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Good morning! Although the world may be spinning out of control, Uni Watch is still here for you. I’ll have more to say about that a bit later in today’s post.
Meanwhile: The top-tier Brazilian soccer team Grêmio yesterday engaged in what I believe is the sports world’s first coronavirus-related protest, as players took the field wearing surgical masks to protest having to play during the pandemic.
The team’s director of football, Pablo Luz, said, “This protest by the players makes implicit our support for the championship to be halted. Life must take precedence.”
The players wore the masks for all preliminary activities, including the traditional pre-match team photo:
The players removed the masks for the game, which was played in an empty stadium (and which Grêmio won, 3-2). Afterward, the team’s manager, Renato Portaluppi, who also wore a mask while walking onto the field, said:
It is time for Grêmio to take a stand, and that was to wear masks to alert authorities that players are people too. We are not immune to viruses. There’s no point in closing the doors to fans, so the fans are protected and screw those who work in football.
The whole world has stopped, shouldn’t Brazilian football stop as well? That’s our message and I hope they listen. We hope that good sense will prevail.
Portaluppi also wore a mask for his post-match press conference, during which he said the team was prepared to strike if their schedule wasn’t suspended:
After the strike threat, the Brazilian Football Confederation announced that it’s suspending all national championships indefinitely.
(My thanks to Timmy Donahue for bringing this one to my attention.)
Golden anniversary: Fifty years ago today — March 16, 1970 — was a momentous day in NFL uniform and aesthetics history, as a four-man competition committee hashed out various terms for the AFL/NFL merger, which was set to go into effect that fall. The following day, the AP ran the story shown above. Here are the key points:
1. For the AFL’s entire 10-year existence — 1960 through 1969 — AFL teams wore NOBs while the NFL did not. The competition committee decided that NOBs would become the standard following the merger:
At the time the committee took this vote, NOBs were very common in the NBA, unheard of in the NHL except in the All-Star Game (a few teams would start experimenting with them the following season), and used by a just handful of MLB teams (the Angels, A’s, Cardinals, Orioles, Reds, and White Sox). So for the NFL to go this route was a pretty big deal.
2. As you can see in that last clipping from the article, the committee also decided that the official game clock would be kept on the stadium scoreboard, which was the method used by the AFL. Up until that time, the game clocks shown on NFL stadium scoreboards were unofficial, with the official time kept on the field by an on-field timekeeper.
3. Here’s something I didn’t know: The NFL and AFL balls had different shapes. Check this out:
So the NFL’s ball was “less pointed” than the AFL’s — I hadn’t realized that. So I did a bit of research and came found this comparison photo — vintage NFL ball on top, AFL ball on bottom:
Again, I had no idea. Which balls did they use for the first four Super Bowls? Like, did the team on offense just use its league’s ball, or did they alternate by Super Bowl, or what?
Also, does anyone know if any of the AFL quarterbacks had trouble switching to the NFL ball after the merger?
As you can see in the article’s headline, the committee also decided not to allow a two-point conversion (that would eventually come in 1994), but that’s less of an aesthetic issue than a logistical issue.
Anyway: Fifty years ago today! And as a final note, check out the comma in that Green Bay Press-Gazette headline — love that sharp angle.
(Big thanks to Jeff Ash for bringing this historical anniversary to my attention.)
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MLB ASG update: On Friday I reported on these apparent MLB All-Star Game designs that came from the MLB The Show video game. At the time, I said I said I’d been told that these were the BP/workout jerseys, even though the screen shots seem to imply game use.
A trusted source has now told me two things:
1. These are indeed the BP/workout designs.
2. MLB plans to go with league-based uniforms for this year’s All-Star Game.
My source has not seen these league-based game designs, so I have no idea what they look like. They could feature “American” and “National” jerseys, but let’s keep in mind that other formats are also possible. For example, recent NHL All-Star designs have retained team logos but shoehorned them into miserable templates. I suspect that’s more likely than a simple “American”/”National” approach.
We’ll find out soon enough — assuming the MLB All-Star Game actually takes place this year.
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Another first: Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders practiced good pandemic hygiene by elbow-bumping, instead of shaking hands prior to the start of their debate last night. Definitely the first time that’s ever happened at a presidential debate.
Later, in yet another first, Sanders appeared to appeared to cast a hex or spell, or maybe a Force choke, on a clearly fazed Biden:
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Hypothetically speaking: Ya know what they’re saying, people — gotta stock up on those pantry essentials!
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ITEM! The wearin’ of the green: Parades have been cancelled, we’re being advised to stay away from bars and parties, and even going to Mickey D’s for a shamrock shake seems risky, but reader Greg Mitchell isn’t letting that stop him from celebrating St. Paddy’s Day. As you can see above, he has all his green gear ready to go, including his St. Paddy’s-themed Uni Watch membership card and our latest Uni Watch Pin Club edition.
And that gives me an idea: Even if most of us are stuck at home and can’t socialize the way we normally would, the comm-uni-ty can still celebrate, even if only virtually. So if you’re planning to wear green jerseys, caps, or Uni Watch apparel tomorrow, send me photos of your green-clad self. I’ll share the best photos here on the site. Thanks!
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ITEM! Calling all leakers: By now you probably know I provided our first look at the Bucs’ new uniforms last Thursday.
Those designs were leaked to me by by an industry source. At one point during the course of our interactions, the source said, “Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’m doing this. I’ve asked myself that.” To which I responded, “The psychology of it is interesting, I agree.” And then we went back to discussing the details of the new Bucs uniforms.
The psychology of leaking is something I’ve written about before. Until now, though, no leaker had ever been introspective enough to bring it up with me. That got me thinking, so over the weekend I circled back to a bunch of people who have leaked things to me over the years, including my Bucs source, and asked if they’d be willing to discuss why they did it. Almost all agreed.
So now I’ll put the question out there to the rest of you: If you’ve ever leaked anything — either to me, or to another another writer, or just to the internet (e.g., Twitter, a message board, etc.) — I’d like to talk with you. Anonymity is assured — if I end up quoting you, your voice will be one of many, with no identifying details.
Just to be clear: What I’m looking for here are primary sources who shared privileged information, not people who just passed along a leak that they saw or read about someplace else. I’ll also need to vet you and your story to make sure everything checks out. If you’re game, get in touch. Thanks.
Recommended listens: If you’re going stir crazy at home and need some podcasts to listen to, I can heartily recommend the following:
• I’ve recently gotten heavily into Side Door, a podcast produced by the Smithsonian, with most episodes focusing on the stories behind items from their collection. It’s really interesting stuff, and the most recent episode is actually uni-related, as it’s about how NASA’s first spacesuits were designed and made. If you like that episode, I strongly recommend all of Season Four, which is when the current host, the excellent Lizzie Peabody, took over.
• The writer/comedian Jamie Loftus has a great four-episode podcast series called My Year in Mensa, which is about how she took the Mensa test as a joke, was surprised when she passed, wrote an article entitled “Good News, They Let Dumb Sluts into Mensa Now,” and then found herself on the receiving end of all sorts of online abuse from her fellow Mensans. It’s a good story, but she also delves into the history of Mensa, the history of IQ tests in general, and lots of related topic. Fun, funny, and very, very smart.
That should keep you busy for a while — enjoy.
Virus Watch: On Friday I asked for your feedback on how (or even if) Uni Watch should proceed during this epic moment in history. The responses, both in Friday’s comments section and in the many emails I received from various readers, were almost identical and went something like this: “(a) Uni Watch has become a daily part of my life, so please keep posting, especially since (b) familiar routines are particularly important at moments like these, and (c) I enjoy your writing, whether about uniforms or anything else, so please keep it up — I’m here for whatever you publish.”
It was all very humbling and inspiring. Thanks, people — I’ll do my best to live up to the faith you’ve shown in me, and to do things that help bolster a sense of shared comm-uni-ty (like that St. Paddy’s Day thing a few items up). Obviously, Uni Watch isn’t an essential public service, but if it can be of some benefit during the pandemic, I feel a responsibility to make good on that.
But here is a sobering reality: Based on what we know now, it is highly likely that several people reading this are either infected or will become infected. It is also a very real possibility that someone reading this will die as a result of the infection.
I don’t want you to be that person. The Uni Watch comm-uni-ty means more to me than I can adequately express, and I’ve found myself feeling very protective about you folks over the past few days. Please-please-please do everything possible to stay safe and healthy. not just for your own sake, but for everyone’s sake. I know many of you are fiercely independent-minded (not that I’d know anything about that myself…), but this is a situation where we really are all in it together. That presents huge risks but also huge opportunities: If you take good care of yourself, you’ll also be taking good care of everyone else. It’s not often we have the chance to be so helpful to one another just by being sensible and careful, so let’s do our best not to squander that opportunity. I’ll do my best to lead by example (more on that later in today’s post).
Also: As we all know, the pandemic is taking an economic toll on a lot of people and businesses. That includes me. Some freelance projects I was working on have been scuttled, some editors I was talking to about other projects now say all bets are off, and the next several Uni Watch features I was going to do for InsideHook — like the MLB Season Preview and some other seasonal stuff — are now in doubt because the sports world has shut down. Meanwhile, ad revenue here on the blog is down because web advertisers are being cautious and submitting lower bids. And while I’m healthy for now (knock on wool flannel), all the emergency stopgap legislation in the world won’t provide paid sick leave for a self-employed freelancer like me if I get infected, at least not under our present system.
And so, respectfully, I say to you: Uni Watch could really use your support during this period. I realize, of course, that some of you may be facing financial challenges of your own. But if you have the means, and if value this project, please consider ordering a membership card, or purchasing some Uni Watch merchandise, or making a donation — especially if you haven’t done any of those things in the past.
Since we’re all in this together, I’ll do my part by making it a bit easier for you to provide that support. As a gesture of solidarity with the Uni Watch comm-uni-ty, the following discounts are in effect until further notice:
• You can get 15% off of anything in the Uni Watch Shop and the Naming Wrongs Shop by using the checkout code COMMUNITY. (I wanted it to be COMM-UNI-TY, but Teespring’s system doesn’t allow for that many characters — dang.)
• The Uni Watch Classic Cap, which usually sells for $39.99, is now $35.99 — a 10% cut.
• Membership cards, which usually sell for $25, are now $20 — a 20% cut.
• Seam rippers, which normally cost $6, are now $4 — a 33% cut.
Thanks for your consideration. To each and every one of you: I hope you and those close to you stay healthy and safe. Be careful out there.
By Jamie Rathjen
Baseball News: Some more of minor league baseball’s Copa de la Diversión caps were released this weekend (from Ignacio Salazar). … The last 12 minutes of the FiveThirtyEight podcast Hot Takedown from a few weeks ago involves a deep dive into the data behind spring training uniform numbers. “There’s a nice graph of the frequency of 2019 MLB uni numbers on that page, too.”
Football News: Minneapolis sports columnist Sid Hartman received a Vikings No. 100 jersey for his 100th birthday yesterday (from Patrick Lenertz). … Reader Michael Driscoll tells us that the late-’80s Eagles used a label maker with the letters oriented vertically, not horizontally. … We’ve Ticked before that NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett wore NFL-themed helmets in Joe Gibbs’s first few years as a team owner in the early ’90s, but I don’t know if we’ve mentioned that one existed for all 28 teams at the time (from Patrick Lind).
Hockey News: Capitals winger T.J. Oshie writes his family members’ initials on his sticks. … Wade Heidt sent us two more St. Patrick’s Day jerseys that were supposed to be worn by the AHL’s Chicago Wolves and Ontario Reign — and Ontario’s has four-leaf clovers, not shamrocks. … The CBC replaced Hockey Night in Canada with movie showings under the title Movie Night in Canada, just as they have during NHL lockouts. The substitute programming has its own logo, derived from the HNIC logo.
Basketball News: We’ve had NBA SG Craig Hodges’ exploits at the 1993 three-point shootout in a generic NBA uniform in the Ticker before. If you’re interested, the last time it was Ticked in 2017 also led to this entry about Lithuania’s Rimas Kurtinaitis, who wore a plain blue uniform as the only non-NBA player to participate in the shootout in 1989, while with BC Žalgiris in the Soviet top tier (from David Firestone). … Reader John Fitzgerald points out that Rick Pitino was hired by Iona, an Adidas school, after he sued and then settled with the company because of the scandal that led to his firing from Louisville. It’s worth mentioning that Pitino’s previous stop, Panathinaikos in Greece, is also outfitted by Adidas.
Soccer News: These are supposedly the NWSL’s Portland Thorns’ shirts for this season (“2020-21” is a mistake). If those pan out, the rose and thorn motifs are nice, but becoming a little overused by Nike, and we can definitely say that a primary color switch, to black, wouldn’t be the only one in the league this season (from Jeremy Brahm and Chris Cruz). … New second kit for Northern Ireland. … The Australian A-League’s Wellington Phoenix, the league’s one team in New Zealand, marked the first anniversary of last year’s shootings at a mosque in Christchurch by reserving 51 empty seats for the victims. … Ed Żelaski tells us that Belarusian team Shakhtyor Soligorsk have highlighter-yellow shirts this season, which causes their undershirts not to match — undershirts are supposed to match the sleeves, but they seem to come in fewer colors than teams’ shirts, so they often don’t match odd shades of some colors.
Grab Bag: On Friday, the English rugby league Super League’s Wigan Warriors debuted yellow third shirts in support of a local air ambulance charity. … An English field hockey player ran yesterday’s Bath Half Marathon in full goalie pads, which are similar to ice hockey pads but with a large blocker instead of a glove and padded shoes instead of skates. His shirt was also based on that of the rugby union team Bath Rugby. … Japan’s women’s table tennis team got new uniforms (from Jeremy Brahm). … Bullis School, a private school in Potomac, Md., got grey alternate boys’ lacrosse jerseys, and as a bonus, the player scoring in that clip was wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey underneath (from Timmy Donahue). … Also from Timmy: New patches for the Fairmont, Minn., police. … Our own Anthony Emerson sent us Democratic presidental candidates’ logos in the style of each one’s perceived biggest rival. … Michael McLaughlin sent us this article on sumo wrestlers’ keshō-mawashi, which are worn by wrestlers in the sport’s top two tiers during their ring-entering ceremony.
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What Paul did
last night over the weekend: Saturday was Pi Day, so the Tugboat Captain and I decided to have a pizza pie for dinner. Then we thought, “This could could be our last pizza for a while if everything gets shut down, so why not get two pizzas and have lots of leftovers?” So that’s what we did. Let other people stockpile beans and grains — we’re stockpiling pepperoni pizza! (Okay, we have lots of beans and grains too.)
We normally walk over to our local pizzeria and pick up our order, but we’re trying to be good about social distancing, so we got delivery instead. Delivery people are heroes these days, so we tipped our guy really well.
That’s what counted as excitement here at Uni Watch HQ over the weekend. In some ways, it was business as usual — I normally work from home, so I’m used to being here all day without experiencing cabin fever. Still, it was a bit weird to have to think about every potential neighborhood errand: Is it okay to go to the post office? (Yes, I decided, because I was just dropping off packages in the package bin and didn’t have to wait on a line.) Is it okay to run around the corner to get more beer and soda? (Maybe, but it would be better to stop doing that, so from now on I’ll be ordering from Drizly.) Is it okay to go to the plant shop so we can replace that big palm plant that recently died and left a big empty spot in our dining room, even though the replacement plant will probably die as well because the light in our house sucks? (No, that can wait until after the pandemic.)
So what else did I do? This:
• I went for my daily bike rides in Prospect Park. At present, this seems like a safe activity (plus it keeps me sane), and I see no reason to cut back on it unless they close the parks. My main concern with this activity isn’t getting sick — it’s having an accident that would land me in the emergency room and divert medical resources from where they’re most needed — so I’m being extra-careful and avoiding any risky daredevil moves (not that I’m usually daredevil-y, but you know what I mean).
• On Sunday the Tugboat Captain and I engaged in one of our fallback activities for difficult times: a walk on the beach. We would normally take the subway to Coney Island or Brighton Beach, but we’re avoiding the subway, so we got in the car and drove to a fairly isolated spot called Plum Beach, where we figured it would be easy to stay at least six feet away from everyone.
It was, frankly, a bit surreal. It was a brisk, sunny, beautiful day, and we spent most of our time perched on a jetty, watching people walk by, often with their dogs. It wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t empty either — there were just enough people for it to seem like a fairly normal day. But of course it wasn’t normal. I’m not sorry we went, but I don’t think we’ll be doing that again.
• By convenient coincidence, we’re currently in the midst of a four-day stretch of getting free HBO, so we watched five of the nine Watchmen episodes (and we’ll watch the last four episodes today). Fun fact: The Watchmen logo is rendered in the same typeface — Futura Bold — as the “Get Out / Stay In” icon that has long accompanied this section of Uni Watch.
• Honestly, I spent a lot of time working on today’s post and thinking about how I want Uni Watch to be a positive factor during this difficult period. Hence the St. Paddy’s thing, the merch-discount thing, and some other ideas that I’ll be sharing soon.
However you spent your weekend, I hope you kept safe and healthy. Stay well!