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See that up there, right above this line of text?
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See that up there, right above this line of text? The use of big, centered italic Roman numerals also usually indicates that what follows is going to be fairly long. I was super-excited to get my first Little League uni it seemed so official! When I watched sports, I obsessed over how the players wore their uniforms. At some point, when I was about 10, a sweatshirt became part of my wardrobe. I wanted everyone to know that this was referring to Jerry Smith, not just any old Smith.
She obliged, using red thread that matched the shade for the numbers and lots of horizontal stitches. As I recall, it looked something like this:. SMITH, which bugged me. I felt ashamed and knew I was being selfish. At the same time, the missing space after the period still bugged me.
In spite of the missing space, I wore the sweatshirt a lot, including while playing backyard touch football with some of the older kids in our neighborhood. I had two much older brothers they were 12 and 15 when I was born , so our house had a lot of books, including sports books, that they had gotten when they were kids.
One of these books was The Pros , a beautifully illustrated and photographed book about the NFL that I found on a shelf when I was about I loved poring over it, and I was particularly interested in an illustration that showed the evolution of the NFL helmet. Another hand-me-down from my brothers was one of those tabletop hockey games with the metal players. At school, like a lot of kids, I doodled in the margins of my notebook instead of paying attention to the teacher.
For many years I also did doodles — like, lots of doodles — that showed a lower leg with baseball pants and stirrups. I would do front views of stirrups, side views of stirrups, high-rise stirrups with lots of white showing, low-rise stirrups with just a little white showing. One day another kid asked what I was drawing. Instead, he made fun of me and quickly told everyone else. I always enjoyed writing. So I did what a lot of similarly creative but intimidated people did in those days: I started a zine.
But I also wrote the product reviews because I was genuinely interested in cereal boxes and bricks. It was fun to write about things like that.
Later, in the fall of , I was dealing with the end of of a long-term relationship and approaching my 30th birthday, which seemed impossibly old. I missed writing, so I basically assigned myself a project to create a new zine. After playing around with some titles and subtitles, I decided that this new zine would be called Beer Frame: The Journal of Inconspicuous Consumption. The first issue, which was basically a detail-obsessive look at consumer culture with a storytelling voice, came out in October Beer Frame changed my life.
It also led to a bunch of freelance writing opportunities and a book deal, which allowed me to quit my job in early Suddenly I was a real journalist after all.
I got some travel writing gigs, some food writing gigs. Meanwhile, I was still very much into sports, but I had never much thought about being a sportswriter. After all, sportswriters went on the road with the team and spent lots of time covering team workouts and hanging out in the clubhouse, right? But then, in the spring of , it occurred to me: What about uniforms?
TV and radio sportscasters sometimes mentioned the uniforms that the teams were wearing I always hung on every word , but as far as I could tell, no sportswriters ever covered uniforms. Could I do that? I discussed that with him, but it never got off the ground. But what I really wanted was to create a sports column about design.
I wanted to create a new sports beat and have it taken seriously as legitimate sports journalism. By the end of the year, I realized that my concept for a new uniform column had become something I talked about , not something I was actually working to make happen.
That felt lazy and underachieving, so on Jan. I began by setting my sights high, pitching the idea to ESPN The Magazine which at the time was still a fairly new enterprise. They said no. Then I pitched Sports Illustrated.
They said yes — success! I did another piece a few weeks later, but the same thing happened. I figured any sports section with content like that could probably handle a column about uniforms. I got in touch with the sports editor, a guy named Miles Seligman, and described what I had in mind. Not only did he instantly get it, but he was already familiar with my work, so he understood my basic style and point of view — a huge stroke of luck.
Years later, I decided that it was the right name all along. For the first installment, I did a rundown of all the MLB uniform changes for that season.
It ran on May 26, — 20 years ago today. I still have the clipping. Uni Watch settled in for a nice run at the Voice. Uni Watch was also starting to get a bit of attention from other venues, like this article in Salon. It felt like I had at least somewhat achieved my goal of creating a new sports beat. One day in October , I was working on a travel story in New Mexico and received a message on my answering machine from my Voice editor, Ward Harkavy Miles had left a year or so earlier : The Voice was scrapping its sports section.
Uni Watch was done. Why not call it a day and move on to other projects? How about every two weeks? In some ways, moving to Slate turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Uni Watch, because it taught me how to write for the web. At Slate, I could suddenly link to photos of the things I was writing about — a godsend for a project about visual details like Uni Watch. By this time I had created a Uni Watch mailing list and invited readers to join it, and I could see that two of those readers had espn.
Whatever else might happen, I figured Uni Watch could now legitimately be called a success. I fact, I think I can do it every day, as a blog. What do you think? But if you want to do it every day on your own, knock yourself out. Just make sure you do the big uniform stories for us, and keep the little stories for your blog.
Just stick to the column. The idea was that it would supplement my ESPN content. The initial site design and logo were based on a T-shirt that a reader named Scott M. Turner had created for the first-ever Uni Watch party in March The blog debuted on May 17, — just nine days before the seventh anniversary of the first column appearing in the Voice. I continued to do lots of enjoyable and rewarding work for ESPN over the next dozen years a lot of my favorite columns are listed and linked in my final ESPN piece from a few months ago , but the blog turned out to be where the fun was.
Meanwhile, an additional cast of characters and contributors began coalescing around the site. The first of these was Vince Grzegorek, who became the first Uni Watch intern, handling weekend entries, in All of these rituals, protocols, subcultures, and people, along with several other elements, have created that elusive characteristic that we were always told the internet would provide: community.
That sense of community has seemed particularly strong lately, ever since I announced the recent unpleasantness.
You should be, too. I totally understand that. But what am I supposed to do — ignore them? The rock critic Robert Christgau used to review pretty much everything he could get his hands on.
I could focus on things like Hal the Hot Dog Guy interviews and stop doing things like Nick Francona interviews , to take two recent examples — one very positive and celebratory, the other fairly negative and critical. I mean, when I critique camouflage uniforms, or logo creep, or BFBS, is anyone really learning anything new?
Am I learning anything new? Is it just the same basic critique over and over? Would it be good for Uni Watch? As you may recall, we had a logo five years ago for the 15th anniversary, designed by Scott M.
For the new 20th-anniversary logo, I wanted something that referenced that earlier design, so it would provide some sense of continuity. Not bad, right? I love how it references the previous anniversary logo and also shows the progression from our old visual icon the magnifying glass to the new one the winged stirrup. This logo will be appearing here and there on the site during the rest of this calendar year.
For starters, when Phil and I went to a Mets game a few nights ago, he had a big surprise waiting for me.
How cool is that? Chance arranged the whole thing. So cool! Note the wrapping paper:.