I recently invited readers to submit questions to me — questions about uniforms, questions about food, questions about me, questions about anything.
As promised, I’ve done my best to address every question that was submitted. It was a lot to deal with, so most of my answers are fairly short and straightforward. Here we go:
Question: I’ve noticed that the local high school girls’ lacrosse teams wear a sort of mesh goggle as protective headgear. I don’t know if you’ve covered this before. Why don’t they wear helmets like men? Do collegiate and other women’s lacrosse teams wear this?
Answer: Surprisingly enough, I addressed this very question during the first month of this blog’s existence.
Question: What is your favorite unused team nickname? As in either “Why hasn’t anybody ever called their team The Robots or The Dishwashers?” or “Since the USFL folded, how come nobody has named their team The Gunslingers?”
Answer: I’ve never much thought about this. But I’ve long thought that if I had a rock band, they’d be called Cartographers. (Not the Cartographers, mind you — just Cartographers.)
Question: Did you notice that for at least the past 2+ months, LeBron James and several other players in the NBA were wearing their NBA headbands without a logo on it?
Answer: Yes. They were wearing them inside-out, so the logo didn’t show.
Question: Did you always hate purple? Either way, what exactly is is about that color that you so adamantly dislike? [About six people asked some variation of this question. — PL]
Answer: Actually, I think purple in nature is quite nice — plums, violets, eggplants, etc. But purple as a design element has always struck me as garish and tacky. There’s a damn good reason you almost never see a purple house or a purple car. Now if we could just eliminate purple clothing and accessories too.
Question: If they were to use their current logos, fonts, etc., what color would you choose as an alternative to the Miami Miamis’ BFBS fetish?
Answer: They already have an orange alternate. That’s enough.
Question: Among the four major pro sports and maybe big-time NCAA sports, can you make a Top 10 of your favorite purple-inclusive uniforms?
Answer: Coming up with 10 might be tough. But I like LSU’s basic (white jersey) uniform, and the Chuck Foreman-era Vikings. Maybe the Rogie Vachon-era L.A. Kings. That’s enough purple for me.
Question: Got any good meat-inclusive soup recipes outside of chicken noodle?
Answer: I’ve never gotten into making soup. I’m not opposed to making it — just never seems to have come into my culinary orbit.
Question: What is the best obscure mascot name in college athletics?
Answer: Ugh — I don’t follow college sports too closely as it is, and late June is a tough time for this question, because my brain is totally out of NCAA mode. Sorry, but I’m drawing a blank.
Question: What’s your favorite type of pizza?
Answer: I’m very fond of pepperoni, shrimp, and sun-dried tomatoes. I also like sausage, but only if it’s (a) spicy, not sweet, and (b) lump, not link. As for crust, I prefer as thin as possible.
Question: How did your interest in sports uniforms start?
Answer: I was always interested in uniforms as a kid, although I didn’t think much about it back then — just one of those internal things that I was always noticing, mentally calibrating, etc. The idea for turning that interest into a media project came late in 1998. I had already spent much of the ’90s writing about small details of brand design, product design, industrial design, etc,. and it occurred to me that I could apply that same filter to uniform design. Uni Watch (the column, not this blog) was born the following spring.
Question: If you had to pick one, what is your favorite uniform that has purple in the color scheme?
Answer: LSU’s white-jersey uniform.
Question: If you take out the Cardinals, Tigers, Yankees, Dodgers, and all the other old-school uniforms, who has the best modern-era uniform in MLB?
Answer: Toss-up between the Blue Jays and the A’s.
Question: Have you been offered a position as a consultant in a apparel company or even a sports team before? Would you pursue it?
Answer: No team, league, or sportswear company has ever come to me with an offer of a job or even a consulting gig. If I were offered such a position, I’d have to turn it down, since it would compromise my position as a journalist.
Question: Can you provide the story of your Brannock tatoo?
Answer: The Brannock Device — the gadget they use to measure your shoe size — is my Very Favorite Object (you can read one of several articles I’ve written about it here). It also represents my guiding principle of noticing and celebrating ordinary things that other people overlook, which is pretty much the basis of my work. I’d already had it on my business card and my letterhead for years when I finally decided to get it inked onto my right arm nine years ago.
Question: Are you expecting any more new throwbacks or alternate jerseys for NFL teams this season?
Answer: I don’t have any specific knowledge of new NFL uniforms that are still in the pipeline, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more show up between now and the end of the season.
Question: What are you top three current (not throwback) favorite college football uniforms?
Answer: Geez, they all change so often, it’s hard to remember what’s current. Let’s say Michigan, USC, and Baylor (during a year when Baylor isn’t looking stupid).
Question: What do you think of the Arizona Wildcats’ football look?
Answer: Not bad, but too many mix-and-match options.
Question: Have you guys done a piece about those lighter, almost practice-style jerseys some NFL teams wore during warmer weather in the late ’60s and early ’70s?
Answer: It’s been mentioned handful of times in the Ticker and the comments, but I’ve never written a full entry on this topic. Good idea.
Question: Would you address current players that wear actual stirrups and the height of their pant cuffs? For example, it’s great to see Reds pitcher Mike Leake wearing actual stirrups, but is he not wearing his pants pulled up too high?
Answer: I agree that pants should ideally be cuffed at about mid-calf, like Jim Thome has always done. But big picture-wise, our first aim has to be to get players to go high-cuffed. Once that happens, we can discuss how high.
Question: Any plans for a Uni Watch gathering in Chicago on the horizon?
Answer: Next time I find myself in Chicago, it’ll happen. No current Chicago travel plans, but I have lots of friends there, so I tend to end up there every year or two.
Question: Can you talk about the origin story of Uni Watch, specifically from a personal journey perspective? Real life rarely works like a Greek myth, so I know there isn’t a moment of divine inspiration, but what was the general emotional arc that led to you creating the site?
Answer: I already addressed the question of how I came up with the idea for Uni Watch as a column (see above). The idea for adding a daily blog to the Uni Watch portfolio came from a reader named John Ekdahl early in 2006. He offered to build the site and be its webmaster (a role he still has today). ESPN gave me their blessing to go ahead and do it, and here we are. At first I wasn’t sure I’d have enough to write about on a daily basis, but I quickly learned that the more info I put out there, the more info the readers would send back my way, so the site is sort of self-perpetuating in that regard.
Question: I was recently given some Kobe beef, sandwich sliced, from a friend in the meat industry. How would you recommend preparing this and what would you pair it with?
Answer: I’m sorry to break this to you, but unless your friend is a smuggler, the beef he gave you is not Kobe. Here’s why.
Question: Is there a point to being an FBS school outside the Big 6 conferences? I love the MAC, but it seems pointless to stay up when sports coverage, especially football, is so ubiquitous in our society today. If you’re an NFL prospect playing at Ball State, or Montana State, the scouts will find you. I just don’t understand the appeal.
Answer: I have no idea how to address this question.
Question: Let’s say you were a hot baseball prospect, and the team that drafted you was the Rockies, or some other purple-inclusive team. Would you ever play for them or would you turn them down or ask for a trade?
Answer: I would try to make it clear to them prior to the draft that I’d prefer not to play for them (just as John Elway did with the Colts). I’d also claim to have a skin allergy to polyester, so they’d have to make me a cotton flannel uniform.
Question: Do you know of any good ways to cook blue claws crabs other than steaming them, and preferably on a grill?
Answer: I’ve never grilled blue crabs. Some friends and I grilled lobsters one time, though — basically, we put the lobsters on the hot grill and then slapped the cover on the grill fast, before they could scrabble away. In retrospect, that was kinda cruel, and I now wish we’d killed the lobsters just prior to cooking them (which is easy enough to do quickly and painlessly– you just stick a knife point through their brain stem). I imagine the same technique would work with crabs, although killing a bunch of crabs beforehand would be a major hassle (their claws usually aren’t taped up like lobsters’ claws).
Question: What is your favorite vegetable and/or side dish to accompany all of the glorious meat you cook?
Answer: My favorite vegetable has always been green beans. Goes with anything!
Question: Have you ever done a full on exposé on the 1995-2003 Houston Rockets uniforms?
Question: What do you hope the uniforms/logos/branding looks like for the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, hosted by your Mets?
Answer: My primary hope is that it doesn’t look like the Domino’s Pizza logo. As long as they achieve that goal, anything else will be gravy.
Question: In your opinion, what are the ten best and ten worst high school lacrosse uniforms for the state of Connecticut?
Answer: I have no idea.
Question: What do you think (or know for a fact) that other journalists, sportscasters, and so on think about the rising popularity of uniform aesthetics?
Answer: Many — probably most — sports journalists still think paying attention to uniform and logo design is silly, or undignified, or that it cheapens the work of “real” sportswriters, etc. That doesn’t bother me, because I understand that the whole concept of Uni Watch challenges — and was meant to challenge — people’s hierarchy of priorities, and some people will always resist that. But I’d say the acceptance level is growing, and that’s nice to see.
Question: What is the procedure to submit a guest entry like the ones you recently received about the Euro and the brown uniforms?
Answer: If you want to write a guest entry, the best way is to send me an e-mail explaining the idea and how you’d execute it. No guarantees — I turn down more ideas than I accept. But I’m always happy to listen.
Question: I know you are against Native American nicknames, but would you make an exception for self-referential uses such as the Pembroke College Braves? Pembroke is the country’s only Native American college in America. So are you okay with them using Native American nicknames and imagery?
Answer: Yes, absolutely. My point all along has been that I view this essentially as an intellectual property issue. This iconography belongs to Native Americans, so they should be the ones who decide how it gets used.
Question: Have you ever seen a preview of a uniform change, something you had sworn not to reveal, where the team later nixed the change?
Answer: Yes. But I’m not allowed to talk about it.
Question: Do you think we’ll ever see an NHL team bringing back white pants, à la the Capitals?
Answer: Very unlikely.
Question: What are your favorite field/court designs in college or pro football/basketball?
Answer: I really like the diamond-patterned end zones that the Broncos have been using, and I’ve always liked the Celtics’ parquet floor.
Question: Why do you insist on wearing that stupid-ass goatee?
Answer: I admit that it’s become fraught with a certain type of cultural baggage that I don’t particularly care for, but I’ve had it for just shy of 20 years now, so I’m used to it. Every coupla years I’ll shave it off, just for kicks, but I inevitably end up deciding (a) I look better with it than without it, and (b) my upper lip feels really weird when it’s suddenly exposed to the elements.
Question: We all know that you are an avowed fan of the Mets, but are there any other teams, in any sport, of which you would consider yourself a “fan?”
Answer: In the NFL, I root for the 49ers first and then the Giants. In the NHL, I root for the Canadiens first and then the Rangers. In the NBA, I’m a Knicks fan.
Question: You live in a classic Brooklyn brownstone — when was it built, and is it in good condition? Do some of the details remain, or have they been lost through all the years of people living in the house?
Answer: My house is not a brownstone. It’s a brick house and not quite as grand as the classic brownstones. It was built in the 1920s and is in fairly good shape, although it has gone through several renovations, so not many original details are left.
Question: Why do soccer teams have different color uniforms for home and away?
Answer: To make sure they don’t clash with the other team, right? Is this a trick question? (Actually, any soccer-related query is a potential trick question for me.)
Question: Is there a goofier name in MLB history than Flint Rhem?
Answer: Yes: Van Lingle Mungo.
Question: What would your last meal be? Or to be more precise, what kind of meat would you have for your last meal!?
Answer: Smoked pork spareribs. A lot of them.
Question: What do you think of the Mariners’ northwest green alts?
Answer: I’m fine with them.
Question: How’s your Diet Coke consumption these days?
Answer: It’s minimal, I’m happy to report. If I’m out at a restaurant in a situation where drinking alcohol wouldn’t be appropriate (a work-related lunch with an editor, say), I might have a glass of DC. And maybe once every 10 days I’ll treat myself to a 12-ounce can after a particularly hot and sweaty bike ride. Aside from that, I’ve essentially eradicated it from my life. It was easier than I expected.
Question: How much influence does a league have on new uniform designs? I always hear “Must be submitted for league approval by…”. And have you heard of any designs that have been rejected by a league?
Answer: I’ve never heard of a league specifically rejecting a design, although I’m sure it happens. The road toward a finished design (sports-related or otherwise) tends to be a long a twisting one. I’d love to see what ends up on all the cutting room floors, but I’ve never been privy to that.
Question: What are your thoughts on college/pro teams suing high schools for using their logos and wordmarks?
Answer: Suing seems like overkill. But I also think a high school using someone else’s logo is super-lazy and also a big missed opportunity. Why use someone else’s logo when you can create your own unique mark? Your school presumably has a visual arts program — run a contest, get the art teacher to whip something up, whatever.
Question: How do you reconcile your personal stance on Native American imagery and your Lane Tech sweater with the Indian head design?
Answer: I’ve stopped wearing the sweater (and not just because it’s summer).
Question: Have you ever done a piece on the history of catcher’s masks?
Answer: Not as a full entry, no, although mask design comes up often in the Ticker.
Question: You admit that you aren’t the biggest sports fan, so why do you do a sports-centered uniform web site?
Answer: I guess it depends on what you mean by “the biggest sports fan.” I like sports a lot, especially MLB and the NFL. Am I as big a fan as someone who has season tickets and is always glued to the TV set watching whatever game is on? No. But am I a lifelong fan and observer of sports and sports culture? Yes.
Question: Why do you hate corporate sponsors so much?
Answer: Because I feel corporate culture already has too big an influence on American life. For a more detailed set of answers to this question, look here.
Question: What’s the best current uniform city?
Answer: Chicago is up there. Boston, too. New York, too.
Question: Who’s this “Kristen” you frequently mention?
Answer: Kirsten (not Kristen) Hively was my girlfriend for most of 2008 and ’09. We’re no longer a boy/girl couple, although we remain very close friends. She’s my partner in the Candela Structures project, plus she has several excellent creative ventures of her own, including Project Neon, the Volvellery, and a Picnic in Every Park.
Question: How can you not like Devo?
Answer: I’ve always loved the idea of Devo; I just find the execution to be a bit grating after a while. I love how they challenge the whole notion of what a rock band is supposed to be. Let’s put it this way: Even though I don’t really like them, I’ve always respected them.
Question: When I played baseball in high school, the coach told us that if one player wore sleeves under his jersey, then the whole team wore sleeves. But now I see MLB players of the same team take the field with all types of variations of pant height, hat bill curvature, sleeves, undershirts, neckwear, wristbands, batting gloves, etc. Are you in favor of the individualistic treatment of the uniform, or do you advocate for the uniform to be worn uniformly?
Answer: I think there’s a difference between what you tell a bunch of high schoolers and what you tell big leaguers. I also think there’s a difference between the uniform and equipment. Personally, I’d say undersleeves fall under the realm of equipment — they should be the right color, but I see nothing wrong with one guy have short undersleeves, another guy wearing long undersleeves, and another guy wearing none at all. All of that is guided by comfort, performance, etc. Same goes for most of the other things you listed — except pants/socks, of course. That should be regulated. But it never has been at the big league level, so we’re stuck with a mish-mash of lower-leg styles.
Question: I was wondering why you guys at Uni Watch are so against the use of pajama pants. While I see that high socks do look better, and how it deviates from the traditions of baseball, I don’t fully understand the discontent with it.
Answer: Short answer: It looks like shit. Longer answer: Pajama pants dishonor baseball’s hosiery heritage. There’s a reason we have teams with names like the Red Sox and White Sox, but you wouldn’t know it from today’s pajamists.
Question: What is your most memorable Mets moment?
Answer: No question: Game 6 of the ’86 Series.
Question: Is there any reason, aside the fact you know little about it, on why you haven’t attended a NASCAR race?
Answer: Not really my thing, plus it doesn’t exist here in NYC.
Question: What is the coolest piece of sports memorabilia that you own?
Answer: I made a bunch of good plays in the field for my Little League All-Star team in 1976 and was awarded a game ball for defense. I still cherish that ball.
Question: What music are you listening to these days?
Answer: Mostly old western swing — Hank Thompson, Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, that kind of thing. But I saw Redd Kross play last Friday, which has led me to play a lot of their stuff over the past few days.
Question: You’ve mentioned that your favorite band is the Rolling Stones. Who are some of your other favorite bands and music acts?
Answer: A very small sampling of top choices: Ramones, Velvets, Television, Big Star, Dylan, Costello, Richard and Linda Thompson, Little Walter, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, Mountain Goats, Portastatic, Breeders, Eels, the Hold Steady, Cheap Trick, Susquehanna Industrial Tool + Die Company, Faron Young, Louvin Bros., Bob Wills, Otis Redding, Howard Tate, Monk, Trane, Ben Webster, lots of New Zealand bands from the late ’80s and early ’90s, and so on.
Question: How’s the progress on the custom suit?
Answer: Funny you should ask — it arrived while I was working on this entry. I lovelovelove it! Fits like a glove, and styled just the way I wanted. If I looked any smoother, my image wouldn’t stick to the mirror. (And if you know where I stole that line from, there’s a free Uni Watch membership card in your future.)
That’s it for this round of Question Time. I’ll invite a new round of questions shortly.
Help Wanted: Due to a previous and unavoidable social commitment, I will miss most and possibly all of tonight’s All-Star Game. So I could use everyone’s assistance in documenting the game’s uni-notable moments. Here’s how you can help:
• If you’re watching the game, please keep a list of anything worth noting (white shoes, wrong batting helmet, whatever). No need to e-mail me each time you spot something — just keep a running list. If you’d like to post your finds in the comments section as you spot them, that’s fine, but please maintain your running list as well.
• For each item on your list, please note exactly when it happened or was visible. Example: “Top of the 3rd, Derek Jeter batting: R.A. Dickey’s hat flies off his head after a pitch.”
• If you have the ability to make screen shots — of something that you’ve spotted or something that someone else mentions in the comments — please do so.
• When I get home from my social commitment (probably around the 6th or 7th inning, but possibly later than that), I’ll post a comment letting everyone know that I’m back in the saddle. At that point, everyone can send me their lists and screen shots. If the game ends and I haven’t yet said, “I’m back,” you can send me your materials once the game is over.
Big thanks in advance!
By Brinke Guthrie
Tonight’s the annual MLB All-Star Game, the summertime halfway point of the MLB season, so let’s lead off with a couple ASG items, shall we? This 1988 Cincinnati ASG patch brings back memories — at least for me, because I flew over the game in a hot air balloon! Two problems with that: One, it was restricted airspace due to the Vice President being there, and two, the Fuji blimp was literally a few feet below my feet. The balloon pilot asked me, “What’s that whirring noise?” I looked down — nothing but solid white.
Eighteen years earlier, the ASG was played at then-new Riverfront Stadium. lots of logo goodness on the game program cover.
In other Collector’s Corner news:
• Never ever seen of of these 1970s NHL mini-stick kits before. By checking the box lid, you can tell this is the hockey version of the more common NFL, NBA, and MLB kits.
• You’re guaranteed to smell like a Knick with this 1970s Knicks Avon cologne decanter.
• Nice 1966 NFL placemat with cool retro helmet artwork.
• I like the box that these “Philadelphia 76ers” sneakers come in. Were they using that font in the 1950s-1960s?
• Can’t say I recall the 1970s “HelmetHat.” This one features the colors and logo of the LA Rams.
• If you worked for Sears in their NFL Shop, then you wore this team button.
A lost Purple Heart and the family of the soldier it once belonged to are the subject of the latest entry on the Permanent Record Blog.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Norman Sas, the inventor of electric/vibrating football, has died. R.I.P. … Stickball: Not dead yet! … Justin Lafferty got a bunch of photos at Sunday’s A’s/M’s throwback game. … We’ve mentioned several times that St. Cloud University’s logo is a Habs rip-off. Now that logo has helped them land a hockey recruit (from John Muir). … New rugby jersey for the French national team (from Josh Jacobs). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Here’s a slideshow of 2012/13 Premier League kits. … Pretty cool infographic about the epic Nadal/Federer Wimbledon final from 2008. … Texans running back Arian Foster has gone vegan. It’s tempting to say something like, “Good, more meat for me” (and there, I just said it), but it’s nice to see an athlete with ethical standards. Good for him. … One of the best things about the Olympics is that the host city ends up with a bunch of state-of-the-art facilities that can be used and enjoyed for decades, right? Wrong: Look what’s already happened to the Beijing facilities in just four short years (from Tommy Gough). … Rawlings is suing Wilson because Wilson made a glove with gold webbing and trim, which Rawlings says infringes on their Gold Glove trademark rights. Jesus fuck, just take all the execs and the lawyers and drop them in a vat of acid or something (from Sam Belk). … Cyclist Bradley Wiggans has his nickname printed on his kit, rather than his last name like the rest of the team (from Michael Roecklein). … This is interesting: Photographer Brad Mangin has compared the Oakland Oaks throwback uniforms that the A’s wore on Sunday to the similar Oaks throwbacks that the A’s wore in 1994. Mangin happened to be working at both games, 18 years apart! … Two banks in Queens were robbed yesterday by a guy wearing a U.S. Postal Service uniform. … Coachie Ballgames has ranked the jerseys from Euro 2012. … Carlos Beltran wore gold shoes for last night’s Home Run Derby. “That’s how far MLB has fallen,” says Brinke. … Keenan, who didn’t give his last name, painted a bunch of storage compartments with a Mizzou theme. … Jeffrey Radice is trying to raise money to make a documentary about Doc Ellis (or, as he calls it, a Dockumentary). … The Reno Aces will become the Reno Ghost Riders for this weekend’s series (from Matt Moschella).
Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but my annual month-long summer break is fast approaching. From July 23 through Aug. 22, I won’t be blogging here (although I’ll still be producing ESPN columns). Phil will handle the weekdays during that span, and webmaster Johnny Ek will handle the weekends, so you’ll be in good hands. As for me, I’ll be recharging my batteries, working on other projects, and zipping over to Michigan for the Traverse City Film Festival. Sorry, no Uni Watch party during that trip — it’s a vacation!