I’m in no particular hurry to make fun of the Olympics. I mean, I don’t much care about them myself (I plan to be on vacation for about half of the London games, and there’s nothing coincidental about that timing), but I fully support the right of all athletes to achieve the Olympic ideal, which as near as I can figure involves gobbling handfuls of steroids, being featured in insufferable up-close-and-personal TV reports, making sure your sponsorship logo is facing the camera, pretending to love all the other athletes from funny-sounding foreign countries, and then getting laid afterward. Not really my bag (well, getting laid is fun, but I don’t see the point of going halfway around the world to do it), but hey, knock yourselves out. No skin off my grindstone, or however that goes.
But even if you buy the increasingly hard-to-swallow notion that the Olympics are something other than a glorified version of America’s Got Talent, the London games are shaping up as a fiasco of, okay, Olympian proportions. You knew there was major disaster potential brewing when they chose a logo that everyone single human who’d ever watched television — except for the people on the logo committee — clearly recognized as Lisa Simpson giving a blowjob. But that turns out to have been the tip of the iceberg. In the past few months we’ve had the bathroom branding police; the attempt to exhume Keith Moon’s corpse; the boorish efforts to brand-bully such grave threats as knitters and gyro makers; the ticketing snafus; the looming airport problems; the absurdity of a junk food purveyor deciding who gets to eat what and where; the embarrassment of one of the world’s greatest beer cities being saddled with a foreign beer sponsor; and so on. It’s all shaping up as such an entertaining mess that I may have to cancel that vacation and tune in to watch the whole thing implode.
As you’ve probably heard by now, the “You can’t make this shit up” factor reached new heights yesterday, as word spread that the USA’s Skippy-and-Muffy outfits for the opening ceremonies — which had already been the subject of considerable snickering over the past few days (bonus points to New York Daily News writer Lindsay Goldwert, who opined that the outfits “bring one phrase to mind: welcome aboard”) — were made in China. Hey, it’s not every day that you can (a) encapsulate everything that’s wrong with the Olympics, (b) encapsulate everything that’s wrong with the American economy, and (c) find an issue that Democrats and Republicans can agree upon in one fell swoop. Well done!
Let’s think this through for a minute. As you may know, if for some reason you feel compelled to buy an NFL jersey, the jersey you buy will have been made overseas — usually in China. But the jerseys that the players wear are manufactured in America (Reebok had them made in Ripon, Wisconsin, except for the super-stretchies, which were made in Israel; I’ve heard conflicting things about which factory Nike is using, but it’s definitely domestic). Why? Because the NFL understands the symbolic value of having its players wearing American-made gear. Similarly, if you buy an official NFL Wilson football, it will say, “Made in China,” but the balls used in NFL games are made at that Ohio factory that I visited two winters ago, because the NFL likes to say that every single ball ever used in an NFL game was made in America.
Now, there aren’t that many people on the U.S. Olympic team. A few hundred, right? All of their outfits could easily have been made in America and that would’ve been that. In fact, you can’t make just a few hundred outfits in China, even if you want to — you have to do larger quantities or else their factories aren’t interested in dealing with you.
But of course Ralph Lauren and the USOC didn’t want to make just a few hundred outfits — they also wanted to sell a few thousand outfits at retail. (As an aside, who the fuck would spend hundreds of dollars to buy what is essentially a Jay Gatsby get-up masquerading as athleticwear? Someone, or many someones, apparently. But I digress.) Imagine the wonderful publicity they could have gotten if they’d decided to make all of this product in America. The media would have lapped it up, Obama and Romney would be elbowing each other aside to be photographed with the workers at the garment factory, NBC could do some cloying little segment showing a garment worker watching the opening ceremonies and saying, “I made those,” and the whole thing would’ve been a win-win-win-win-win. Even if they had done it the NFL way — make the athletes’ gear here and make the retail product in China — they still could’ve milked it pretty good.
But no. Nothing matters except how big the Polo logo is and how cheap the per-piece rate is. So let the outsourcing begin!
Hey, it’s just business, right? Justifies everything.
The other big uni news yesterday was that Texas A+M unveiled its new football uniforms. For the most part, I like them. Quickly, because I’m worn out from thinking about the Olympix:
• Back in the ’70s, the Aggies wore stripes across their shoulders and sleeves. That look is now being mimicked on their shoulders and undersleeves. Yeah, so the stripes won’t always line up exactly, but that doesn’t bother me. I like the look. And anytime you can get Adidas to do something with two stripes in stead of three, that counts as a bit of a coup, no?
• If you look again at that last photo, you’ll see that the rear helmet numbers have really stupid-ass beveling. That’s because the jersey numbers have stupid-ass beveling. This is the single weakest element of the design. But if that’s your weakest element, you’re doing pretty well.
• In Portlandia, they put a bird on it; in Texas, they put Texas on it. Gratuitous but not bad-looking.
• I know this has been true for some time now, but it bears repeating: Adidas socks look great from behind, like shite from the front.
All in all, I like. Additional pics here.
PermaRec update: A book about a bunch of letters written by a U.S. Army quartermaster stationed in New Guinea during World War II — and how those letters were found over 60 years later in an antiques shop — is the subject of the latest entry on the Permanent Record blog.
ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, my latest ESPN column, about Amelie Mancini and her brilliant baseball cards, is available here.
Membership reminder: Another thing you may have missed yesterday: The Uni Watch Membership Program will soon have a price increase, but there’s still time to sign up at the old price. Details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: A black Jags jersey has leaked. I can confirm that this design is shown in this season’s NFL Style Guide. … Sam Shillet was stopping in at Cosby’s, the famous sporting goods shop at Madison Square Garden, and got to talking with the staff about the Knicks’ uniforms. “They said that the Knicks will be removing black from the jersey altogether,” he says. I’m not in a position to confirm or deny that at this time. … About time: Nike has decided to remove Joe Paterno’s name from the company’s child care center. … Here’s a really nice slideshow about the pickup basketball scene in Brooklyn. … Jeff Barak has written a good piece about Soviet hockey jerseys. While researching it, he came across this photo, which has several notable elements. First, note the soccer-style captaincy armband on the Soviet player. Also: clear boards! “The only other clear boards I know of in North America were the ones used at the St. Paul Civic Center for the WHA’s Minnesota FIghting Saints from 1972 to roughly 1995,” says Jeff. “Then the rise of ads on the boards and the age and condition of the clear ones led to their replacement.” … Why do we wear pants? The answer may surprise you (thanks, Kirsten). … Here’s a cool video showing how the Budweiser NASCAR car is wrapped — yes, not painted, wrapped (from John Rael). … Life imitates
art schlock: New uniforms for female U.S. military personnel is based on gear from Xena: Warrior Princess (thanks, Brinke). … Here’s what Rickie Fowler will be wearing at the British Open (from Ben Hendel). … New kits for Everton (from Andrew Rader). … Longtime Uni Watch contributor Ryan Connelly has started a new blog devoted to photos of hand-painted signs in Pittsburgh. “Old, new, ghost, interesting, some (very little) graffiti, etc.,” he says. “Going to try to capture as much as I can, but take my time. Maybe post one or two new pics a day.” … Here are New Zealand’s Olympic uniforms (from Tom Mulgrew). … The Saints have a pretty funny weightlifting/fitness logo (from Russell Goutierez). … New kits for Tottenham Hotspur. “It’s Under Armour’s first foray into English soccer and I’m quite impressed,” says Mike Guterman. … Yesterday I mentioned the bat-handled shovels at the Cubs’ training facility groundbreaking in Mesa, Arizona. That prompted a note from longtime reader Randy Policar, who, it turns out, works for the city of Mesa. “It was my idea to do the shovelbats for the groundbreaking,” he says. “I worked with Louisville Slugger and told them what we wanted to make. They made the bats and left on a knob at the end for us to attach the shovelhead to. We went to a local Home Depot, bought shovels, cut off the handles, spray-painted them blue ,and attached them to the knob on the end of the bat (after some measuring and cutting). We made them in the woodshop of one of our local museums. Only 20 were made.” … Here’s something new to me (although maybe not to you): poolball, which is a combination of pool and soccer (from Markus Kamp). … Here’s a good slideshow of USA Olympic opening ceremony outfits through the years. No word on how many of the designs were made in China. … If you’ve always wanted to see a visual timeline of LeBron James’s headbands, today is your lucky day (from Rex Henry). … Hoo baby: Back in 1956, baseball was a demonstration sport at the Olympics, and the Aussies wore solid green uniforms. Sign me up! (From M.J. Viquez.) … As you know, nobody is officially dead until the New York Times says so. So here’s their obit for the Electric Football guy.
Get well soon, Jim — you’re in our thoughts today. And don’t let this keep you from that U.S. 6 trip!