A Look at Auto Racing Flags

[Editor’s Note: Phil and I are both indisposed today, so we have a guest enry from David Firestone, who’s going to enlighten us on the subject of auto racing flag designs. — PL]

By David G. Firestone

Flags and sports have long been associated with each other. And from the penalty and challenge flags in football to the scoreboard at Wrigley, flags remain a big part of sports today. But when it comes to motor sports, flags are even more iconic because they are used not just for one small part of the races but for almost every aspect.

Each flag design conveys a different signal to drivers, but there are differences between Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR — not only in what they mean but in how and where they are used. Let’s look at some of the most common flags and see the differences in how they’re used by different racing circuits:

Green flag: In NASCAR and IndyCar, the green flag is used to start the race, or practice session. Formula 1 uses a series of lights to start the race, so the green flag is used to indicate that the driver has passed a localized caution. In IndyCar and NASCAR, green flags carry the American Ethanol logo.

Yellow flag: Used in NASCAR and IndyCar to slow cars down to a predetermined speed due to unsafe condition on the track. Used in F1 to indicate an unsafe condition in one specific area of the track. This is referred to as a localized caution. If track conditions mandate a full-course caution, officials will hold up white “SC” placards, to indicate the safety car has been deployed.

Red flag: Used universally to indicate that the race has been stopped, usually due to poor track conditions and/or an accident. In NASCAR and IndyCar, no work may be done on cars while the race is under a red flag; in F1 there is no such restriction.

White flag: Used in NASCAR and IndyCar to signal that the last lap of the event has started. Used in F1 to warn of a slow-moving vehicle on track.

Checkered flag: The most iconic flag in motor sports is universally used to indicate that the race has ended. Its exact origins are unknown, but the first picture of a checkered flag being used to end a race was at the 1906 Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island. NASCAR and IndyCar checkered flags carry the Sunoco logo.

Black flag: Used in NASCAR and IndyCar to inform drivers that they have to serve a penalty or that they have a mechanical problem. In F1, a driver being shown this flag has been disqualified.

Now let’s move on to some of the lesser-known, but just as important, flag designs:

Blue flag: Used in F1 and IndyCar to signal that a faster car is trying to overtake the driver and that the driver should clear the way. If three blue flags are ignored, the driver will be shown a black flag, and his/her race will be over. Used in NASCAR to indicate that the track is blocked and/or there are slow-moving cars on the track.

Blue flag with a yellow stripe: Used in NASCAR. Similar to the blue flag, but not heeding this flag will not result in any penalties.

Black flag with a white cross: Used in NASCAR and IndyCar to indicate that a driver has been disqualified, same as a black flag in Formula 1. NASCAR uses an X pattern whereas IndyCar uses a cross pattern.

Black flag with an orange circle: Used in F1 to indicate that the driver has a mechanical problem and must return to the pits. Unused in NASCAR and IndyCar.

Black and white flag: Used in Formula 1 to indicate an unsportsmanlike conduct by a driver. If this flag is not heeded, a black flag will be displayed.

Red and yellow striped flag: Used universally to indicate that there is debris, oil, or fluid on the track.

Red flag with a yellow cross: Used in NASCAR and IndyCar to indicate that the pit lane has closed. Green flag will be displayed when pit road opens.

White flag with a red cross: Used in IndyCar and Formula 1 to indicate that there is an ambulance on track. Not used in NASCAR.

• • • • •

Design contest reminder: In case you missed it, I’m currently running a contest, with a cash prize, to design a Uni Watch smart phone case. Full details here.

As an aside, many of the designs that have been submitted so far feature a white background. As you can see, I used a white background for the mock-up shown at right, so maybe people were following my lead, but I want to stress that the base color does not have to be white. If you go to this page and click on “Layout,” you’ll find a link that will show all of the available background colors.

• • • • •

Baseball News: The Cubs and Reds wore 1990 throwbacks last night. Lots of photos here and here. There was an unfortunate moment during the Reds’ broadcast of the game when announcers Jeff Brantley and Thom Brenneman felt the need to break out the Telestrator to explain what stirrups are (from Jonathan Daniel). … Orioles OF Adam Jones wore 1960s-style O’s stirrups last night (from Matt Malinoski). … If you’ve been wanting to vote on the best baseball cap among New Jersey high school teams, today’s your lucky day (from @OhHeyItsTodd). … White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton went high-cuffed last night as a slump-buster move (from Ryan Lindemann). … The Bridgeport Bluefish unveiled two sets of alternate uniforms on Thursday. This “Magic City” set comes with striped stirrups. Unfortunately, the other alternate set features a big, honking apostrophe catastrophe. Sigh.

Pro and College Football News: Patriots owner Robert Kraft wore sneakers for the team’s recent visit to the White House (from Tommy Turner). … Oh man, check out this article about a 70-year-old Miami Hurricanes orange jersey. What a beauty! Love the green numbers (big thanks to Eric Wright).

Hockey News: Check out this 1966 booklet, sponsored by Coca-Cola, teaching kids to play hockey (from Chris Mizzoni). … Here’s more on the proposed Vegas team’s color scheme (from Mike Engle). … There’s a club team in Austin called the Shamrocks, and holy moly do they have gorgeous uniforms (from Joey Breeland).

NBA News: The broadcast of the1982 NBA draft featuring an amusing typo (from Douglas Ford). … Also from Douglas: A cross-dressing shot of former Hawks player Dan Roundfield wearing a Braves cap. … NBA commish Adam “Inevitable” Silver was at last night’s Rockets/Mavs game, and it looks like his seatback was festooned with American Airlines logos (from Chris Perrenot).

Grab Bag: Nike products have been banned by ISIS. Insert joke about evil empires here. … Very interesting look at how corporate logos might look if they were drawn by hand (from Andrew Moeschberger).

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Today is ANZAC Day, so let’s take a moment to salute our Australian and New Zealander readers. If you or your family are mourning a fallen soldier today, my thoughts are with you.

An Updated Look for Sparty

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Click to enlarge

I had planned to run a really interesting baseball entry today, but then Michigan State unveiled their new football uniforms yesterday, so the baseball item will have to wait until next week. Trust me, it’s really good.

So, MSU: As you can see above, it’s pretty similar to the previous set, but with a new tailoring template, some new details, and a new alternate. There are lots of photos here (and most of those are pretty high-res, so you can click on the thumbnails to see much larger versions), and we’re privileged today to have some guest commentary from Eric Greenwald, who runs the MSU-centric Spartan Jerseys site. Take it away, Eric:

Anytime fans hear that Michigan State is changing its football jerseys or helmets, they hold their breath — and with good reason, since the past 15 years have seen some of the best and worst uniforms in Michigan State football history.

The new home and away uniforms are an excellent second generation of the uniforms that came of a branding study with Nike in 2009. Fans will be relieved that the overall look remains the same, but the beauty of this update is in the details. The Spartan helmet logo on the V-neck, the Greek key pattern on the shoulders, and the removal of bronze on the away jerseys are all changes for the better. Excellent refinement of a very popular set of jerseys.

Where they fall short for me is with the alternates. No school or mascot name on the front, and the “MSU” on the sleeves reminds me of 2002, when we had the basketball team’s “State” logo on the football jerseys. On the plus side, the bronze color was kept just on the alternates and it looks like Nike finally nailed the color. No more telling your friends, “It’s not gold, it’s bronze.”

Well stated. I generally agree with Eric’s analysis, except I’ve always hated MSU’s custom font and wish they’d scrap it.

• • • • •

Too good for the Ticker: My latest ESPN column, which is a timeline of MLB headwear innovations, features lots of odd helmet-like contraptions, but here’s one I hadn’t seen until yesterday:

That’s Philadelphia A’s catcher Cy Perkins, who wore that odd bit of headgear in 1921. Big thanks to the always-resourceful BSmile for coming up with that one.

• • • • •

New design contest! Several weeks ago I asked if people would be interested in purchasing a Uni Watch smart phone case. Over 400 of you said yes, which is definitely enough to move forward with this project. So here’s what we’re going to do:

1. We’re going to have a contest to choose the smart phone case design. The designs will be submitted to me, and I will choose three (or maybe five) finalists. You will then be able to vote for the winner. The winning designer will get $100 (plus a free case, of course).

2. Cases featuring the winning design will be produced by a company called CustomBee, which makes phone cases for pretty much every make and model you can think of. The cases will be priced at $19.99 and will be available for only three weeks, at least initially. (If demand warrants, I may make the case available again at a later date.)

3. Designs can feature pre-existing Uni Watch logos and graphics or you can come up with your own. There’s only one restriction: In keeping with longstanding Uni Watch chromatic policy, designs featuring even a fleck of purple will not be considered.

4. Design submissions must show a mock-up of a phone case. In other words, you can’t just send in a logo and say, “Put that logo on the case.” I encourage you to go to this page and then click on “Layout” to access CustomBee’s design interface, which is relatively intuitive. (I used it to create the simple graphic shown above.) It lets you add text and images and shows the range of available background colors.

5. You can submit as many designs as you like. Send them to me by next Friday, May 1, 7pm Eastern. Okay? Okay!

• • • • •

’Skins Watch: “A buddy of mine and his friends do a trip to a different MLB ballpark every year to check out the scene and get to know the locals,” says Brian Anderson. “This year, they went to Cleveland to talk to the locals about Chief Wahoo, the Indians name, etc. Here’s a video they made.” … Here’s a new argument against the ’Skins name: It’s bad for the economy (from Yusuke Toyoda). … California lawmakers are poised to enact a ban on “Redskins” as a high school team name (from Richard Paloma). … Some students have proposed new names for the ’Skins (from Tommy Turner). … A dozen Native American actors walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s new movie because the script featured a slew of seriously inappropriate scenes. See, that’s the problem these days — everyone’s so busy looking to be offended that they can’t take a joke! Too bad the Injuns were here first or else they could just go back where they came from, am I right?

Baseball News: The Pirates pandered to the G.I. Joe crowd yesterday. … The Chunichi Dragons’ stadium features a big display of their jersey history (from John Fitzgerald). … Here’s an article on the Red Sox bat knob decals (from Nick Curley). … The Durham Bulls wore Game of Thrones-themed jerseys last night. … The Reds will wear 1990 throwbacks tonight. Chris Creamer has provided a good analysis of them. … The Kennedy Space Center will sponsor a space-themed promotion for the single-A Brevard County Manatees on May 7-9, with the team playing as the Brevard County Space Explorers (from Patrick O’Neill). … Minor league players often wear their MLB parent team’s gear under their jerseys, but you can’t often see it like you can here (from Jared Buccola). … When the new Yankee Stadium opened, I wrote an article about their on-site steakhouse restaurant. If you click ahead to page 10 of this PDF, you’ll find an article on the uniforms worn by the restaurant staff (from Chris Bisbee). … Chilly day yesterday in Queens, so Mets third base coach Tim Teufel wore some sort of bulky, hooded garment under his uniform (screen shot by Gregg Tiernan). … Cool throwbacks last night for the Nashville Sounds (from Jerry Lawless). … Last night’s episode of The Odd Couple featured a softball jersey in Uni Watch colors. … If this truly is a game-used Reds jersey, as the seller claims, then that’s one messed-up NOB (from Scott Turner). … Cort McMurray has written a piece advocating for the Astros to bring back the shooting star uniforms on a permanent basis. And of course he’s right. … Our own Mike Chamernik has written a piece about the new food items being offered by the White Sox. … Sometimes all you can do is tip your cap in wonderment at the sheer volume of sponsors, hucksterism, and bells and whistles crammed into one promotional paragraph. That’s the case with the following graf found on this Charleston RiverDogs page: “Tomorrow is the second ISHPI Red Shirt Friday of the season and it is presented by WEZL, with postgame fireworks over the scenic Ashley River presented by Home Telecom. Support the military by wearing red and when you come to the box office, you can and receive $1 off your ticket. Fans will have the option to donate that dollar to Canines for Veterans, who will once again bring ‘Titus the Bat Dog’ to perform his batboy duties during the game. The RiverDogs will wear special red jerseys as a show of support for our military. We will also be celebrating Arbor Day all evening with fun for the whole family. The club will present a ceremonial planting of a Crepe Myrtle outside The Joe in the adjacent VIP parking lot at 6 pm. The new tree is part of the 10,000 Trees for Charleston Initiative, and one lucky fan will be able to take home a five-foot live oak tree.”

NFL News: The Patriots gave President Obama a No. 44 Pats jersey during their visit to the White House yesterday. Interesting that they went with the white road jersey, but I guess that’s because they wore white in their recent Super Bowl victory. … Todd from Rochester’s in-laws were down in Cancun and picked up this hand-painted ceramic Bills skull. Cool!

College and High School Football News: Virginia Tech’s spring game will be color vs. color (from Andrew Cosentino). … Lots of uniforms and other gear on display in Amy Schumer’s spot-on Friday Night Lights parody (from Ben Fortney). … Here’s what Northern Iowa — the school with the world’s best acronym — will be wearing for their spring game (from Aaron Wigg).

Hockey News: Here’s why Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t wear a Winnipeg Jets jersey to the Jets’ playoff game two nights ago. … Capitals C Michael Latta kissed teammate Karl Alzner’s helmet after Alzner scored a goal last night. … Oilers owner Daryl Katz’s son has a habit of showing up onstage in an Oilers jersey alongside the team’s top draft picks. Now there’s a petition to stop him from doing it this year, because it looks rinky-dink or something (from Will Leslie).

NBA News: Warriors and Pelicans went color vs. color for last night’s playoff game. … “As you know, the Hawks play in Philips Arena, with naming rights paid for by Philips Electronics,” says Steve Skor. “At halftime of Wednesday night’s playoff game there was a brief concert by Atlanta’s own Ludacris. Right before it began, a small crew went on to the court and placed two large, basketball court-patterned sheets of paper over the Philips Arena logos. You can sort of see it in this story — if you look at the first video (pregame intros), the Philips logos are clearly visible on the court, but they’re gone in the second video. I suspected at the time that this was likely because Ludacris has a deal with another electronics company for headphones, and sure enough, a Google search shows he endorses Soul Electronics.” … David Teigland was surprised to see the NBA Fit logo on his navel orange. When I posted that photo on Twitter, Conrad Burry quickly informed me that some supermarkets actually have NBA Fit produce displays. (And there are also Star Wars apples, but that seems like, um, apples vs. oranges, because it’s not a fitness initiative.)

Soccer News: A British graphic designer has been on the receiving end of some seriously negative reaction to his new Bolivia kit design (from @tvaughn7). … Nike’s U.S. women’s kits, like many of the company’s products these days, are made from recycled plastic bottles (from @FormerDirtDart). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Here’s a world map of EPL fans based on the teams’ Twitter followers. … The Nigerian national team has inked a new deal with Nike.

Grab Bag: “The Essendon Bombers of the Australian Football League have created a new jersey for ANZAC day here in Australia (which is like America’s Memorial Day),” writes Alan Jennings. “It features poppies that make up the traditional red sash of Essendon and also has all the names of Essendon players that have served in the military. I think it does a better job of commemorating soldiers than stupid camouflage.” … The U. of Buffalo’s athletics dept. doesn’t know what to call itself. .. Presidential aspirant Sen. Rand Paul was selling Ray-Ban sunglasses emblazoned with his first name on his website, but Ray-Ban served him with a cease-and-desist. … Good article on National Park Service uniforms (from Chris Bisbee). … A Utah man has designed a line of big/tall cycling jerseys. … New logo/mascot for Florida Polytechnic (from Wayne Koehler). … After a British university recently unveiled its new logo, students disliked it so much that they’ve started a petition drive to halt the school’s rebranding. … Hidden within Google Maps is a graphic that shows the Android logo urinating on an Apple logo. Classy.

• • • • •

What Paul did last night: Went to Manhattan last night to see some music. Afterward, while walking back to my car at about 11:30pm, I was feeling a tad peckish, so I stopped in at a bodega to grab a Snickers. As I waited my turn to pay, I noticed that the chick behind me in line was holding a bottle of wine in one hand (she was already carrying this when she came in) and a stick of cookie dough in the other. She noticed me noticing and said, with a slight Russian accent, “Yup — wine and cookie dough,” to which I replied, “Now that’s a party, right there!” After paying for my candy bar, I looked over my shoulder to say good-bye to her and saw that she was paying for the cookie dough with rolls of pennies, which she was calmly producing from her bag. The price was $4.39, so she gave the counter guy nine penny rolls and then said, “Keep the change.” Counter guy, who’d been on the phone the whole time, jibber-jabbering in some foreign dialect I couldn’t deduce, nodded his assent.

I fucking love New York.

Head Games

Mets reliever Alex Torres’s new protective cap, which he wore for the first time last weekend, is the latest in a long line of milestones in baseball headwear. I’ve taken a look at many of those developments — from the development of the earflap to Brooks Robinson’s stubby helmet brim — in my latest ESPN column, which went live yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, I’ve just learned of a team whose pitchers wear helmets. In fact, all of their players wear helmets in the field (and no, it’s not a Little League or pee-wee team). More on that tomorrow. — Paul

• • • • •

Soccer Uni Review
By Mike Chamernik

After wearing some fairly uninspiring home jerseys over the last few World Cups, the U.S. Women’s National Team unveiled its new kit yesterday. As you can see, red and blue are out, black and neon are in.

The color scheme prompted some immediate reaction on Twitter:


I can understand these reactions — and apparently so does Nike — but I love the new kit. It’s not a big deal to me that there’s no red or blue (especially since the away kit, unveiled in February, has more traditional colors). The jerseys are simple, adhering to the “less is more” mantra. Black and white probably bridge the gap between younger tastes and older tastes more than any other combo. The neon is on the trendy side, but I always liked the DayGlo accent color. In this case, it gives the look a little more pop. [That sound you just heard in the background was me taking Mike out back for a quick reprogramming. — PL]

But the main reason why I like them? The USWNT finished third in 2007 and second in 2011. Even though the players got a lot of fanfare and support during the last World Cup, they still didn’t win it all. And, even though this is a team on the rise with handful of mainstream players (like Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, and Abby Wambach), there’s still the sense, to me, that the women play second-fiddle to the men’s team. While the men really inspired some serious passion last summer, watching the women has seemed like more of a novelty, a feeling of “Hey, the U.S. women are playing!”

The home unis give me the sense that the USWNT means business. I take the team seriously. The sharp, no-nonsense uniform with the bravado of the socks helps to separate the women’s team from the men’s team, and makes me think of them as just a world-class soccer team (not a women’s world-class soccer team). Others may disagree, but I’m a big fan of this design.

• • • • •

Mike’s Question of the Week
By Mike Chamernik

As you probably know, one of the coolest traditions in sports is that each member of the team that wins the Stanley Cup gets to have the trophy for a day. Players often keep things low-key, maybe just showing it to friends and family or taking it on a parade through their hometown, but some guys like to go wild with it.

What’s your favorite Stanley Cup celebration day story? And if you could have the Cup for a day, where would you take it and what would you do with it? As always, post your responses in today’s comments.

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Uni Watch News Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: The University of Cincinnati has some loud new helmets. I don’t know if those are official or if they will be worn on the field. … The Giants’ World Series plaque contains a grammatical error (from Brinke). … A Reds coach wore the wrong cap last night. … Pirates OF Starling Marte lost the “P” on his cap yesterday. … The Mariners will wear Negro Leagues throwbacks on May 16. … Here’s a cool breakdown of the physics of baseball, with many slo-motion replays. … Nice stirrups for Brown and Dartmouth (from Robert Kaufman). … And Elizabethtown (Kentucky) High School (from Josh Claywell). … Even better, St. Louis Catholic High School in Lake Charles, Louisiana has some awesome 1986 Mets-esque uniforms (from Christopher LaHaye).

NFL News: New 50th season logo for the Falcons. Unclear if it will be worn as a patch (from Mike Nessen). … The 2015 schedule page on the NFL website highlights past Super Bowl matchups in gold (from Donnie Gould). … Also, NFL.com hasn’t yet switched to the Browns’ new logo (from Joseph Bailey). … New 49ers RB Jarryd Hayne will wear No. 38 because it’s the number he was assigned with the Parramatta Eels, an Australian rugby team he played with for nine years (from Graham Clayton). … Mixed signals coming from the Titans. The team has been expected to switch to navy blue home jerseys this year. The promo photos the Titans have released this offseason show the navy jerseys and navy accessories, but they are still pushing the light blue jerseys in their team store (from Lee Harrell and Eric Wright, respectively). … “Saw this in the Palm Beach Post today about the Dolphins schedule for 2015,” says Daniel Merz. “Look at the logo that they used -– it’s one of the logos used by someone who did some mock logos before the current Dolphins logo went official.”

College Football News: New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh explained his khaki pants obsession. It’s fair to say Brinke has an obsession with Harbaugh’s khaki pants obsession. … New helmets for Jacksonville University. … “I came across this $1 bill with a Baylor football helmet and Big 12 logo printed on it,” says reader Jared. “No idea why. I’m in Michigan. I didn’t track it though on the website that’s stamped on it.”

Hockey News: Here’s a cool poster showing the history of hockey jerseys. … The NBC networks had an Earth Day theme for their NHL telecasts last night. … Marc-Louis Paprzyca attended Tuesday’s Predators-Blackhawks game (and apparently had primo seats) and he saw a fan who converted his Corey Crawford jersey (note the No. 50 on the sleeve) into a Scott Darling one.

Soccer News: Philips will no longer sponsor the Dutch soccer club Philips Sport Vereniging. A name change is probably forthcoming. “In a similar move back in 2000, chemical company Bayer AG ended its shirt sponsorship of Bayer Leverkusen, initially founded as an employees’ team,” says Trevor Williams. “Bayer AG remained as stadium name sponsor and the club’s most important financial supporter, although the shirt is currently sponsored by LG.” Here’s a list of teams named after sponsors.

NBA News: Basketball referees struggle to find logoless all-black sneakers (from Eric Goodman). … The Mavs produced some fantastic Mark Cuban championship trophy socks. The socks are based off of this photo. I guess it’s not just hockey players that have fun with a championship trophy.

Grab Bag: Under Armour and other athletic wear companies are moving into fitness tracking (from Tommy Turner). … The woman who designed the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign has died (from Brinke). … The Australian Football League’s Greater Western Sydney Giants will wear camo next month (from Mick Henderson). … New logo and branding for BailBondsFinder.com.

The Psychology of Leaking

Back in the fall of 2006, when this blog was just a few months old, I wrote an entry about uniform and logo leaks. Almost everything I wrote in that piece still holds today, so go ahead and read it (I just re-read it myself and thought, “Hey, that’s not bad”). But in light of the Clippers leaks that have come my way in recent days, I want to explore a leak-related topic that didn’t come up in that 2006 piece: Why do people choose to leak sensitive information in the first place?

First, some quick background: Obviously, much of the content I write about on this website begins with reader contributions (for which I’m grateful, of course). I assume those of you who send photos, links, and other content my way do so because you enjoy some combination of the following: giving something back to the site; seeing your name in print; feeling important; feeling like you’re part of a participatory community; sharing what you know and/or what you’ve seen; advancing the state of the uni-verse; sucking up to me; and so on. This all seems pretty intuitive and straightforward, right?

But leakers are different. Leakers don’t get to see their names in print, for starters, because they insist on anonymity. Some of them are taking a personal or professional risk by feeding me information, yet they do it anyway. Why is that? After all, the leaked info will eventually see the light of day in due course. Why take the risks associated with sending it to me?

The answers, I’ve found, include the following:

1. Some people, once entrusted with a secret, are almost constitutionally incapable of keeping it. They have to tell someone. And when it comes to uni-related secrets, that someone is often me.

2. If sending in a Ticker contribution makes people feel a bit important, leaking a design makes them feel really important, like they’re engaged in some sort of high-level espionage or something.

3. Some leakers fit the classic clichéd profile of the disgruntled former employee. These are people who left a team, a league, or a uniform manufacturer on bad terms and are using leaking as a form of revenge.

4. Some people in the industry have axes to grind. Several retailers, for example, have leaked things to me specifically because they resented the terms under which they had to order or carry certain merchandise lines. For these people, leaking is essentially a form of dissent, protest, or even civil disobedience.

5. On two occasions I’ve received leaks from people who basically said, “I work for Team X, and we’re supposed to go with this new design next season. As you can see, it’s awful, and I’m really dreading the whole thing. Maybe if you blog about it and say how bad it is, you can shame them into changing their minds.” (No, it didn’t work either time.)

6. Some people think the culture of calculated secrecy and corporate machinations associated with uniform designs is bullshit, and they enjoy fucking with that culture because they think it deserves to be fucked with.

7. Update: I didn’t initially include this, but commenter Vee63 astutely points out something I had overlooked: Some people are driven by an innate desire to be first — the first to provide information, the first to be in touch with me about a certain design, etc. This is certainly related to the inability to keep a secret and the desire to feel important, but I think it’s distinct enough to deserve its own category.

I think those are the major types.

By coincidence, I recently met another writer who’s often on the receiving end of leaks: Jim Romensko. If you work in media or journalism, you probably know who he is. For everyone else, Romenesko has made a name for himself over the past several decades by becoming the go-to source for news and information about the media/journalism world. Much of the information on his eponymous website is contributed — sometimes by people just sharing interesting links, but also by people who leak him inside info, office memos, and so on. In many ways, he and I are very similar: We’ve each become the hub for a very specific kind of niche-oriented content, some of which is rather sensitive and occasionally explosive.

I’ve been a fan of Romenesko’s work since the 1990s, plus we’re both former zine publishers. He and I have corresponded periodically over the years, but we’d never met in person until two Saturdays ago, when we both attended a Wisconsin museum reception:

I've been a fan of media critic extraordinaire Jim Romenesko for about 20 years but had never met him until today. Long…

Posted by Paul Lukas on Saturday, April 11, 2015

Great guy, and we got along quite well, so the other day I asked if he’d like to share some thoughts about leaks and leakers. He graciously obliged, as follows:

I relied on leakers when I wrote a press column (“Pressroom Confidential”) for Milwaukee Magazine in the 1980s and 1990. Jealousy, score-settling, and a desire to embarrass the competition seemed to be the primary reasons for leaking to me at that time. TV newsroom journalists loved to pass along stories about behavior of the well-paid anchors with bloated egos. For example, one tipster at ABC affiliate WISN-TV told me how the 10 p.m. co-anchors hated each other (of course, it was always happy-talk when the cameras were on), and that the female anchor cranked up her chair to sit just a bit higher than her male counterpart. He allegedly responded by raising his chair to sit above her. (Our illustration had the two sitting WAY above the anchor desk.)

Today, my leakers are angry about layoffs, corporate hypocrisy, and mismanagement. (The leak intended to embarrass a colleague — the kind I used to get — is now a rare bird.) And leakers are VERY afraid of getting caught. Many who contact me refuse to communicate via email — even from personal accounts — and insist on using the phone. Some who do pass along information in email insist that I not quote them verbatim for fear that someone will recognize a term or a phrase they use. I’ve had at least one instance where a whistleblower had a change of heart after passing along a very good memo out of fear that he’d get caught and fired. Fear is definitely in the air, and I try to go out of my way to assure leakers that I’ll protect them.

The types break down like this:

The executive leaker: This is the news executive who leaks his own memos. This started happening several years ago when editors and publishers came to realize that anything they published internally would probably be sent to me. At least one executive leaker has admitted to me that he writes his internal memos for my national journalism audience.

The “Can you believe this shit?” leaker: I hear more and more from this type of leaker — a person who is disgusted by management’s actions. Examples include the newspaper company CEO who gives employees a $1.25 vending machine token for their birthdays; the newspaper that turns off power in the middle of the day to save money; and the publisher who bans swearing in the newsroom.

The “Somebody has to tell Romenesko” leaker: This is when everybody knows about a wrongdoing or injustice, but everybody’s afraid to leak it … until one brave soul blows the whistle. This was the case when The State’s publisher told its sports columnist he couldn’t write about South Carolina football or coach Steve Spurrier. There were newsroom petitions protesting this (nobody forwarded them to me), and there were newsroom meetings (I wasn’t told about them). Finally — several months after the publisher’s edict came down — someone told me about it. (The end result: the columnist was again allowed to write about SC football.)

Fascinating, right? Some of the dynamics for Romenesko are a little different than for me (Romenesko is a journalist and so are his leakers, for example, so he has a certain peer-to-peer commonality with his sources that I don’t often have with mine), but many of the other dynamics are very similar.

Finally, it’s worth noting that while leaks can be exciting, they don’t necessarily make my life easier. For starters, my default position is to view each purported leak suspiciously — I won’t go public with anything until I can confirm that the content and source are legitimate. Just two nights ago, in fact, someone tried to hoax me by sending what he claimed to be a leak of the upcoming 76ers redesign. It only took a few minutes for me to figure out that the materials he sent me were bogus, but sometimes it’s trickier. (And sometimes I’m too suspicious: My initial assessment of the first round of Clippers leaks, for example, was that the images were phonies. It wasn’t until a month later that I realized they were legit.)

Also, leaks can create hassles. On one occasion, leaked info led to a sportswear company threatening to sue me; on another, leaked info prompted a league to sic an “investigator” on league employees who had emailed with me.

Also-also, leaks have created a culture of expectation and entitlement among fans and readers, many of whom routinely email or tweet at me to ask, “Any good inside info about my favorite team? Any leaks you can share with me?” (After fielding hundreds of such queries in recent years, I now just respond with a link to this page.)

Still, leaks and leakers make the world — and my world — a more interesting place. Here’s hoping they keep coming in every now and then.

• • • • •

Baseball News: Slump-buster move last night by the Brewers, who wore their BP jerseys for their game against the Reds (and lost anyway, giving up 16 runs!). I’m all for superstitions and rituals, but suiting up like it’s a spring training game is never a good idea. … Cross-dressing alert: Reds utility man Kristopher Negron is a big Golden State Warriors fan and wore Chris Mullin socks under his game socks the other day (from Matt O’Bryant). … As some of you may know, the Phillies were briefly renamed as the Blue Jays in the early 1940s. Here’s a giveaway cap from that period (nice find from Frank Bitzer). … Gorgeous striped stirrups last night for Oklahoma State (from Seth Leonard). … Tulane wore bright blue uniforms yesterday to promote prostate cancer awareness. Also, note the clashing logo creep — Rawlings on the jerseys, Nike on the socks. … The Newton Royals — that’s an amateur team in Massachusetts — have some bizarro helmets (from Cory Enayat). … The Hunter Pence pants-above-the-knee look appears to be catching on with the youth. … Here’s something you don’t often see: a team logo with an exclamation point. … Los Osos High in California wear a modified White Sox beach blanket template, complete with a Sox-style silhouetted batter on the cap (from Hugh McBride). … Whoa, look at the size of the uni numbers on these U. of Miami throwbacks.

NFL News: Here’s a breakdown of the NFL’s top-selling jerseys. … Adrian Peterson’s agent stirred the pot the other day by wearing a Buccaneers cap. … The Packers will retire Brett Favre’s number on Thanksgiving (thanks, Brinke). … Someone has ranked all 32 NFL draft caps. … NFL schedule notes with possible uni-related implications: Tennessee’s sked page shows home games in white, and Green Bay’s shows a 1980s wordmark.

College Football News: Michigan State’s new uniforms will be displayed this Saturday as part of the spring game festivities. … New ACC patches for Viginia Tech (from Andrew Cosentino). … Jason Hillyer picked up this Ohio State bike for his five-year-old kid at a local Goodwill for only $12 — score! … Clint Richardson has broken down all the details of what appears to be the new Auburn uniforms.

Hockey News: Negotiations are beginning to see who will be the uniform outfitter for next year’s World Cup of Hockey. Key quote: “Several NHL sponsors [said] they expect the league to use the World Cup of Hockey to trial on-uniform advertising.” … If Vegas gets an NHL expansion franchise, its colors will apparently be black, gold, and grey (from Nathan Foss). … Preds goalie Pekka Rinne wears a baseball batting glove, or something similar to that, under his catching mitt (from @defreeuw83).

NBA News: 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil seems to be hinting that the team will soon have a sleeved alternate. … With changes looming, here’s a look at Clippers logo history. … The Hawks had to pull their Game 1 giveaway T-shirts because they misspelled one player’s name and omitted another’s (from Yusuke Toyoda).

Soccer News: “I run a blog that focuses on the shirt numbers worn in soccer,” says Dennis Hurley. “The most recent post examines the unusual numbering employed by Liverpool when they dominated in England in the 1970s and ’80s. It differed a lot from the traditional numbering system as, often, players would switch positions but retain their old number.” … “Norway’s women’s national soccer team will be playing in the upcoming Women’s World Cup in unisex jerseys because Nike hasn’t been able to provide women’s cut uniforms in the necessary time frame,” says Kary Klismet. Good thing Norway’s national colors don’t include midnight green, or else they’d be screwed even worse, eh? … Liverpool has renewed its jersey advertising deal with Standard Chartered Bank. … “Aston Villa’s 19-year-old Jack Grealish caught everyone’s eye last weekend with his breakout performance and his tiny kid-sized shinguards,” says Yusuke Toyoda.

Grab Bag: I see that two entire readers have ordered the newly available Uni Watch watch, which is approximately one more than I expected. If those two people are reading this, please send photos when you receive your watch! … Pantone has introduced its first new color in three years (from Paul Lee). … Speaking of colors, my lifelong love of the color green has now been validated by science! So if you favor orange or blue or one of those other lesser colors, that’s like believing in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus (and loving purple is akin to climate change denial, but I didn’t need scientists to tell me that.) … JetBlue’s old uniforms have been upcycled into carry-on bags. … Russia’s tourism ministry is in the market for a new logo. … The Maryland and Johns Hopkins lacrosse teams will now be playing for a crab-shaped rivalry trophy (from Eli Davis). … Professional snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan played in his socks at the world championships yesterday (from Paddy Fleming). … After years of wearing Adidas, Cuban president Fidel Castro was recently spotted wearing Puma (from Tim Stackhouse). … The guy who designed Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign logo is the latest person to weigh in on Hillary Clinton’s campaign logo. … You know how the car brand Audi has a logo featuring four rings? Here’s what they stand for. … F1 driver Lewis Hamilton has switched helmet suppliers.