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Tuesday
Dec132011

Plight of the ApOstracized 

Most people don't even notice my struggle. Most people probably wouldn't even consider it a problem. Most people probably think this much ado about nothing, but I consider it a slight on my humanity.

I am an ApOstracized American.

Being ApOstracized is not a choice, I was born this way, but the government doesn't see it that way. Hell, pop culture doesn't even see it that way.

Born an "O'Brien", I have long suffered the indignity of people getting my name wrong. On government forms I'm either "OBrien", "O Brien" or the infuriating "Obrien" - assuming they didn't spell my name with an "a".

I was introduced to these injustices at an early age, where they first tried to disenfranchise my people of our proper name.

Standardized tests are a cause of anxiety for many young children, but for me - and people of my ilk - they were also a cause of oppression. The oft misused apostrophe, a dominant and important feature of my surname, was often cast aside by anti-apostrophe bigots.

I remember taking my first standardized test and while given instructions to fill in the circles in the name box, "Last name, then first leaving a space between them. Then fill in the corresponding bubbles." I immediately noticed that I did not fit into this perfect little circle. I was the proverbial pencil mark outside the line.

Patiently, I raised my hand and waited for Mrs. Carrol to call on me. Obviously there was some mistake - I didn't see an apostrophe bubble anywhere. I mean, I had an older brother and sister and I knew other apostrophe families, surely someone had to have a protocol for me and my people. Maybe they just forgot to give me the right form.

"Mrs. Carrol, what do I do since I have an apostrophe?"

The question hushed the otherwise precocious class.

Quietly, my teacher - my authority figure - looked around, perplexed. Finally, after meeting eyes with her teacher's assistant and shrugging, she told me to just separate the "O" and the "B" with a space.

A thousand questions raced through my head. Would the machine think I was named Brien O? Could I live as a boy named Brien O? Could we bring this error to the attention of someone with greater knowledge of this situation?

I learned early in life, separate is not equal.

No one validated my apostrophe, and by third grade I was done asking what to do. I had become docile, acquiescent.

But as I grew older, I grew bolder. Proud of my name, I would fill in the "space" bubble but defiantly write the apostrophe in the box above it. Take that society.

As my passion for sports evolved as I grew, I decided to partake in sports, sports video games and bought much sports paraphernalia.

Fortunately, I only played sports for teams that went NNOB. However, sports games like Madden or NBA2K refused to allow the apostrophe in my name in their game. No league, even those like the NBA, NHL or FIFA that have players with apostrophes already in the game, would allow me to Create-A-Player with my distinguishing feature.

The bigotry stung like salt in a wound; I couldn't be Tim O'Brien but I could be Tîm ÒBríèñ.

Why wouldn't EA or SEGA allow me to be who I am? I wanted to write them letters, but Microsoft Word told me my name was spelled wrong.

Even my fandom was called into question. For my 16th birthday, my golden birthday, I wanted a White Sox alternate jersey with my name and my favorite number, 16. I had tried this once before. The NFL would not tolerate my people.

A miracle happened that summer, my family found a sports paraphernalia store owner who would - without consulting MLB - place my apostrophe onto an authentic White Sox jersey. And thus my wish was granted.

I have since become more accepting of my lot in life and tolerate the bigotry I deal with on a near daily basis (mail doesn't get delivered on Sundays). But to this day, four out of the five major US sports leagues do not recognize the rights of ApOstracized Americans.

Major League Baseball's response to an apostrophe: "Not allowed."

National Football League's response to an apostrophe: "Not allowed."

The National Basketball Association's response to an apostrophe is also, "Not allowed," but their stance softens for player specific jerseys or if you select a current apostrophe-having player.

The National Hockey League - even on teams with three completely different ApOstracized players - refuses to grant our right to exist. In fact, their box wont even let you type in the apostrophe while are charging you $80 for the right to not do so.

Only lowly Major League Soccer will allow everyone their right to an apostrophe, though I'll believe it when I see it.

But I dream of a day, when I will not be judged by the punctuation in my name, but content of my of my character.

We're here, we're clear, we want to see our apostrophe.

Wednesday
Nov302011

The Maple Leaf: It's Stupid

Oh, Canada...

As an American, I look down on you with the loving contempt of an older brother. No matter what you do, no matter how well you do it, I'll always consider myself far superior. And the worst part is, it's kinda your fault.

Canada tries so hard to make a name for itself and establish an identity independent from the US, but it does so in a way that always screams, "See? We're not America!" And that's never the right way to go about creating an identity.

One of the most ubiquitous and obnoxious ways Canadians try to establish this self-image in sports is to wantonly slap a red maple leaf onto any identity they can, regardless of color scheme, team name or club history.

And whether it's because Americans are too stupid to know what cities are in Canada or whether Canadians are too stupid to realize no one cares, the maple leaf logo trend is supremely stupid.

________________________________________________________________

The maple leaf permeates every major sports league in the US and Canada.  Hell, even the NFL - a league without a Canadian team - is not immune to this trend. Thanks Bills, how could we tell you were at Rogers Centre (It's Center Canada, but don't get me started...) without that helpful little leaf?

The NBA has been mostly leaf-free except for the Raptors in the mid-2000s. Apparently NBA teams are too busy working a basketball into every logo to hop onto the maple leaf trend...

The NHL, a league which shouldn't feel the need to do this since Canada has seven teams (Oh, and they created the sport), is one of the worst offenders.

Note to Canadian NHL teams: Only one team should have a Maple Leaf in its logo.

Yet again, reason is ignored and the leaf is everywhere. At one point, this little gem was an alternate logo for the Ottawa Senators.

The newest NHL team, the Winnipeg Jets (a team that already had a leaf-free identity) went the full-leaf and slapped it on every... single... logo they could find. Sure, there identity is based on this, but doesn't this or this accomplish the same feat while evoking the leaf rather than haphazardly placing it in the logo?

And did I mention that there's no other red anywhere in Jet's color scheme or on their uniforms?

Even the Calgary Flames caved to the trend. After 27 years in Canada, not only did the Flames slap on an Alberta Flag on one shoulder, they threw the Canadian flag on the other - just in case you hadn't realized Calgary was in Alberta, Canada.

Even the measly MLS manages to throw in a maple leaf onto one of their two Canadian teams. That one may be the least egregious since the design is so poor, you can barely tell it's a maple leaf, but it is.

But the real offender, and probably the originator of the maple leaf trend, is the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Repeatedly and habitually, the Blue Jays (whom you would think would eschew any red for shades of... oh, I don't know... blue?) have forced this stupid symbol of, "WE'RE IN CANADA," into every iteration of their team identity since their founding in 1977.

Even during the brief period where this was their primary logo and when a variation of that was their cap logo, guess what graced the sleeve of every uniform they wore? That's right. The leaf.

So desperate, consistent and ubiquitous has the use of the leaf been in their identity that - I argue - they have corrupted the team identities of almost every sports team in Toronto.

Raptors? TR + Leaf alt logo. Toronto FC? Main Crest + Leaf. Even minor league teams have leaf logos.

The Maple Leafs get a pass as they existed decades before the Blue Jays, their identity contains no red and their leaf has maintained some design independence from the flag version of the leaf since their inception.

But still, Toronto has a leaf problem.

...Canada has a leaf problem, and it's a stupid problem to have.

Friday
Sep302011

B1G Rivalries

This weekend, BigTen conference football returns and so do BigTen rivalry games.

Earlier this month, I posted my concepts and tweaks for all 12 BigTen teams here and on the wonderful SportsLogos.net, showing what I thought the schools should wear every game. Some people over at SportsLogos noticed that many of my designs a fairly traditional and/or pretty close to what most BigTen teams currently wear.

Heeding this criticism, I decided to create what I referred to as a 'Rivalry Series' (although inspiration credit goes to this guy here). What follows are six rivalry games, their special uniforms and descriptions. Enjoy:

The Bucket Game - IU vs PU

Indiana: I bring back my much beloved candy-striped pants but pair them with (a variation of) their actual 2011 jersey. The helmet matches their current lid and features the iconic interlocking 'IU'.

Now, originally, my design showed a candy striped helmet and that the compression shirt sleeves and the socks not matching, but that was because each individual player could either wear vertical or horizontal stripes - so long as they wear all matching - allowing for fun customization while still being 'uniform'.

However, I scrapped both those ideas and returned the standard helmet and unified all the stripes.

Purdue: As this years visitors, Purdue comes to The Rock wearing all old gold. The 'P' logos; helmet, shoulder and pants stripes; and numbers all sink up to match: Black trimming White. The numbers are a modern variation of classic varsity block. Finally, the compression shirt and socks are Boiler black.

The Land of Lincoln Game - U of I vs NU

Illinois: The Illini host this year's Sweet Sioux Tomahawk game Land of Lincoln game, and they come onto (a) Memorial Stadium* wearing fauxbacks to a simpler time. Three simple stripes grace the shoulders and pants. A rounded version of the state name appears on the helmet (as opposed to "Illini" which has appeared on the lid in the past). Only blue and orange grace the uni (except the shoes), just like it was back in the day.

Northwestern: The Wildcats are also donning a fauxback of sorts. The white helmet is inspired by this helmet from NU history. The jersey is basically their current road uni with the addition of the 'N-Cat' logo while the pants have a purple double stripe that give the 'Cats a sleek, clean look.

The Heroes Game - NU vs UI - There isn't much history in this 'rivalry' game so I manufacture some from the uniforms:

Nebraska: As the home team, Nebraska comes out in a uniform that honors many of their best teams from their long, storied history. While the helmet design is the same as the one's they've worn since 1970, the red facemask harkens back to 1982. The jersey focuses on both those eras as well. The shoulder numbers are from the 1970 unis while the sleeve 'N's are from the 1983 team.

The pants are from both eras but the red belt screams 1983. The black shoes and white socks go through many generations of Huskers.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes come into (a) Memorial Stadium wearing fauxbacks to their 1958 National Championship team. While Iowa has worn fauxbacks to this era before, they've never worn the road version of these before. That's a shame, because those were some beautious unis. The moving of the stripes from the sleeves to the shoulders is just for player continuity (no lost stripes due to lack of undershirt).

Also, the facemask is unapologetically black.

Paul Bunyan's Ax Game - UW vs Minn - One of the Best rivalry trophies in all of sports deserves some great unis:

Wisconsin: The home team in 2011 comes out wearing something like nothing you've ever seen take the field at Camp Randall. The helmet is a variation of the current helmet that rids the flying W of it's unnecessary drop shaddow. This harkens back to most of Wisconsin's history, when the helmets were only white and red.

The Jersey is simple yet completely original. The shoulders are adorned with stripes that will quickly remind any UW fan of Bucky Badger. While the pants are almost identical to their current set, the socks pick up on the Bucky Badger theme and run with it all the way to victory.

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have a tough task winning in Camp Randall. This Fauxback set calls upon the predecessors of this Minnesota football squad to lead them back to the path of victory and BigTen supremacy. The undershirt features Goldy Gopher's double stripe (just like my other concepts) and gold become predominant to remind the team of their victorious and glorious past.

The Land Grant Game - PSU vs MSU

Penn State: The home team for this game will march into Happy Valley with a uniform that will be very recognizable to it's fans and opponents. While there are some design changes (many of them have a fauxback feel) the biggest difference may be the color on the uniform.

The Blue on these unis are more royal blue than the current navy blue unis the Nittany Lions currently wear. This is a throwback to an earlier era. Combine that with helmet numbers, the return of white jersey accents and a singular, thin blue stripe on the pants and Penn State has a modern update of a classic uniform.

Michigan State: The Spartans recently unveiled a new Nike Pro Combat uniform for 2011. However, I disagree with Nike's use of Bronze and Black on MSU's uniforms, particularly since MSU is named after a group of people who are famous for wearing red. But Michigan State's colors are green and white and as such, those are the only colors I use on this uni.

The shoulders of jersey pop thanks to a green field that adorns them which flows nicely into the optional green compression with an updated version of MSU's 'S' logo. While the jersey numbers revert to a more traditional font, the university mark is updated to match the 'S' logo font. Thick white stripes grace both the helmet, pants and socks and help unify this uniform.

The Big Game - UM vs OSU

Michigan: As a BigTen alumnus, it's very hard for me to conceive Michigan wearing anything but their normal helmets, blue jerseys and maze pants at The Big House. I actually liked the fauxback they wore against Notre Dame, but I didn't want to re-tread the ground Adidas already walked. Instead, I made minor changes to the current home uni and left one of the best lids in all of sports untouched.

The jersey gets an 'M' logo sewn onto the shoulder as sort of a 'pride-patch'. While a player's name and number are usually the only thing to grace a Wolverine uni, I wanted the 'M' to be on there to remind the players that the glory of the game should go to Michigan.

While I added a blue belt to the pants, I removed the 'M' logo from them just to simplify the uni even more. The shoes and compression shirt are team colors but I'm not sure how much even I am digging the maze sleeves.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes are Nike Pro Combat veterans at this point. With the theme of most of their NPC unis being 'fauxback' I continue this trend with a look back to the late '60s (just on the cusp of one of their greatest eras like hopefully this will be).

While I could not find the exact specifics of the road uniform that matches this helmet, these jerseys, pants and socks probably approximate the jersey pretty well. The differing color TV numbers are a signature part of OSU's look from this era and the Northwestern stripes that adorn the helmet, jersey, pants and socks unify this set as a world class Ohio State uniform.

Well, that about wraps that up. You may have noticed the two new templates I was using. I'm proud to say that I created both of them and the one that features both the front and back of the uni has been improved even since I created these B1G concepts.

I'm currently working on doing some ACC and SEC stuff in this new template which I'll bring to you as soon as I can.

Happy tweakin'...

*With Nebraska now in the B1G, there are three Memorial Stadiums in the conference (U of I, IU and OU).

Tuesday
Sep062011

B1G Revisions

The air is cooling while the spicy sweet smell of processed meat and charcoal wafts through the air - it must be fall BigTen football season.

While my Wildcats and Hoosier are back on the gridiron, I'm back in the workshop fine-tuning the BigTen concepts I came up with a few months back.

Now, unlike my Pac-12 concepts, most of the BigTen's teams have well established uniform tradition that I don't want to mess with. Never the less, I found at least one thing to tweak on almost every uniform. So Let's get right to it:

Illinois - Home, Road, Road Alt:

A pretty serious overhaul here. I go back to much more classical striping and a reduction of the Oregon-esque innumerable amount of uni combinations. Orange pants are my go-to road pants but I like the blue pants as a secondary option.

Indiana - Home, Road, Bucket Game Alt:

This was almost how the Hoosiers looked a few years back. Now, they're back to their best Oklahoma impression (including white pants on the road if the Ball State game is any sign. Sigh.) I go back to the double stripe helmet, add double stripes to the shoulders and keep the double stripe pants (white at home, red on the road).

And I am one of the many Hoosiers who thinks that the Bucket game should feature special unis whenever possible, so I bring back my candy-striped pants for the occasion.

Iowa - Home, Road:

Here is my first use of the stripes on the compression shirt. These Steeler inspired uniforms just look better when the stripes are in full bloom. The Hawkeyes are also the first team with full length socks, but this is not a change from the norm for them, they've bean wearing socks like these for years.

Michigan - Home, Road:

No real change for the Home (although I changed the socks to blue) but the Road eliminates and superfluous yellow piping.

Michigan State - Home, Road, Home Alt, Road Alt 1, Road Alt 2:

Michigan State's current uniform set has all the accoutrement of a hastily done 'modern' uniform: Stupid font, useless stripes and colors out of the color scheme. I go back to only green and white. I do like the idea of very wide stripes on the helmets and pants so I added those (although the Home Alt gets rid of those for a more traditional look).

The Road Alts are fairly similar to the regular Road uni but the first is based off of this image and the other just uses green pants.

Minnesota - Home, Road, Home Alt, Road Alt:

Minnesota's current unis are terrible. I return the Golden Gophers to a much more traditional look and give them a unique asymmetrical sleeve stripe based on their mascot.

Nebraska - Home, Road, Home D Alt, Road D Alt:

Nebraska hardly changes, although their current sleeve stripes appear much larger than my version. And if you're gunna call the defense the Blackshirts, they might as well wear black (under)shirts.

Northwestern - Home, Road, Home Alt:

I ditch black pants, recolor the Northwestern sleeve stripes (which are now on the compression shirt) and return the logo to the shoulders. The pants are double striped and while I bring back the BFBS Home Alt, I would keep its use to a minimum.

Ohio State - Home, Road:

Basically all I did to the Buckeyes was keep the pants stripe more in line with the helmet and sleeve and replace the gray on the current road sleeve stripe with white.

Penn State - Home, Road:

I return the trim the collar and sleeve, other than that, you can't improve on perfection.

Purdue - Home, Road, Road Alt:

Purdue's new uni's stink and I go back to a more traditional look for the fools from West Lafayette. The numbers on the Home and Road Alt are gold, which I think is a really nice look.

Wisconsin - Home, Road:

Almost no change here, the only thing I do with them is insist that they never wear red pants. At Home there's just too much red and with the Road, it makes them look even more like Nebraska (something they don't need any help doing).

Those are my new BigTen concepts. I know most are pretty traditional but hopefully people will like them.

Until next time.

Sunday
Aug212011

Pac-ing It In

Football season is tantalizingly close. With high hopes for the new season come all new looks for your favorite teams - players, coaches and (of course) uniforms.

In this spirit, I've decided to get back to my roots and start coming up with some new football uni concepts. Now, since I've started doing concepts, I've gotten many requests from people out West asking me to take a crack at the Pac-12 the same way I did the BigTen a few months back.

Well, I couldn't think of a better way to get back into the swing of all things football than to tweak on of the nations' finest conferences. So, without further adieu, I give you my take on the the Pac-12:

Arizona - Home, Road, Red Alt, Blue Alt:

While I'm sorta known as a stripe-classicist, I love the fading stripe of Zona's. Granted, I wouldn't want it on every team (or even many) but it reminds me of a mirage in a desert and I think it works very nicely for the Wildcats. I kept the fading stripes on the pants and helmet and added them to the compression sleeves. I also reduced the role of the red jersey because I think ASU should be the red Arizona state school (that's also why there's no red pants). Oh, and no blue helmet, one UA helmet is enough.

Arizona State - Home, Road, Home Alt:

I created a few ASU unis a while back but looking back on them, I don't actually like my own designs too much. While my new designs draw from the new Sun Devils uniforms Nike came up with, I still like the classic look of the old Sparty-helmeted unis. I do like the gradient number font a lot, so much so I added it to the Alternate's pants. To me, that just screams 'heat'.

California - Home, Road, Yellow Alt, All Blue Alt, Yellow Alt Two:

Here is my first real departure from the norm. With two-tone numbers, a modern font and a variation of Georgia's shoulder stripes, these new Cal uniforms are anything but your daddy's Cal uniforms. I kept the classic lid and colors but that's about all that didn't change.

Colorado - Home, Road:

Back to a more classical look (but only briefly, look who's up next...). No stripes. Just numbers and the word 'Colorado' in bold italics font. No black pants. No gold alternate. Just how it should be.

Oregon - Regular Home, Road; White Pants Home, Road; White and Green Home, Road; Green Helmet Alt; Yellow Alt:

Listen, everyone needs an Oregon. For every Alabama, there has to be an Oregon. I did limit the Ducks, however. My rule: You can only wear green, white or yellow. Even with those restrictions, I gave them three helmets, five jerseys and three pairs of pants. That's 45 possible combinations. I narrowed that down to the combos I think look best. I actually like the Oregon Wings and the design of the current jerseys and helmets don't bother me, what does bother me is all the out of scheme colors. I faux-back to the days of yellow helmets and pants and Kelly green jerseys with the modern accoutrements.

As for the all yellow uni? Ducks are yellow.

Oregon State - Home, Road, Home Alt, All Black Alt:

The Beavers may have started the whole, "stripes on the compression shirt," fad, but they looked so good, I decided to bring that look along with modern numbers and logos. To differentiate OSU even more, I made orange the Home uni and left the black jersey as the alternate. I downplay the cartoon beaver logo and this is the only Pac-12 design in which I use full length socks. This could become an iconic look for the Beavers.

Stanford - Home, Road:

The Cardinal (sic) have flirted with black recently. I stop that shit.

Washington - Home, Road, Road Alt:

With the Huskies, I removed any black or modern stripes. Instead, I put the Huskies' alternate logo on the shoulders and their TV numbers on the compression sleeves. I also gave them a unique and thin number font and gold pants as the go-to road pants.

Washington State - Home, Road:

The Cougars recently announced new unis and I was rather unimpressed. Instead I take some elements from those unis and add them to WSU's tradition of alternating Home and Road helmets.

UCLA - Home, Road:

There shouldn't be much to change to UCLA but adidas has made this untrue. Instead I return the UCLA stripes to a reasonable length (though they still could be longer) and remove all dark blue from the stripes (though I keep it around the numbers).

USC - Home, Road:

No Change. Perfection.

Utah - Home, Road:

To be honest, I kinda phoned this one in. It's basically what they wear these days (though slightly different) but it was the last set I was doing and I have no idea about Utah's history, what a 'Ute' is or where to go with their unis. So I made them the only solid red team in the Pac-12.

Well, that's my take, feel free to leave yours in the comments. Until next time...