I may have been the first writer to cover uniforms and logos as a legitimate journalism beat, but there were several web-based pioneers who were obsessively documenting the uni and logo scenes well before I got started. One of the first, and almost certainly the most successful, is Chris Creamer, the founder of SportsLogos.Net.
Founded in 1997 (two years before the first Uni Watch column appeared), SportsLogos.Net began as a simple compendium of logos and then spawned what remains the web’s liveliest set of uni-driven discussion boards. More recently, Chris has upgraded the site so that it’s now geared more toward breaking news.
SportsLogos.Net has its limitations (I’m sure Chris feels similarly about Uni Watch), but I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for what Chris has accomplished and the passion with which he’s pursued it (I’d like to think those feelings are mutual as well). Judging by his site’s Alexa ranking, he does significantly more traffic than Uni Watch — much of it, I’m fairly certain, from those discussion boards — and good for him. He deserves it.
Chris and I have never met, or even spoken on the phone (the interview you’re about to read was conducted via e-mail), but we’ve been in touch periodically over the years — sometimes to help each other out with a question or a favor — and I’ve always found him to be a decent guy. With his site evolving into a much more wide-ranging project than it had once been, I thought this would be a good time to do something I should have done a long time ago: interview him. He readily agreed. Here we go:
Uni Watch: First, please tell me some basics about yourself: How old are you and where do you live?
Chris Creamer: I’m 30 years old [the photo shown above is from Chris's 30th birthday — PL] and have recently moved from Toronto to a small and very quiet town about an hour outside the city.
UW: Do you make a living from your web site? If not, what do you do for a living?
CC: Up until a year ago I was a full-time web developer for a Toronto-based media outlet. After eight years there, I decided it was time to take a chance and left to become the Internet’s “other” full-time logo and uniform reporter.
Making a decent living from the at-home job I love would be a dream come true. The ads running on the site basically take care of the site’s high server bills, and I have taken on some freelance gigs in the last few months — doing blog posts for other sites — to help with the bills when necessary.
UW: Are you married? Any kids? What does your family think of your logo and uni work?
CC: My wife and I have been married nearly three years now; we met on a popular online dating site and were actually included as one of their “success stories” in their marketing materials shortly after the wedding. They sent us His and Hers baseball jerseys as thank you gifts. Mine reads “GROOM ’10” across the back. Our wedding featured all the groomsmen wearing various baseball and hockey team logos as cufflinks, and the reception was interrupted by a “Seventh inning stretch” rendition of “OK Blue Jays.”
As of today we have no kids, but we’re currently expecting our first child — a boy. He’s due in a few short weeks and already has his first Blue Jays jersey, crested with his name and year of birth, waiting for him in his crib. I also have a wiener dog named Howard.
My family has always been supportive of the logo/uni site, even from a young age with my parents. My dad and I were (and still are) both big nerds for computers, sports, and history — the site is a perfect combination of the three. My wife has been very patient and supportive as well, she’s even allowed me to miss family events if it clashes with some team unveiling a new logo or uniform.
UW: When you were growing up, were you a big uniform and logo fan? Were you one of those kids who doodled logos in their notebooks when they were supposed to be taking notes in class?
CC: I was a huge logo and uniform fan growing up. I remember trying for hours to decipher what that old-timey Maple Leafs patch on their jersey was on my set of 1991 Pro Set hockey cards (turns out it was a Harold Ballard memorial patch). I kept all my school notebooks and they’re full of all sorts of sports team logo doodles in the margins and a lot of stick figures wearing team jerseys and caps. It’s amazing I made it through with the marks I did. [You can see more of Chris's childhood doodlings here, here, and here. — PL]
UW: Can you think of any particular childhood moment that captures your youthful enthusiasm for sports design?
CC: At a young age, maybe seven, I started to create fake sports leagues with the rosters filled with family members and other kids in the neighborhood. These leagues were complete with fake teams with fake nicknames, logos, and uniforms. I would make up newspapers and trading cards and draw photos of the fake action with the team uniforms carefully detailed to the point where, for example, games in the league final included special patches on the uniforms. Championship banners hung from the rafters of my bedroom celebrating the winners of this league. My parents must have thought I was nuts.
When I was in the fourth grade, my teachers noticed I had really improved in my art skills. To encourage this, my parents took me out and bought me a bevy of art supplies, sketch books, paints, pencils, you name it. Instead of using those supplies to further polish my skills, I used them to do league-wide logo sheets, team logo timelines, concepts for teams that didn’t yet exist. For years my parents had a Florida Panthers logo I sketched framed and hanging up in our living room. I mean, c’mon that was a tough logo to draw!
UW: Did you play youth sports? If so, were you very particular about how you wore your uniform?
CC: I played baseball from ages 9 to 15 and wasn’t particular about how I wore the uniform, say to the point of high socks or stirrups. But I did get excited about things like every team wearing a special white cap one week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the league, or even getting my mom to sew on a playoff patch they handed out to us before the tournament (no, we weren’t supposed to sew them on the uniform but I couldn’t pass up the chance). I even played one season longer than I originally planned to, because my team was wearing a team anniversary patch that next season.
UW: What about now — do you currently play sports, and do you have any specific uniform protocols?
CC: Not much of an athlete these days. But when that rare time comes when I hit the ice for some shiny, I’ll only wear a jersey that accurately matches the color of my gloves, helmet, pants, and socks, the same way the pro club does.
UW: Do you collect jerseys, or any other sports-related stuff?
CC: I have a closet of about 65 jerseys from all over the sports spectrum, but mostly hockey and baseball. My first jersey was a Florida Panthers road jersey, a Christmas gift from my parents in 1993. I’ll collect anything with a logo on it, really — pennants, caps, bobbleheads, pins. Hell, I even have a small collection of team-branded garden gnomes.
UW: What are some of your favorite and least-favorite uniforms? And are there any uniform elements (baseball stirrups, hockey socks, whatever) that you’re particularly fixated on?
CC: I’m a sucker for uniforms that are simple with a lot of history behind them. In hockey it’d be ones like the Habs red, Red Wings white, Blackhawks red; in baseball, seeing the Yankees pinstripes in person is always a special treat. Outside those traditional teams, I do love the Washington Capitals road (white) uniform, and I really miss the Tampa Bay Devil Rays road greys from 2001-04 — I thought that was a terribly underrated set, and so much more enjoyable to the eye than the bore they now wear away from home.
If I had to choose one element I’m fixated on more than the others, it’d be the boring choice: the actual jersey itself.
UW: You started your site in 1997, right? That’s two years before I started Uni Watch (although I didn’t become aware of your site until later, I think around 2000). At the time, there was very little uni-related content on the web. How did you get the idea to start your site?
CC: When our family signed on to the Internet for the first time in 1996, the first thing I had to figure out was, “Just how exactly these websites work and how do I make one myself?” My first site looked a lot like most other sites did back then — a random collection of things that I personally enjoyed. But I felt an obligation to represent where I was from, so I included sections on local sports teams, photographs of my hometown, and a small section of Canadian football logos (despite my lack of interest in the league itself). About a year later I grew tired of that page and, based off the suggestion of my dad, dedicated my next site to nothing but sports logos.
UW: Were there any early hurdles or difficulties you faced in getting the site up and running?
CC: I lacked both money and Internet etiquette in those early days.
I originally would hotlink to logo images on other people’s websites — not because I wanted to save on bandwidth but because I didn’t know any better. Over time, this would lead to entire leagues becoming broken images, angry emails from web site owners about their inflated hosting bills, and one time someone even replaced all their American Basketball League logos (a women’s league in the late ’90s) with pornographic images, giving viewers of my site an eyeful. Lesson learned.
The first several incarnations of the site were all hosted on free hosting services like Tripod, Angelfire, Geocities, etc., and they would just pepper the site with pop-up ads, making them difficult to navigate. It wasn’t until we got bigger and started having people donate hosting space that we were able to move away from this.
UW: The name of your site refers to sports logos, not uniforms (although it has content relating to both, obviously). Do you draw a strong distinction between your feelings about logos and your feelings about uniforms? Were you originally only interested in logos?
CC: The original idea of the site was to have a collection of sports logos from all around the world, throughout history. I didn’t consider having uniforms up there because the only way to show them — in my 14-year-old, early-Internet mind — was via photographs. The idea of re-creating the uniform electronically on a template never occurred to me. I don’t draw any distinctions between my feelings toward the two categories. My interests have always lied equally between team uniforms and logos — love ’em both.
UW: What were your original goals, if any, for the site?
CC: The only goal I had was to amass as many logos as I possibly could, mostly for my own enjoyment. Frankly, the idea that the site could become popular in any way just wasn’t even a consideration.
UW: The site’s discussion forums are extremely lively. Did you always have a discussion forum included on the site, or did you add that at some point along the way?
CC: I added the community forums two years after the site launched. Before that, Guestbook entries were the only way people really interacted. It was originally added because I was simply interested in the technology and code required to get a discussion forum going. But once people started participating and it started to grow and grow, I really got to enjoy meeting others, actually having intelligent, in-depth conversations about a topic that few others in my personal life could even begin to understand. Seeing that I wasn’t the only logo and uniform obsessed nerd out there in the world was a real shock.
UW: How much do you personally follow all the forum threads? Like, are you constantly keeping track of everything all day long, or do you just check in occasionally, or what?
CC: I find myself unable to check the forums as often as I once was able to, I look in maybe three or four times a week and see what’s going on. Since I’ve taken to running the site full-time, I’ve been spending most of my hours doing the news section, adding logos to the site, improving the code, building new site features, doing our social media accounts. There’s a lot happening.
UW: How aggressively are the discussion threads moderated, and who handles that?
CC: We have a friggin’ amazing team of moderators and administrators who take care of issues like spammers and trolls. If someone’s a pain in the ass after a few warnings, they’re banished. We also have a set of separate mods who do a good job handling the fantasy leagues that run within the site. They all do a fantastic job, and the forums would eventually crumble without them volunteering their time and energy.
UW: Have you had any trouble with recurrent trolls? (I have a few on my site. One of them is really persistent and has sort of raised trolling to the level of online performance art, but most of the others are kind of sad.)
CC: Oh absolutely. You’ll find that over time many trolls will actually stand out as memories you just laugh about while sharing the more ridiculous moments you had with them with other board members. However, you do get your share of the really sick people out there. More than once I’ve gotten phone calls to the house and e-mails threatening me because a member has been banned or a certain item wasn’t correct on the site.
UW: Over the past year or so, you’ve made some major upgrades to your site. You’ve modernized the home page, expanded your coverage, brought in a bunch of contributors, and so on. You’ve also become much more of a news site, instead of just a fan’s site. What’s the thinking behind all of this? Have you done all the design upgrades yourself, or have you had outside help?
CC: Adding news was something I’ve always been interested in doing and this stems from always wanting to be a sports journalist while growing up. When it came time to give the site a makeover, bringing a news feel to it was a high priority to me. Now that I’m doing the site full-time, I knew I’d have the time and resources to actually keep it up to date, while doing some good old-fashioned research to make it worthwhile. The site was redesigned by a couple of graphic designers I worked with at my previous employer.
UW: How have you found your contributing writers? Like, are they people who’ve shown themselves to be good writers on your discussion forums, or what?
CC: For the most part, yes, many of our contributing writers are people like JR Francis, who showed he could write a good post on the forums and then I got to know him better through social media channels over the years. Writing skills and knowledge of the subject are obviously very important, but so is being reliable and trustworthy. Other writers have approached me offering their services, and if I like what they do, I’ll usually give them a shot.
UW: Have you ever been approached by a sports media company (Yahoo Sports, the Sporting News, etc.) that wanted to partner with you, or have you write for them, or anything like that?
CC: I was approached by theScore.com, which is the site behind an all-sports cable channel here in Canada, about a year ago. I do a guest uniform- and logo-related post on their baseball blog every few weeks.
UW: Have you ever been approached by an outside party who wanted to invest in, or even purchase, your site? If not, would you be open to such overtures? (For the record, I don’t mean to suggest that I’m interested — believe me, I have my hands full with my own site!)
CC: People have made offers to purchase SportsLogos.Net but never anything close to a number worth taking seriously. I’m not looking to get out from running or working on the site — I love it — but if someone offered me enough money that my family and I could go through the rest of our lives without working ever again, I’d be a fool not to consider it.
UW: Uniform and logo changes used to happen fairly infrequently, and often they weren’t very well reported. Now they happen fast and furious, and they’re all over the web, all over Twitter, etc. Has this made it harder and more stressful to keep your site up to date? Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Enough already”?
CC: When it’s an actual change to a new logo or a full-time new uniform set — say a home and road uniform, or even an alternate — I’m okay with that. It’s a lot of these one-game-only specialty jerseys that I find myself getting tired of reporting and chronicling. I know it’s the minor leagues and that’s what they do, but look through some of our AHL team pages and you’ll see what I mean. Halloween jerseys, Thanksgiving jerseys, Christmas jerseys, New Year’s Eve jerseys, cancer jerseys, military jerseys, St Patrick’s Day jerseys, etc., etc., etc.
UW: Can you foresee a day when you won’t want to do this any more? Or do you think you’ll always want to keep the site going pretty much indefinitely?
CC: It’s hard for me to imagine life without SportsLogos.Net. It’s been a daily part of me since I was in the ninth grade. Having said that, I have no idea what changes lie ahead. With my first-born on the way, that could really alter my outlook and my priorities — it’s entirely possible I simply won’t have the time or energy to keep the site as up-to-date as it should be while looking after my children. I hope I’m still able to continue contributing as much as I have been. I truly enjoy it.
UW: I’ve always respected what you do, and our communications over the years have always been friendly. I don’t see our sites as enemies or rivals, I don’t view you as a competitor, and I certainly think the uni-verse is big enough for both of us (and plenty of others, for that matter). What about you? Do you see Uni Watch as a rival? Be honest!
CC: I’ve never had any legitimate issues with you beyond odd flashes of jealousy — “How come he got invited to that event and I didn’t?” or “I wish our Twitter could be in the new Madden game!” (Seriously, congrats on that, that’s friggin awesome!) I only consider your site a (friendly) rival when it comes to breaking news (which is a helluva fine line to dance along when it comes to keeping leagues and teams happy, as I imagine you’ve experienced). It’s nice to be first with a leaked logo or whatever, but aside from that I think ultimately we really help each other out a lot by finding little details the other may have missed. In the end, between the two of our sites, the user gets all the information they could ever possibly want and probably even more.
UW: My site is very much an extension of my personality. But you don’t have as strong a personal presence on your site. I assume that’s a conscious choice, yes?
CC: Aside from my name all over the title? :) But you’re right, it might lead back to the days of the schoolyard kids saying I talk about myself or brag too much, since then I mostly just keep my personal stories, my thoughts, and some of my opinions to myself (unless I’m asked, of course), out of fear of coming across negatively.
UW: What are you into besides sports? Any hobbies, obsessions, etc.? Do you have any other web sites about other things?
CC: I’m big into flags, which if you think about it are kinda just logos for countries. I have a large flagpole in our backyard and I’ll put up flags based on current events, holidays, etc. Very visible within the neighborhood. The neighbors either enjoy it, don’t notice it, or think I’m crazy. I’m fine with any of those three. In honor of the new Pope, I’ve had Vatican and Argentina flags flying together for the past week.
Other interests/hobbies include travel, photography (which I’ve started incorporating into the site oh so slowly), collecting vinyl (nothing better than listening to an old record to start your day), I’m a big history geek outside of sports as well. Lots of little obsessions, I’m probably forgetting a few.
The logos site is currently the only site I’m running. Over the years I’ve had sites dedicated to my sports photos but in the end decided to just focus all my energy on the one that actually gets traffic.
UW: Anything else about your site or your work that you want to discuss? If so, feel free to address that here. The floor is yours.
CC: We’re always adding new features and focusing on making the database at SportsLogos.Net as complete as possible. Teams on the site will be getting photo galleries (here’s the Blue Jays one, for example), which will be focusing the uniforms, logos, and patches in the photos more than who’s actually in the photo, allowing you to actually see what that uniform looked like when it was in use. We’re also in the process of bringing back our annual logo guides, which showed every team’s primary logo in any given league and season. Plus all sorts of other surprises we’re not quite set to announce yet.
And there you have it. Big thanks to Chris for sharing his thoughts and stories (and big congrats to him for cutting the cord and working for himself, which is a great accomplishment).
My thanks to everyone who sent birthday greetings yesterday — I was overwhelmed and humbled by the avalanche of kind thoughts and words. I was out of the house all day and night, so no Ticker today. Sorry about that, but I’ll try to include most of your submissions in Monday’s Ticker, okay? Okay.