By Phil Hecken
It’s often been said by many of the readers of Uni Watch that
soccer football, particularly European football, doesn’t get much love on these boards, and that’s certainly true — but that’s due far more to the fact that both Paul and I aren’t especially familiar with the beautiful game (full confession: I only watch during the World Cup and the Olympics) than the fact that we don’t like the sport. And while it’s no baseball, for many readers nothing approaches soccer as their sport of choice.
As you probably know, last weekend I ran the first part of a two-part series, as envisioned by my buddy, Tim E. O’Brien, on some “what if uniforms” for the 16 teams of the Euro Championships — not the unis they currently wear, or have in the past, but something that we might expect to see in the future. In part one we looked at the first 8…and today we conclude with the final eight.
[Editor’s Note: Today we have more guest-written soccer content, this time from Tim Newcomb, who’s bringing us up to date on MLS kits. Enjoy. — PL]
By Tim Newcomb
For a league that was born in 1996 and looked every bit the part, the MLS’s recent expansion into soccer-embracing cities has infused the league with a strong set of kits featuring a mix of freshness, European influence, and club-specific detailing.
As with any young league trying to get noticed, early MLS kits largely represent a history worth forgetting, and a more recent pushback into a white-heavy blandness certainly doesn’t give MLS fans much reason to get excited. But the latest years of MLS jerseys showcase how a club can play to an energized fan base and create nuances within a kit to accentuate the identity of a club, a city, and a league.
In general, soccer kits around the world have more variety than most North American fans realize. Team logos are generally reduced to a crest on the breast, leaving room for a sponsor across the front. But beyond the sponsors, uniform designs range from horizontal or vertical bars to solid colors, sashes, or even checkered patterns. That global diversification allows MLS teams to explore the bridge between European and North American styles. Kit creator Adidas — teamed with MLS since 2005 — uses both local and global “creation groups” to “incorporate trends happening elsewhere while also still be locally relevant,” says Antonio Zea, director of soccer for Adidas America.
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For reasons not worth explaining, I recently found myself in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, where I wandered into a candy shop. Amidst all the Kosher chocolates and Israeli jellybeans, I spotted the items you see above — instantly recognizable as Bazooka bubblegum, but rendered in Hebrew and maybe one other language I don’t recognize. According to the wrapper, it’s produced by an Israeli company (under strict rabbinical supervision, natch) under license from Topps. Interesting!
And what’s inside a piece of Israeli Bazooka bubblegum? A Bazooka Joe comic, of course, although it’s a little different than the ones you’re probably used to seeing (click to enlarge):
Last Tuesday’s entry, about the 1976 Braves’ nickNOBs, generated lots of very positive response (thanks, gang) and some good suggestions as well, so it’s time for a follow-up.
First and foremost, regarding the question of whether Jerry Royster ever wore “Rooster” in addition to “J.Bird” (we have photographic evidence for the latter but not for the former), several readers pointed out that Royster is now the third base coach for the Red Sox, so I contacted the Sox PR people and asked about this. They checked with Royster, and here’s the word from the man himself: He never wore “Rooster,” only “J.Bird.” So any lists showing him wearing “Rooster” are wrong. I wish they would have let me speak with Royster directly, because I’d love to pick his brain about the whole nickNOB issue, but they weren’t willing to do that.
A few readers also contributed information and research that have added a few more pieces to the puzzle. Here’s a rundown: