Paul here, back in the saddle after a month away. It was good to have a break, but it’s even better to be back.
Day Four of the Uni Watch Power Rankings is now up for your enjoyment (or vitriol, as the case might be). Meanwhile, lots of you have had questions and comments about the Power Rankings, so today I’ve prepared an FAQ-ish entry to address some of the most common queries that have come up this week:
Why did you do a big list? I thought you didn’t like lists.
It’s true that I generally avoid lists and rankings, because I think a list-based approach to, well, anything is too easy, too lazy. But when one of my ESPN editors proposed this project to me, I embraced it right away, because it’s not just any old list — it’s the list, the ur-list. I liked the audaciousness of it, the apples/oranges/kumquats-ness of it. Along the way, I learned a few things, because the project forced me to think about certain aspects of the uni-verse in ways that I hadn’t before.
Is each team’s ranking based on some sort of numerical point total?
No. Although I occasionally wrote that a team “earned bonus points” or “lost points” for this or that, those terms are just colloquialisms. There was no actual points system, no checklist, no mathematical formula, no algorithm. There was just my opinion.
Once you actually sat down to begin the project, how did you do it? Like, did you arrange 122 index cards on a bulletin board or what?
In retrospect, index cards on a board, or maybe Post-its on a wall, would have been a good approach, but I didn’t think of that. Instead, since I knew the project was going to be spread out over the course of five days, I set up a blank chart on my computer — 122 rows by five columns, with each column representing one of the five ranking quintiles (1-25, 26-50, 51-75, 76-100, and 101-122). Then I put every team in one of the five columns, based solely on my gut feeling of which quintile it belonged in. That was my starting point — I wanted to see if the teams ended up roughly evenly distributed across the five columns. For the most part, they did.
Then I began looking at photos to make sure that my gut feelings matched up with reality. This led to reassigning certain teams to a higher or lower quintile, until I was satisfied that each team was in its proper grouping area.
Then I started to arrange the teams within each quintile. Doing the best and the worst seemed easiest, so I did those two quintiles first. Then second-best and second-worst, and then the middle. During all of this, I kept looking at photos, which led to a countless small ranking adjustments. Frankly, I could have kept tweaking the rankings forever, but at some point I had to say, “Okay, that’s it.”
The last step was writing the little comments for each team, which was a shitload of work. As any writer will tell you, writing short is way, way harder than writing long.
Why did you format each segment from top to bottom, instead of putting the worst teams on top?
We thought about doing it that way. In the end, we decided that there was a lot of symbolic value in having the No. 1 team at the very top of the chart and the No. 122 team at the very bottom. So we formatted each individual quintile in ascending order, even though the quintiles themselves are being rolled out in descending order. I agree that it’s an imperfect format; maybe we’ll change it when we update the rankings.
Hey, speaking of updating the rankings, when will that happen?
Next year at this same time, at the latest. And maybe sooner, if events warrant. I confess I’m a bit spooked about this — like, what am I going to write for all the teams that make no uni changes? Hmmm.
Why didn’t you include MLS teams?
Because (a) I’m too soccer-ignorant to write authoritatively about MLS uniforms and (b) like it or not, MLS is not on the same level as the Big Four. I don’t mean that as a knock; it’s just reality.
How could you rank the Edmonton Oilers so low? That’s crazy!
The consensus among readers seems to be that the Oilers, ranked at No. 104, have been my biggest miscall so far. And frankly, upon reflection, I agree — I got very hung up on the fact that their logo (which is the centerpiece of all their jerseys) is badly outdated, but I probably overreacted to that. I still think they have some aesthetic issues to address, but they deserved to be ranked higher.
How could you rank [some team] so low, and [some other team] so high? That’s crazy!
I’m sure persuasive arguments could be made for revising certain teams’ rankings. Aside from the Oilers, though, I’m pretty comfortable with where everyone landed.
Why did you rank the Nets based on their New Jersey uniforms?
There was no other choice. As of today, that’s still their uni set. I’ve seen the new uniforms that’ll be unveiled in September, but (a) I’m not allowed to discuss them until the unveiling, and (b) I only saw them once and don’t remember enough details to fully evaluate them. This was just an unfortunate but unavoidable case of bad timing.
This whole thing is bogus, because you’re biased against some things (purple, BFBS, etc.) and biased in favor of other things (old-school design, green, etc.). You can’t have legitimacy with bias!
This is basically an argument against the whole notion of aesthetic criticism. Every music critic has a baseline set of standards, likes, and dislikes; every restaurant critic has a baseline set of standards, likes, and dislikes; and so on (and I should know, because I’ve worked as a music critic and a restaurant critic). The point is not whether I have certain aesthetic predispositions or tastes; the point is how I harness and articulate those tastes in the pursuit of my work.
Now, if you don’t like the whole idea of aesthetic criticism, then the Uni Watch Power Rankings aren’t for you (and neither is Uni Watch itself). And that’s fine. But it also means you’re rejecting the entire world of aesthetic critique. That’s fine too, but it means you and I are living on different planets, so maybe we shouldn’t have lunch.
As for the term “legitimacy,” I honestly don’t know what that means for a situation like this. The Power Rankings are no more (or less) “legitimate” than anything else I’ve ever written. Everyone is free to embrace them or dismiss them (or, most likely, something in between those two poles), just like anything else I write.
Your rankings are so predictable. Everyone knows you like [whatever] and don’t like [whatever]. Where’s the element of surprise?
No offense, but my job here is not to surprise anyone. My job is to offer my honest assessments. If you’ve followed my work long enough to have a sense of my tastes, that’s flattering — thanks. But you’re basically accusing me of being consistent (which is also flattering, actually, so thanks again).
Keep in mind, incidentally, that the Power Rankings are also being read by lots of people who’ve never even heard of Uni Watch before this week. So for them, there are plenty of surprises.
The term “Power Rankings” implies the use of objective criteria, like the criteria used for ESPN.com’s MLB Power Rankings, NFL Power Rankings, etc. How can you call it “Power Rankings” if it’s based on one person’s subjective opinions?
We used the term “Power Rankings” because (a) it already has currency with ESPN.com readers and (b) it’s fun. Obviously, a uniform doesn’t have any “power,” so our use of the term “Power Rankings” admittedly entails a bit of creative license. If you think this somehow ruins or compromises the project, that’s certainly your prerogative.
For what it’s worth, I think the more “objective” power rankings lists are pretty silly too. Which team is the most “powerful”? The one that wins the last game of the season.
Are you aware that Dave Dameshek at NFL.com ripped off your idea? How can he get away with that?!
I heard this from a lot of people. The timing was certainly suspicious: Dameshek’s rankings went live last Friday afternoon; mine went live the following Monday morning.
My first reaction, as I posted in the comments a few days ago, was, “Eh, whatever. The concept of ranking all 122 uniform sets isn’t proprietary or exclusive. Dameshek’s free to do it, and so is anyone else.” (Frankly, the bigger surprise is that nobody had ever done it before.)
I’ve since been told by people who listen to Dameshek’s podcast (which I’ve never heard myself) that he announced his project back in July. So the fact that two such similar projects rolled out at almost the same moment appears to be a genuine coincidence. Or in the words of reader Dave Gilmore, who says he’s a fan of both Uni Watch and Dameshek, “I believe this is an Armageddon/Deep Impact situation.”
(Incidentally, several of Dameshek’s readers have accused me of ripping off his idea. A few of these people have peppered their emails with comments like “Leave this stuff to the professionals” and “You wish you had his job.” Uh, right.)
That’s about it, at least from my end. Do you have additional questions that I didn’t address? Feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll do my best to respond. Also, I’ll be doing a live web chat on ESPN tomorrow at 3pm Eastern.
Duck Season: Oregon’s uni unveiling yesterday pretty much confirmed what we already knew, so no biggie either way. Personally, I always liked the winged jerseys from the past few years (and I said so right from the start), but I don’t care for this feathered-shoulder design at all — looks way too cartoon-ish to me and feels like overkill. Disappointing.
Looking forward to seeing how many helmets they end up rolling out. Until then, though, yesterday’s announcement was dog bites man.
Membership update: A new batch of cards has been added to the membership card gallery (including Seth Wiley’s handsome Kansas basketball treatment, shown at right). The printed/laminated versions of these cards should mail out either tomorrow or Monday. My thanks to everyone for their patience as we caught up with the flood of “Get in before the price hike” orders.
As always, you can get your own membership card by signing up here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Ah, back to the Ticker after a month away from it. Where shall we start? How about this: College football logos are now available on Pop-Tarts (from Dave Wilson). … High school football zebras in Oregon can use blue penalty flags — to promote prostate cancer awareness, of course — for games in mid-September (from Jeremy Brahm). … A kindergartner in Oklahoma was forced by his principal to turn his Michigan shirt inside-out (rare non-hockey contribution from John Muir). … Bit of a tiff over the city logo in Steubenville, Ohio, which is facing a legal challenge because it contains Christian symbology (from Yancy Yeater). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: More on the video-game leak of the Knicks’ new uniforms here. … And while we’re at it, here’s a video leak of the Nets’ new uni. That’s pretty close to what I recall being shown at the NBA offices last winter. … Sex columnist and gay-rights activist Dan Savage and marriage equality opponent Brian Brown squared off last week in a dinner table debate on the subject of gay marriage. The uni-notable aspect of this is that Savage chose to wear a T-shirt featuring a football helmet with a unicorn logo for the occasion. You can see video of the whole debate here. … The Memphis Redbirds will uniforms honoring a local children’s hospital this Saturday (from Kevin Eckhoff). … Louisiana-Lafayette football will wear a memorial decal showing a girl riding her bicycle, in memory of a student who was murdered back in May. She was last seen riding off on her bike (from Jarrad Tauzin). … NFL headset technology is making the leap from analog to digital (from Jarrod Leder). … The Seahawks will wear white over gray tomorrow. The gray still just looks like it needs a laundering to me (from Jerry Gardner, Jr.). … Rangers starter Derek Holland, who’s usually a pajamist, wore (backwards) stirrups last night. … Speaking of the Rangers, remember those horrific two-tone helmets they briefly considered wearing? They apparently saved them, because now they’re showing up at youth camps (from Nolan Brett). … The Phils and Reds wore throwbacks last night. … Ian Stewart designed his own “I Still Call It Pac Bell” T-shirt (and, as you can see, is a card-carrying member of Uni Watch). … Hmmm, not bad for the first day back. It’s like riding a bike.
I’ve said it a few times already but it bears repeating: Doubleplusthanks to Phil and all his contributors for their great work over the past month. And Phil has asked me to thank all of you who had kind words for him in the comments yesterday. Uni Watch: It’s one big lovefest (at least until the next debate over gray facemasks).