In Which I Have One of Those Great ‘Aha!’ Moments

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Up until a few days ago, if you had asked me what a “head badge” is, I would have guessed something like what you see at right — the badge that police officers often wear on their hats.

But that was before reader Stephen Walker taught me that a head badge is that logo plate thingie on the front tube of a bike. I’d seen them before, of course, but I didn’t know the proper term for them and had never really given them much thought. (Although I bike just about every single day in Prospect Park, I’m not really a biker guy; just a guy who bikes. Many of cycling culture’s nuances escape my notice.)

“I have cleaned and repaired a couple of older bikes and I have always loved the metal plaques fastened to the frames, which give the models distinct identities,” Stephen wrote. He went on:

Nowadays the head badge is usually identical to the company logo and is either painted on the frame or incorporated into the frame in some way. However, if you go back far enough you get all these wonderfully unique metal badges, or occasionally decals. There are some really great designs out there, often with quirky company names on them, like Rivendell Bicycle Works. Unfortunately, I don’t really know much about the history of head badges or what they are worth as collector’s items these days, but I did find some cool galleries if you want to check them out.

The galleries Stephen’s referring to are here (that page mostly shows the head badges by themselves, removed from the frame) and here (that one shows the head badges in situ). Lots of interesting stuff in both sites, as you can see in this very small sampling:

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Nice, right? I love it when something becomes a little design subculture unto itself. Kinda reminds me of produce labels and typewriter ribbon tins (the latter of which I’ve thought about collecting for quite a few years now, although I’ve so far resisted the urge), both of which could have been blandly functional but instead developed their own design protocols with very high visual standards, just like head badges.

As it turns out, there’s a brisk trade in head badges on eBay. Most of them aren’t too pricey, either. But because they’re curved, they’re a little tricky to display — you can’t just tack them up flush against the wall or whatever. So collectors apparently tend to house in display cases with vertical columns.

All of which reminds me: You know those metal plates/badges/etc. on old appliances? One time, years ago, I saw a girl wearing a jeans jacket covered with those. Like, instead of cloth patches, she’d used those appliance thingies. I really liked that. It’d be cool to do that with head badges, but again, the curvature issue would cause problems.

Anyway: head badges — they’re cool. And until this week, I’d never devoted a single brain cell to them. Major thanks to Stephen for opening up this new aesthetic realm for me.

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Uni Watch News Ticker: The new NHL all-star jerseys are very similar to last season’s design. … New stadium-centennial patch for the Red Sox. Kinda bogus to be wearing it on the road jersey, though. … Yesterday I paid a visit to the NBA offices, where I saw all the new uniforms for the upcoming season (and also posed next to a Lego version of Kevin Garnett). Can’t share any info or images yet, but I can tell you that many of this season’s throwbacks are really good. … Speaking of the NBA, I believe we’d seen the Kings’ new black alt in a video game leak, but here it is for real. … Don’t think I’ve ever seen a UCLA insignia styled like this one. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Here’s an excellent piece on the guy who designed the Royals’ logo. … Here’s a breakdown of the top-selling NHL jerseys this holiday season. … A retired Philadelphia cop is in hot water for participating in Occupy rallies while wearing his old uniform. … Ryan Perkins notes that Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes has had some serious padding on his left ankle. That’s his non-kicking foot — odd. … Major pub(l)ic service by my old zine pal Steve Mandich, who scanned most of Tony Millionaire’s old “Batty” comics from the mid-1990s. … While he was at it, Steve also scanned a ton of Pacific northwest media guides, pocket schedules, etc.Todd Droz decided to give his snowboarding helmet a Steelers theme. “Obviously, the Tennessee ‘power T’ doesn’t belong, but I didn’t want to take that off since I am also a fan/alum of Tennessee and it doesn’t bother me there.” … Here are all of Boise State’s uniform combinations for this season (big thanks to Geoff Baker. … Shops in St. Louis are giving away Albert Pujols merch (thanks, Brinke). … Check out this great shot of Lefty Grove during a 1931 tour of Japan (major thanks to Bruce Menard). … Metallica was selling some Giants-themed merch at a show in San Francisco a few nights ago (from Daniel Moraine). … Ryan Dowgin found a 1932 shot of Georgia Tech halfback Pat Barron with what appears to be his socks pulled down over his shoes.

And There Isn't Even Any Blood on It

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Over the past few days I’ve made repeated mention of the three-part New York Times series on the life and death of NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard. (If you haven’t read it already, start here, and then you can use the links at the top of the page to access Parts Two and Three.) The series includes some uni-related notes, including the disconcerting revelation that Boogaard’s helmet sometimes wouldn’t fit because of the welts that had been raised on his head.

Boogaard was a huge guy — 6’7” by the time he was 17, in 1999. That year he played for the Prince George Cougars. According to the Times series, “[The team] was not quite prepared. Boogaard’s jersey had to have extra bands of cloth sewn to the bottom and at the end of the sleeves.”

Rather incredibly, Uni Watch reader Shane Barnes owns that very jersey — or at least one of the jerseys Boogaard wore that season. Here’s what he posted in the comments on Tuesday evening:

Amazing reading about Derek Boogaard. When he was traded here (Prince George is my hometown), I remember the jersey he had to wear, and that it did need some tailoring. A year or two after he was traded, I noticed that his game-worn jersey was for sale. Since I am a big guy (6’4″), I bought it. I still have it, and the stitching is pretty good, considering that they had to extend the sleeves and the length of the jersey to accommodate him.

What are the odds, right? I asked Shane if he could take some photos of the jersey, and he happily obliged. First, here are some basic shots of the front and back of the jersey:

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The jersey was plenty big, but not big enough for Boogaard. Here are some shots showing where they had to add some extra material:

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Just like Shane said, they did a pretty clean job. If you’re looking from a distance, there’s no hint that the jersey has been altered, except at the lower-left hemline, where a diagonal stripe was interrupted by the additional panel of fabric:

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Big thanks to Shane for sharing these photos with us, and for providing such an amazing coincidence.

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Boxing Day: I’m happy to report that my limited-edition Notre Dame promo box arrived yesterday at the home of its new owner (let’s call him John McDoe). John says he’s very pleased with his new acquisition, and the folks at Doctors Without Borders, who were on the receiving end of his generous donation, are extremely pleased too. Thanks again to everyone who participated in that auction.

In a vaguely related item, remember that Portland Timbers alternate kit that was unveiled on Tuesday? Reader Nick Orban got in touch yesterday afternoon with some additional details on that: “That kit is only available in a limited-edition boxed set with a new scarf that the Timbers have made. They have only made 2,012 boxes, all numbered, selling for $175.”

As if on cue, the FedEx guy showed up at my door about an hour later with my very own limited-edition Timbers jersey/scarf box:


What, no gold-plated chocolates? No Timbers-branded iPod? What a gyp! On the other hand, I’m a sucker for green and gold, so I guess I’ll let it slide.

Not sure what I’m gonna do with this one, although I think the scarf would look really cute on Uni Watch co-mascot Tucker. Hmmmmm….

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Culinary Corner: Growing up in a nonreligious Jewish family that usually lit Hanukkah candles (reflexive cultural obligation), sometimes had a Christmas tree (suburban assimilation, plus I nagged for it), and always celebrated on Dec. 25 (it’s my brother’s birthday), I found myself awash in conflicting signals each holiday season. Contributing to the confusion, deliciously so, were the tree-, moon-, and star-shaped cookies that my Mom made each December — sweet, buttery, and topped with colored sprinkles. She always called them Christmas cookies, which I never questioned. The cookies were just one of those annual holiday rites that I learned to take for granted.

A few years ago I was writing a story on holiday treats and interviewed my Mom regarding these cookies. Here’s what she told me:

They’re actually Danish vanilla cookies. Or at least that’s what the cookbook called them. It was the first cookbook I bought after getting married in 1948 — The New York Herald-Tribune Cookbook, I think. I don’t have the book anymore, but I saved a few of the recipes, including that one.

Honestly, I don’t remember how I ended up deciding that they’d be our Christmas cookies. I think I liked the look of the recipe, but it called for cookie-cutters, which I had to buy. And if you go shopping for cookie-cutters, you end up with, you know, all the Christmas-y shapes. So I guess that’s how they became Christmas cookies.

By any name, they’re delicious — simple, elemental, addictive. Here’s how to make them:

1. Put 2-1/2 cups of sifted flour, a cup of sugar, and half a teaspoon of baking powder into a mixing bowl and whisk them together. Using a pastry blender, cut two sticks of room-temperature butter into the dry mixture, making sure the butter is well distributed throughout. At this point, you should have something resembling coarse cornmeal.

2. Add two egg yolks (reserve the whites — we’ll need them later) and 1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract to the mixture. Using an electric mixer set on low, combine everything until you have a workable dough — it shouldn’t take more than about 45 seconds with a hand-held mixer, less than than with an automatic mixer. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc about an inch thick, and pop it in the fridge for half an hour.

3. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375 and line a few cookie sheets with parchment paper. Also tear off a few large sheets of parchment, and dust them with flour — you’ll use these for rolling out the dough.

4. After half an hour, remove the chilled dough from the plastic and place it between the two floured parchment sheets. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s about an eighth of an inch thick (it may crack around the edges; if so, crimp the cracks). Use cookie cutters to cut out whatever shapes you like, transfer to the papered baking sheets with a floured spatula, re-roll the dough scraps, and repeat until you’ve all the dough is used up.

5. Beat the reserved egg whites slightly, so they’re more liquid-ish and less gloppy. Use a pastry brush to paint each dough cut-out with the whites and then add sugar sprinkles, nonpareils, chopped nuts, or whatever. The egg whites will help the toppings adhere, and will also give the cookies a shiny glaze.

6. Bake the cookies until the edges are just beginning to turn brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pans once about halfway through. Smaller cookies will cook a bit faster, so it’s best to cook similarly sized shapes together. Let them cool for about 15 minutes and then dig in.

Congratulations — you’re now an honorary member of my family, at least for the holiday season.

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ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, the annual Uni Watch Holiday War on Xmas Gift Guide is up and running.

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Uni Watch News Ticker: The Jazz will unveil an alternate uniform on Friday. … Major League Baseball has announced a dress code for members of the media. No word on whether pajama pants are allowed. … This video clip about the Cardinals Hall of Fame talks about Albert Pujols’s shoe design, which is also worn by Yadier Molina (from Caleb Yorks). … Lots of great old Browns/Steelers video footage embedded in this article (big thanks to Jerry Wolper). … Yesterday I asked about the history of championship belts. Marc Cavelli obligingly provided this article. … Look at this completely amazing chain-mail Sharks jersey. A new standard in DIYing! … Oooh, here’s a very cool magnetic NFL standings board. … New court design for the Wizards. … Check out the uniforms for competitive snowball fighting (thanks, Kirsten). … George Mason’s black alts debuted the other night (from Paul Barrett). … Too late for my gift guide column, but still pretty cool: a desk made from gym flooring (thanks, Kirsten). … As we all know, there’s no “I” in team — or in Miami (from Geoff Loughton). … Ryan Dunsmore notes that Texans quarterback TJ Yates was wearing an odd-patterned undershirt last Sunday. … Here’s a slideshow on the history of Princeton basketball. “It’s interesting that their uniforms didn’t have a wordmark or logo as late as 1950,” observes Eric Falcon. “Also, the accompanying article states that the Tigers alternate wearing their white and black jerseys during the conference portion of the season, both at home and on the road, to avoid the rush of having to wash them between Friday and Saturday games.” … Andrew McKillop found some pics of Stanford wearing 49ers-style pants in 1998. “I did a quick search in the newspaper archives but couldn’t find any reason for the pants,” he says. “I thought maybe they were doing a tribute to Bill Walsh but couldn’t find anything pointing to that.” Anyone know more? … Michigan State let a few walk-ons play at the end of last night’s game against Central Connecticut. Colby Wollenman, a freshman walk-on, scored the game’s final points — the first of his college career — in an NNOB jersey (screen shot by Matt Nuiver). … Monkey See, Monkey Do Dept.: Latest college hoops team to go gray is Missouri State. “It was part of a ‘Gray Out’ promotion that was led by the athletic department,” says Zach Brady. A gray out? That’s very, uh, original. … Mike Kramer has decorated his dorm room with a shitload of hockey jerseys. … A special shout-out to sporting goods historian Terry Proctor, who’s undergoing knee-replacement surgery today. Hang in there, Terry — hope you’re back on your feet soon. … I’ll be running errands for much of today. Everyone play nice while I’m away, yes? Yes.

New Threads for Miami

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Tyler Kepner is at the MLB winter meetings, where he spotted something very interesting: a Marlins batting helmet with a raised/embroidered logo, just like the one used by the Cubs. I’m trying to confirm whether this was just for display purposes or if the Marlins will be going with this logo format on the field, but I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

And speaking of MLB headwear, Tyler also spotted a pair of black A’s caps. But I double-checked with Oakland equipment manager Steve Vucinich, who confirmed that they’re not going back to black (actual quote: “No, no, and NO!”), so those caps must’ve just been old stock. Phew.

New ESPN column today — the annual holiday gift guide. Enjoy.

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Culinary Corner: On Saturday I went to Fleisher’s to pick up a coupla pork chops. While I was there, I noticed they had these little lamb sirloin roasts in the display case. They looked vaguely like these, but a bit smaller. I’d never seen such petite lamb roasts before, and I was intrigued, so I bought one. It was 1.66 pounds, or about the same as two decent-sized steaks.

The roast sat in my fridge for a few days until last night, when I decided to make it for dinner. First I put a little bit of olive oil in a heavy skillet and seared the roast on its top, bottom, and both ends — about a minute per side. Then I removed it from the heat. While it cooled off, I made a paste, a simple paste by mixing together the following ingredients (the measurements are approximate, as I was just improvising):

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 or 4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper

Yes, fresh herbs would’ve been better, but I hadn’t thought ahead to buy any, so I used dried. Anyway, I mixed everything together to make a paste, which I then slathered all over the seared lamb. Then I put the lamb on a small rack and popped it into a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Holy fuck — it was so good! If I’d known it was going to turn out so perfectly, I would’ve taken photographs during the entire process. Instead, I didn’t think to reach for my camera until I’d already eaten about half of the thing. Looking forward to leftovers tonight. Baa-aaaa-aaa!

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Uni Watch News Ticker: Anyone know what was up with the patch Junior Hemingway was wearing last weekend? The other Michigan players weren’t wearing it (as noted by Juan Martinez). … Here’s another high school team using the Phil Simms-era Giants as a model for their helmets: the Tri-Valley Bears from Grahamsville, New York (from Tom Faggione). … I’m not a sneakerhead, but Aaron Klett says this photo of Mark Ingram shows him wearing Warrior custom Burn 5 lacrosse cleats. “Generally, lacrosse cleats are pretty much football cleats, so it’s not too much of a surprise, but interesting to see nonetheless,” he says. “Guess it’s a matter of time before the NFL gets wind of this and puts an end to it.” … Yet another college hoops team going gray: East Carolina (from Matt Holt). … Here’s more about those white shoes Tiger Woods was wearing the other day (from Charles Neiswender). … New third kit for the Portland Timbers, plus here’s an article on their uniform history (from Michael Orr). … Buried deep within this story is the news that the Twins and Royals will play a throwback game next season “with the Twins donning 1954 Minneapolis Millers uniforms and the Royals wearing Kansas City Blues uniforms.” Both of those teams played in old American Association. … Two college wrestling teams will compete for a WWE-style belt. All of which makes me wonder: When was the first championship belt awarded? Was it for boxing, wrestling, weight lifting, bodybuilding, something else? … Here’s something you don’t often see: a vintage set of women’s zebra-wear. … New soccer ball for MLS (from Patrick Runge). … Yesterday I mentioned how great the three-part New York Times series on Derek Boogaard has been. Here’s an excellent article about the guy who wrote it. … Did you know there was such a thing as the Pop Warner Super Bowl Championship Game? There is! And here are the helmets that the kids will be wearing while their parents act like jackasses in the stands (from Ronnie Poore). … Interesting article on how the co-founder of the St. Louis Tea Party quit the organization, and then her husband demanded that the group stop using the logo that he designed (from Robert Silverman). … Speaking of non-sports logos, look at these great submissions for the recent competition to design a human rights logo. Click on the “We have a winner!” link at top right to see which one they chose (big thanks to R. Scott Rogers). … BYU — okay, BYU-Idaho, but it’s kinda the same thing, only the lake isn’t salty — has banned skinny jeans. … Here are some gift ideas that didn’t make it to my ESPN gift guide (blame Kirsten). … Marseille and Dortmund provided some color-vs.-color Champions League action the other day. “Looks like a Crayola box exploded,” says Kevin Hastings. … The mighty Fleer Sticker Project recently ran an excellent piece on the intersection between the NFL and IHOP (thanks, Brinke). … The Mets have signed Jon Rauch, who’s 6’10”. Former Met Eric Hillman was also 6’10”, which I believe makes the Mets the only team ever to have had two players of such stature. … As an aside, Rauch used to be listed as 6’11”, but all the major roster listings — MLB, ESPN, Baseball-reference.com, etc. — now have him at 6’10”. At this rate, he’ll be my height by the end of the century or so.

Your Face Here

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Phil briefly mentioned something on Saturday that I want to explore in greater detail today. Here’s the deal: Sevilla — that’s a Spanish soccer team — is letting fans pay to have a tiny photo of themselves printed within a player’s uni number or NOB. Photo size: two millimeters square. Price: about $33, depending on today’s exchange rate (or on whether the Euro still exists by the time you read this). A few other European soccer teams will soon be offering the same service.

Most of the reaction I’ve seen has been negative. That Yahoo Sports story refers to it as “a new way to squeeze money out of [fans]” and quotes another site calling it a “money-making scheme”; on Saturday, Phil called it “some new corporate whoring profit-making move”; in Friday’s comments, Mike Engle referred to it as “a totally gross cash cow.”

Personally, though, I find the idea more silly than offensive. And as silly ideas go, I think this one is rather clever. For starters, there’s nothing corporate about it. This isn’t like selling corporate ad space on a uniform; it’s more akin to those personalized stadium bricks (which I also think are silly, but largely harmless). In other words, it’s a way for fans to feel a more personal connection to their team. In that sense, it’s actually the opposite of corporate whoring, which drives a wedge into the fan/team relationship.

Is this also a rather transparent attempt to create a new revenue stream? Sure. But nobody’s forcing anyone to put their photo on a jersey (just like nobody’s forcing anyone to buy a $200 polyester jersey, or any of the other crap that teams sell).

Of course, it’s worth noting that I don’t really give a shit about soccer, so I don’t have much of an emotional stake in this. But what if the same thing started happening in Major League Baseball? Specifically, what if the Mets started doing it?

I can’t say I’d be thrilled. But my main concern would be that the photo-imprinted numerals look sort of faded and camo-ish (at least based on those photos in the Yahoo story). In other words, my concern would be more aesthetic than conceptual. Even then, I’d at least want to see how it looked before passing judgment. And if someone told me I could have an itsy-bitsy photo of myself lurking in Jose Reyes’s Ike Davis’s uni number, I’m not gonna lie: I think that would be kinda cool. I don’t think I’d pay to do it, but I’d have fun imagining it.

Here’s a related thought: Most MLB stadiums have really ugly corporate advertising on the outfield wall. If a team could raise just as much $$$ for a given portion of the wall by letting fans pay to have tiny photos of themselves printed on the wall, wouldn’t that be preferable?

Of course, there are no ads on MLB uniforms (yet), so there’s no need to make that trade-off. But if forced to choose between a MasterCard sleeve patch and a bunch of fan photos imprinted on the uni numbers, to me it’s a no-brainer.

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Collector’s Corner

By Brinke Guthrie

In the beginning, there were Chucks and Jack Purcells. And they were good. And then the Dassler brothers started rocking in Germany and started Adidas and Puma. Puma Clydes owned my high school in the mid-1970s. And by the way, Broadway Joe scores in Pumas, baby. I don’t think he needed any mistletoe, either.

As for the rest of this week’s eBay finds:

• Here’s a great 1973 Bengals team photo. I had this, and I always thought it was cool they had Nos. 12 through 20 sitting in order.

• Had this too — a terrific early 1970s Minnesota Vikings poster.

• Check the eagle wings on this little bobble dude from the 1960s.

• Off to Canton we go, with this 1960s Football Hall of Fame coin bank with AFL logo stickers on it.

• I like this retro-style 1950s football sweater- is that Michigan on there?

• Here’s one from Paul: a nice set of Baltimore Colts glasses.

Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here, or tweet them here.

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Holiday reminders: Uni Watch aspires to be your one-stop shopping source for all your holiday war on Xmas needs. Por ejemplo:

• If you want to buy someone a Uni Watch membership as a gift, full details on how to do that are available here.

• From now through the end of the year, if you order two sheets of stickers based on your membership card design (that costs $26), you’ll also get a free sheet of Uni Watch logo stickers (a mix of all three colors). Instrux for ordering stickers can be found here.

• Speaking of the circular Uni Watch logo stickers, my recent offer still stands: If you want three of these stickers (one of each color), send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Paul Lukas, 671 DeGraw St., Brooklyn, NY 11217. If you want to enclose a coupla bucks or a barter offering, that’d be nice, although it isn’t required.

• T-shirts, beverage coasters, coffee mugs, and the like are available at the Uni Watch shop on Zazzle.

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Uni Watch News Ticker: Here are some video game shots of some of the new MLB uniforms. … Scotland County High School in Laurinburg, North Carolina, uses a helmet design based on the Phil Sims-era Giants (from Gerry Dincher). … Hmmm — is this a blank nameplate, or was the nameplate removed? (Screen shot by Jimmy Atkinson.) … New cycling kit for Omega Pharma (from Ted Hill). … Gazoo update: A week or so ago I mentioned that Rawlings would be unveiling a new version of the S100 helmet at the winter meetings, and here it is. Can’t tell much from that shot, but I’ll try to get better visuals from Rawlings today. … An additional college football note from last Saturday: Clemson wore a “91” memorial decal for Chester McGlockton (from Benji Boyter). … And here’s a college football follow-up: Yesterday I mentioned that several readers thought Lamin Barrow of LSU had some backwards letters in his NOB, but I thought it was just the way the fabric was stretching. LSU assistant equipment manager Louis Bourgeois saw yesterday’s post and responded like so: “We received a few texts/tweets during the first half on Saturday about the Barrow jersey. You basically got it right: It was a combo of the angle of the picture and the way the jersey was sitting on the Velcro. We went ahead and snapped this picture in the locker room during halftime just in case this came up.” So there you go. … Looks like the only thing bigger than the Marlins’ cap logo is their sleeve logo. … New kits for the Columbus Crew (from Jeff Frazier). … Next time the Texans wear their red jerseys “presented by Halliburton,” remember that they’re in bed with a company that’s so scummy, even other scummy companies can’t stand them (thanks, Phil). … Good-looking game at the Garden last night, as the Rangers wore white at home and the Leafs wore their throwbacks. … Detroit Mercy hoops wore their Dick Vitale throwbacks last night, and the court featured a massive Dickie V. signature (from Stuart Ratliff). … Quite a bit going on here: the Oregon-style diamondplate, the Flying Elvis rip-off, the wordmark on the thigh, and let’s not overlook the Magic Marker on the arm. And in case you were wondering, here’s what the team’s road uni looks like (from Nick Hanson). … Another high school with a dubious logo choice: Camas Valley High in Oregon uses the Hawaii helmet logo. Didn’t they know they’re supposed to use the XFL Hitmen logo instead? (From Joe Alvernaz.) … In case you haven’t seen it, the three-part series about Derek Boogaard in the Times is the kind of work that wins Pulitzers — epic, powerful, compelling. Here you go: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. … The Sixers are letting fans vote on the team’s new mascot (from Kurt Esposito). … R.I.P., Hubert. Killing floor, indeed.