[Editor's Note: The good news is that yesterday's surgery went well. The bad news is that my wrist now hurts. Like, a lot. (Apparently that's what happens when they screw screws into bone.) So as I settle into my post-operative painkiller phase, Uni Watch intern emeritus Vince Grzegorek is pinch-hitting for me today with a story relating to his hometown of Cleveland. Enjoy. — PL]
By Vince Grzegorek
Since the 2008-2009 season, the Cleveland Cavs have introduced a new, mash-up uni design each year. They call this the “CavFanatic” jersey, named for a Cavs-centric social site that went live around the same time. Results have been mixed — everyone seems to love orange and blue; no one seems to like when the wine and gold delved into a black period. They wear the Frankenstein get-ups two or so games a year, fans line up to buy some new gear, and we all get a quirky little alternate to gaze at.
With Paul on the shelf, I called up Cavs marketing VP Tracy Marek, who’s in charge of the uniform choices, to see how this all came about and see if Uni Watch could yell at her in the public interest for some of her poorer choices. Our brief conversation, which I promise only involves Dan Gilbert twice, one rejected submission by yours truly, and minimal corporatespeak, went as follows:
Uni Watch: Whose idea was this? And don’t give me “It was a team effort.”
Tracy Marek: We are constantly being challenged to try and think outside of the box. We had been wearing the Hardwood Classics uniforms, which were pretty popular with the team, so that was part of it. I know you don’t want the “team effort” thing, and it can be me, or it can be someone else who just has an idea. With this, I think where it started was Dan [Gilbert.] Not necessarily this idea specifically, but he asks questions like, “What would happen if?” and you just start going a little further down the line. So we just took what we did anyway, with the gold uniforms, and flipped the colors, just played with it and flipped it blue. We just had fun with it, but always try to pay sincere and deep respect to tradition, and it was never our intention to wear them very often. Why not?
UW: The designs got a little more bold over the years. Is that just a product of having a limited, albeit rich history to delve into?
TM: We did a dark navy, like the Larry Nance years, and flipped from blue to wine. We did one from the Austin Carr years, and the navy secondary road ones we launched back in 2005-2006, and instead of block lettering, made it a little thinner and flipped that to black. [The latter being the most regrettable version thus far. — VG]
UW: Any concepts that never made it past the drawing board? Too atrocious?
TM: No, no, no. Again, we started this as just a concept, so the ideas can come from anywhere. When it began, these uniforms were very clearly under the premise of flipping retro uniforms to more updated colors. We had been so aggressive in wearing the Hardwood Classics, and all of a sudden we stopped doing Hardwood Classics. The process doesn’t happen overnight. Getting them ready, getting them in the store, and remembering that it’s not just at Quicken Loans Arena, they’re international.
UW: Has Dan Gilbert ever shot down one of your proposals? Seems like a pretty hands-on guy with nary a worry about speaking his mind. Then again, he likes Comic Sans, so maybe he just likes anything.
TM: No, he and the league have been very supportive. We just say to ourselves, “What would the fans be interested in?” and give it a whirl. Ultimately, Dan’s organizations are very collaborative, and he provides a very good runway for his creative people to create. Basically it’s, “Why can’t we?” and “Why wouldn’t you?” All of the uniforms have done really well.
UW: The jerseys coincided with the launch of the CavFanatic social site for Cavs fans. You should let them vote on what they want to see.
TM: Right now, I think the next horizon in all of this is how to get the fans more involved. Maybe voting. Why not?
TM: There’s a couple retros we haven’t worn. We don’t have the metallic gold/wine with the rib under the chestline, and we haven’t worn the ones from the Z era.
UW: You saying no one wants to see that, right? Besides me, of course.
UW: You want to let us in on what the CavFanatic design will be for this season?
TM: We’re actually not wearing them this year. We wanted to focus on the brand-new gold uniforms.
UW: So the rumors that the design would spell CAVS with each letter in a different typography from previous eras are not only wrong, they’re really wrong.
TM: We fiddled with that design once. There’s a local designer, Greg Vlosich from GV Art, who sells that shirt, and we absolutely brainstormed that one.
UW: So next season? The deadline to get everything through the league process has to be approaching. When do you need to have everything finalized and how many options are still on the table?
TM: Yeah, it’s coming up pretty soon. Right now we’re fiddling with artwork. When something sticks, it sticks.
By Brinke Guthrie
With PL on the DL, we’re back with a bonus edition of Collector’s Corner. Here we go:
• Let’s start off with this alleged NFL dress shirt, an Etsy item submitted in by reader Jess Helty. Is it me, or does it look like it was stitched together from some of those 1970s Sears NFL curtains?
• Mike “I never met an auction I didn’t like” Clary sent in this “Ken Stabler” action figure auction. “Wasn’t Stabler left handed?” asks Mike. Yup. But this action figure is actually Bob Griese (who was right-handed), not Stabler. Now. this action figure of Jim Zorn, they did mess up — Zorn was a southpaw.
• With the NHL locked out, this 1960s metal Stanley Cup hockey game might be as close as you get to the Winter Classic. Just haul this baby into your snowy back yard and you’re set. And if the NBA is more your speed, you can have at it.
• Is there anything not to like in this 1968 press photo of John Hadl? The stripes, the number, the decal, the single bar—throwback perfection.
• Here’s a nice 1970s Blue Jays scarf, sponsored by Sunkist.
• For some reason, these game-worn late 1970s/early 1980s NBA All-Star shorts remind me of Evel Knievel. Am I right?
• Absolutely sensational cover artwork on this 1968 NFL Autograph Yearbook.
• And from reader Warren Junium, here’s a 1930 Notre Dame championship banner.
ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, here’s my annual college hoops season-preview column.
Sorry, no Ticker today. Thanks for understanding. See you next week.