any vegetarian I’ve known has ever been about salad.
Vegetarianism isn’t for me, but I can see plenty of good reasons for it. It’s definitely healthier, it’s better for the planet, and it’s better for animals. Some people like to play gotcha with vegetarians (“Sure, you don’t eat meat, but you’re wearing leather shoes, you hypocrite!”), but I don’t think a person’s eating choices need to be intellectually consistent or even rational; they just need to make sense to that person. As long as it works for you, that’s fine by me.
So today, in the midst of World Vegetarian Week, I’m offering a salute to all you herbivores out there. I know it can suck to be part of a marginalized class, and I respect the fact that you stick to your principles without getting all uptight about it. I won’t be running any meat recipes this week, I promise.
Position wanted: The crummy economy delivered a body blow to the Uni Watch family last week, as Collector’s Corner columnist Brinke Guthrie was laid off from his job. He’s now seeking a new gig, so I’ll hand the mic to him:
I’m looking for a position in radio and/or internet news, sports, or tech media. I have extensive music, news, and tech radio experience, and I’m based in the SF East Bay area. You can check out my profiles on LinkedIn and About.me for more details; I’m available by e-mail and Google Voice (925.405.6140). Many thanks!
On a personal note, Brinke has been a weekly Uni Watch columnist for about two years now (and he was a steady reader and Ticker contributor for a long time before that), and I can honestly say he’s a pleasure to work with. Very dependable, a self-starter, and full of ideas. No drama or ego trips, either — the guy’s a peach. If you can help him out, he can definitely help you out. Drop him a line.
Cubee update: Another day, another nice round of Cubees. Here’s the latest batch:
• Jason Torban made himself a Randall Cunningham/Eagles Cubee.
• James Ferentz made himself a very nice Iowa Hawkeye Cubee.
• And my favorite Cubee of the day comes from Mike Hall, who depicted a Cubee-fied Jonathan Vilma offering a $100 bounty to anyone who’d take out the Peyton Manning Cubee from yesterday’s entry.
Cubee-fication — everybody’s doing it!
Uni Watch News Ticker: Quick, what sport did these guys play? Answer at the bottom of the Ticker. … The White Sox, who had already added a memorial patch for Moose Skowron, have added another one for BP pitcher Kevin Hickey. …Several uni-notable items in this gallery of 1982 Reds highlights. Slide 3 shows the sour grapes banner that flew atop Riverfront Stadium that year; slide 4 shows the team’s unusual dugout jacket design from that season; and check out the caption on slide 6 — fascinating! (All this from Mark Fightmaster.) … The Denver Post has been offering something similar to Cubees for a while now. Not quite as charming as Cubees, I’d say, but still fun (from Michael Lukac). … Since some new outlets have had a hard time distinguishing the L.A. Kings from the Sacramento Kings, the hockey team created this fun infographic (from John Muir). … A little over a year ago, I wrote an entry about a 1969 ballgame in which plate umpire Ed Sudol worked the game in a T-shirt. I also that instead of having a ballboy bring the baseballs to Sudol, the Cubs apparently used an usher. Now I’ve heard from reader Dan Ronan, who writes: “Andy Frain was a company that provided event security and assistance at the ballparks, Soldier Field, the Chicago Stadium, etc. They provided the usher. He would sit on a small stool near the Cubs’ on deck circle with a canvas bag of baseballs bring them to the umpire as needed. It was the same guy for years, and I recall he kept putting on weight, so eventually he was well over 250 pounds and was having trouble making it to the umpire in between innings. Also, I recall the game you are talking about, because I was actually attending and wondering what the umpire was doing wearing just a T-shirt. I was about 10 at the time and I remember it was oppressively hot and humid and the ballpark was nearly full, so add 38,000 of your closest friends to a small, cramped ballpark and many were drinking beer, etc. Kind of like a typical day at Wrigley Field today.” … This is pretty cool: wallets made from baseball gloves (big thanks to Steve King). … Just What the World Needed Dept.: Sweatbacks have come to the baseball diamond. Sigh (from Josh Kelman). … Here’s a very nice set of National League team patches (from Jameson Adams). … Some good photos and details regarding the Jackie Robinson movie that’s currently being filmed in Chattanooga (from Matthew Robins). … You’ve Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me Dept.: Thanks to some anonymous one percenter, the position of offensive coodinator at Stanford will now officially be known as the Andrew Luck Director of Offense (from Jarrod Leder). … MLB already knows what next year’s All-Star Game logo will look like (not that they’re ready to share it with us, mind you). But that didn’t stop Bryan Molloy from coming up with some concepts of his own. … Coupla problems with the Rusty Staub bobbles that the Mets are giving away this weekend: (1) The Mets never wore a headspooned home jersey during Rusty’s two stints with the team, and (2) they got the stirrups style all wrong (bobble photo from Nicholas Schiavo). … Packers rookie Nick Perry was wearing a Reebok jersey with a cover-up patch on the marker’s mark the other day (from David Trett). … Two Indian tribes in Oregon are disappointed by the state board of education’s move to ban the use of Indian mascots, because they favored a more nuanced approach. Before anyone on either side of the issue jumps to any conclusions, I suggest that you read the whole article (from Peter Dalgaard). … Max Reinhart noticed something in the Wikipedia entry for David Humm, who was a backup QB in the ’70s. According to the entry, Humm was “an effective holder for a field goal or an extra point, with the unusual habit of arriving on the field with no shoulder pads, which tipped the opposing team that a fake field goal was unlikely.” Now, I actually remember David Humm, but I don’t remember him not wearing pads. Of course, maybe I just didn’t notice. Anyone know more? … Novak Djokovic has signed a new endorsement deal with Uniqlo (thanks, Brinke). … Also from Brinke: With the Warriors planning to move from Oakland to San Francisco in 2017, team and city officials did a photo-op with some specially modified jerseys. … Really interesting article on the making of F1 tires (from Jeremy Brahm). … Outmania! Even with that farking jersey, it looks pretty sweet. … Did you know that Ford had put its logo up for collateral on a loan deal back in 2006? They finally got the logo back yesterday. … Answer to quiz: These guys were the tug of war team from the Milwaukee Athletic Club (hence the chest logo). They represented America at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis and won the gold medal. I love the shoulder coverings, which I assume were to protect against rope burn (awesome find by Garrett Van Auken).