As longtime readers may recall, about four years ago I wrote an entry about the role of cultural critics like myself. I was reminded of that post when reader Jason Hillyer recently pointed me toward a piece on Slate about critics. It’s not an ideal analysis (among other problems, the author doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a critic and reviewer, which is a big thing to gloss over), but it has lots of interesting bits and is worth reading. I was particularly intrigued by this part:
Sturgeon’s law [is] named after its originator, science-fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, who once observed, “It can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap.” The “It can be argued” part usually isn’t quoted, and the figure is very ballpark. But it’s inarguable that the majority of what comes down the pike, in any medium, is mediocre or worse. It would be tiresome for critics to constantly be counting the ways that the work under review is crap, nor would their editors and the owners of the publications they write for be happy with a consistently downbeat arts section. The result is an unconscious inclination to grade on a curve. That is, if something isn’t very good, but is better than two-thirds of other entries in the genre—superhero epics, quirky or sensitive indie films, detective novels, literary fiction, cable cringe comedies—give it a B or B-plus.
A bit later, there’s this:
[C]ritics fall prey to a sort of hermeneutic Stockholm syndrome. They experience so much bad work that they get inured to it. They are so thankful for originality, or for a creator’s having good or arguably interesting intentions, or for technical proficiency, or for something that’s crap but not crap in quite the usual way, that they give these things undue credit.
All of that rings true, especially the “grading on a curve” and “hermeneutic Stockholm syndrome” lines. (Those are good — wish I’d thought of them.) I say that not just as a uniform critic but also as a former rock critic, a former restaurant critic, and an occasional design, book, and movie critic — but especially as a uniform critic. There are soooo many designs, and so many of them are either crap or just taking up space with no particular reason for existing. It can be exhausting, or at least numbing. I’m not proud to admit this, but sometimes I do find myself sort of instinctively grading on a curve.
Why do I find myself doing that? Part of it, for sure, is that I don’t want to be perceived as being relentlessly negative. But I think a bigger part of is that I don’t want to be relentlessly negative. That’s the drag about being a critic: You spend a lot of time being, well, critical. And although I realize it probably seems like I enjoy being a nay-sayer, it’s actually no fun. It’s much more enjoyable to be positive about things. The problem, as noted by Sturgeon’s law, is that most things don’t deserve a positive response. So while I try to maintain certain standards and benchmarks, and try to be true to my aesthetic convictions, there are times when I feel myself bending a little.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m just saying that the gig does have its downsides, and that there are days when it definitely feels like hard work.
It’s all good food for thought. Thanks for listening.
Click to enlarge
By Brinke Guthrie
Great-looking catalog page here from fall of 1969 for J.C. Penney’s line of Rawlings NFL gear. The player shown is wearing Packers No. 15, no doubt due to Green Bay winning the previous season’s Super Bowl. You got the helmet, pads, jersey and pants for just $14.88! (Not recommended for competitive play.)
As a p.s., if you’ve never visited WishbookWeb, I highly recommend it. Tons of holiday catalogs, and you’ll see a whole lot of NFL gear from back in the day, just like the above-linked Packers stuff! A real treasure trove.
Now for the rest of this week’s picks:
• Baseball program cover art doesn’t get much better than this 1973 Oakland A’s scorecard, which commemorates their World Series title from the previous fall. Notice Joe Rudi on the bottom left of the cover — I happened to be sitting just above the left field fence when he made that catch during the bottom of the ninth in Game Two. We initially didn’t know if it was a home run since the ball dropped right in front of us, but I quickly saw that the other side of the stands weren’t cheering, so I knew he had caught it. A sad day at Riverfront. Yes, I’m still bitter.
• This is a 1970s Philadephia Flyers “Flyerjak,” made exclusively for The J.C. Penney Co.
• Here’s another one of those great 1970s Fleer NFL Big Signs — this one is for the Jets, but I’ve seen the source photo, and it’s definitely Bengals defensive back Tommy Casanova, who wore No. 37.
• This DIY NFL helmet blanket is covered with individual patches of the various teams and is very nicely done.
• Ah, the classic 1980s/1990s Dallas Cowboys Starter jacket. I got one of these for Christmas from the program director of my Top-40 station — he was a Cowboys fan too, to the extent that our station van was blue/silver, and so were our staff jackets! He always denied that was the reason why, but we knew better.
• I sure would love to see the San Francisco Giants wear these late-1970s orange throwbacks on a regular basis.
• This promo flying disc from the 1970s was sponsored by CAR-X and unequivocally states, “We Love the Brewers!”
• Wow, check out this really nice 1970s Damac Seattle Seahawks poster by Chuck Ren.
• More brilliant NFL poster art, this time a 1960s poster for the Denver Broncos.
• And from reader Jeff Flynn, this game-used The King and His Court softball uniform is probably outside most Uni Watch readers’ price range but is still worth looking at. What a beauty!
Got an item to include on Collector’s Corner? Send any submissions to email@example.com. Thanks!
Contest reminder: In case you missed it last week, our latest ESPN design contest is to redesign the Jaguars. Full details here.
Baseball News: The Twins appear to be the latest MLB team moving to matte helmets and 3-D helmet logos. … UT-Arlington’s softball uniforms appear to be based on the 1986 Mets design (from Jason Hendrix). … New softball uniforms for the U. of Washington. … Last week new Tigers skipper Ron Gardenhire said it might take him a while to learn everyone’s name, and that he might therefore be referring to a lot of players as “Hey, Buddy.” So yesterday a bunch of players showed up wearing “Buddy” NOBs (from Steve Vibert). … Brewers mainstay Ryan Braun, making the shift from OF to 1B, says he’ll have to start wearing a cup for the first time in over a decade (from Mike Chamernik). … New blood clot softball uniforms for Florida Southern College (from Wayne Koehler). … New Padres free agent signee Eric Hosmer will wear No. 30 as a tribute to his former Royals teammate Yordano Ventura (from Mike Chamernik and Brady Phelps).
NFL News: What’s worse than logo creep? Double logo creep! That’s Falcons DB Ron Davis with the dual Russell Athletic logos on his left sleeve in a 1995 game against the 49ers (good spot by Johnny Garfield).
Hockey News: “My son plays in an adult hockey league at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in suburban Pittsburgh,” says Paul Wood. He named his team the Mighty Yuks and designed the jersey in honor of my neighbor, Dr. Richard Moriarty, the pediatrician who conceived and created Mr. Yuk symbol in 1971.” This photo shows Dr. Moriarty wearing the Mighty Yuks jersey, accompanied by Paul’s son. … The Panthers responded to the Florida school massacre by adding helmet decals and jersey patches. … Canucks G Anders Nilsson has a rainbow icon on his mask’s backplate to promote LGBTQ rights. … Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu used to work as an ice girl for the Avalanche (from Kary Klismet). … The Golden Knights wore white at home last night.
Olympics News: Really good piece on Olympic Zamboni drivers (NYT link). … American skier Lindsey Vonn has a 48-star American flag on a piece of her gear. “I couldn’t find any other photos of that particular piece of equipment on other athletes to see if it’s unique to her,” says Bryan Grupp. … Last week we linked to a New York Times story about American curler (and my pal) Tyler George using the same pair of ratty sneakers for eight years. The story generated so much feedback that the Times took him shopping and bought him new footwear, which sounds really sketchy from a journalism ethics perspective. … Tyler has also been wearing a series of flashy socks (thanks, Phil). … If figure skaters and ice dancers just wore a unitard and a number like all the other athletes, instead of ridiculous costumes, they wouldn’t have to worry about the type of “wardrobe malfunction” that a French ice dancer experienced on Monday. … The rest of these are from Kary Klismet: American freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy was wearing owl-themed mittens during the slope-style competition. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can see more info here. … Reprinted from the hockey section: American figure skater Mirai Nagasu used to work as an ice girl for the Colorado Avalanche. … In a related item, Nagasu generated a lot of chatter by wearing kinesio tape on her inner thigh.
Grab Bag: NASCAR driver Austin Dillon and his crew celebrated their Daytona 500 win by getting “Champ” tattoos on their butts. … Apple is seeking a new trademark for its rainbow-patterned logo. … New Rugby shirts for Germany.