By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

Was there something in the water this year or what? Whatever the explanation, it definitely seemed like 2005 had more than its share of uni-related gaffes, goofs, foibles, weirdness and oddities. So without further ado, here's Uni Watch's selective year-in-review timeline.

Feb. 13: The NFL Pro Bowl is played in Hawaii. Reebok's uni designers, keenly aware of the game's longstanding tradition of really embarrassing uniforms, break new ground by putting the Pro Bowl logo just above each player's butt (just in case anybody missed the one on the front of the jersey), thereby setting a tough standard for next year's designers to match.

Feb. 24: Rodney Rogers, having just been traded from the Hornets to the Sixers, arrives for his first game with Philly and finds his name misspelled on his jersey, necessitating a quick cover-up patch. After the game, teammate Andre Iguodala approaches Rogers and says, "You think people have problems spelling your name ..."

March 17: The Giants sign Plaxico Burress, who decides to mark the date by taking uniform No. 17. One small problem: 17 is worn by punter Jeff Feagles. But Feagles happily agrees to switch from 17 to 18 in return for Burress' buying him an outdoor kitchen. This comes a year after rookie QB Eli Manning agreed to give Feagles and his family an all-expenses-paid Florida vacation in return for the punter's relinquishing No. 10, his original number with the team. Feagles promptly fires his agent, telling him, "Sorry, dude, but I'm doing fine handling the negotiations by myself."

Vote: Best, worst of 2005
Did you like the mismatched sleeves that Virginia Tech, Florida and Miami wore? Were you appalled when you saw the Atlanta Braves wear red or the Detroit Lions wear black? Vote on the best, the worst and the biggest uniform bloopers of 2005.

April 10: April Fools' Day arrives more than a week late in Major League Baseball. First, Miguel Tejada, who normally wears uni No. 10, emerges from a headfirst slide with the "1" partially detached from his jersey. He removes the loose numeral in the dugout and plays the rest of the game as No. 0. Meanwhile, down in Houston, Craig Biggio wears a "Houston" jersey while the rest of the team wears "Astros" jerseys (he later explains why). Over in Atlanta, there's a run on sunglasses at the concession stands as the Braves unveil their garish new red Sunday jerseys, and fans start clamoring for blindfolds in San Francisco, where the visiting Rockies wear their truly hideous new black vests over purple sleeves. As the day draws to a close, an exhausted Uni Watch collapses from sheer sensory overload.

April 12: After a one-day respite, the uni gremlins are at it again, as Reds starter Aaron Harang pitches the first two innings with "CNCINNATI" on his jersey (not quite as good a typo as classics like this or this, but still pretty cool). He later says he'd been wearing the defective jersey for three days, but nobody had noticed because the misspelling had been hidden under his dugout jacket.

April 20: The Arizona Cardinals, always good for comic relief, hold a fashion show to unveil their ridiculous new uniforms. Several fans quip that the stroll down the runway might be the team's longest rush of the season.

Page 2
Patrick Hruby: The Ignominious Effort Awards
Jim Caple: A strange, strange year
Paul Lukas: Uni Watch year in review
Scoop Jackson: What mattered most
Jeff Merron: Sex & Sports

Vote for the all-SportsNation Team
Rank the top personalities of 2005
Quiz: How well do you know 2005?

April 23: The 49ers choose Alex Smith with the first pick in the NFL draft and assign him uniform No. 11, which extends a bizarre numerical pattern among top draft picks and their NFL uni numbers: Michael Vick (2001, No. 7), David Carr (2002, No. 8), Carson Palmer (2003, No. 9), Eli Manning (2004, No. 10), and Smith (2005, No. 11). The streak presumably will end next year, since Reggie Bush won't be wearing No. 12.

May 10: Another case of a dugout jacket hiding a multitude of uni sins, as A's reliever Octavio Dotel gets the call to warm up, rips off his jacket and discovers he's wearing a green jersey while the rest of the team is wearing gray. A clubhouse attendant -- allegedly muttering, "Makes a jillion bucks a year and he doesn't even know which shirt to wear!" -- quickly is dispatched to obtain the proper jersey.

June 3: Reliever Ray King takes the mound with his fly unzipped. He gives up a base hit on his first pitch, whereupon manager Tony La Russa -- allegedly muttering, "Makes a jillion bucks a year and he doesn't even know how to wear a pair of pants!" -- disgustedly removes him from the game.

June 19: Korean pitcher Park Myung-Hwan ends up in deep kimchi when his hat comes off during a pitch, revealing a frozen cabbage leaf he'd been wearing to keep cool. The Korea Baseball Organization bans the vegetal headgear a few days later.

July 4: With MLB players marking Independence Day by wearing small American flags on their caps, Miguel Tejada's flag is inexplicably upside-down. As the Orioles' season steadily unravels in subsequent weeks, it becomes clear that Tejada saw the writing on the wall and was simply sending a distress signal.

July 6: Noted music lover Manny Ramirez wears Oakley Thumps, which have a built-in MP3 player, during the first inning of a game in Texas. Manager Terry Francona later insists that the shades didn't have any batteries and that Ramirez wore them "because of the glare." The Boston press corps tries not to snicker.

July 12: With no advance fanfare, the MLB All-Star Game becomes the showcase for a new batting helmet design. Most players accept the opportunity to test-drive the vaguely reptilian-looking model, but Vlad Guerrero sticks with his regular helmet because his pine tar endorsement deal requires him to keep wearing his skanky, tar-smeared lid.

July 30: Jeff Feagles, now wearing uni No. 18, reports to Giants training camp and immediately starts scanning the NCAA scouting reports for promising seniors wearing his new number.

Aug. 21: In a scene that neatly summarizes everything wrong with the Royals, pinch runner Joe McEwing trots out to the base paths with his "KC" helmet logo just slightly out of place.

Aug. 30: Rafael Palmeiro, taunted mercilessly by fans after his steroids suspension, resorts to wearing earplugs to block out the boos. Manager Sam Perlozzo later explains that the plugs didn't have any batteries and that Palmeiro wore them "because of the glare."

Sept. 7: Pandemonium at Fenway Park, as Manny Ramirez's hat comes off and an entire head of cabbage falls out.

Sept. 11: In an odd development that will continue to confound Uni Watch for months to come, Mark Brunell has "Redskin" -- instead of the plural "Redskins" -- printed on his jersey and rear helmet liner during the team's season-opening game. As with so many lost or misplaced items throughout history (the 18 minutes of Watergate tape, Vincent Van Gogh's ear, the island of Atlantis, Waldo, etc.), no satisfactory explanation is ever provided.

Oct. 27: Uni Watch's mailbox overflows with complaints as Nike dresses Virginia Tech in jerseys and undershirts with one orange sleeve and one maroon (although a few players turn the undershirts backward to create a harlequin effect). Two days later, the orange sleeve virus also infects Florida; a few weeks after that, it hits Miami. Meanwhile, down in hell, Satan sits down for a few hands of poker with Phil Knight's soul.

Nov. 6: Hosiery hijinks in Washington as Clinton Portis wears one striped sock and one plain and Sean Taylor goes candy-striped. After the game, Paul Tagliabue calls Bud Selig and asks, "Who makes those long pants your players wear?"

Nov. 19: The Oregon Ducks are bored. And who can blame them? The season is 10 games old and they've worn only seven different uniforms (this, this, this, this, this, this and this). Bold action is clearly needed. "Hey," somebody says, "how about if we get Nike to make us the stupidest uniforms in football history?" And that's exactly what happens, much to everyone's satisfaction. The next day, ducks form picket lines at ponds across Oregon to protest the sullying of their good name and Phil Knight's soul pulls an inside straight against Satan.

Dec. 4: With shareholders demanding higher quarterly earnings, Reebok looks to cut costs by outsourcing its uniform manufacturing contract to a low-cost Russian factory, with unfortunate results.

Dec. 21: Jeff Feagles casually mentions to Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, "You might wanna keep an eye on this USC kid John Walker for next year's draft -- I hear he's pretty good."

Uni Watch News Ticker
Nike's latest debacle: The Team USA hockey jersey for the Olympics. If you think the square collar and vertical sleeve stripes look weird, take a look at the back -- like, what is the deal with those shirttail stripes? ... Logo Creep Alert (courtesy of Nick Wheeler): Check out the ski cap on the kid in this comic strip. ... The Cubs introduced Juan Pierre with a name-inclusive jersey (just as they did with Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre), fueling further speculation that they'll be restoring player names to their home jerseys next season. But Uni Watch has confirmed, once again, that the Cubbies' home unis are slated to remain nameless in 2006 and that the jerseys used in the news conferences are just for photo-op purposes. ... Meanwhile, when the Giants -- who don't have player names on their home jerseys, either -- announced the signing of Matt Morris, he posed for photos while wearing a jersey instead of holding it up. ... Still more press conference observations: Uni Watch Lifetime Achievement Scholar Mark Mihalik notes, "I watched Nomar's signing conference with the Dodgers, and the jersey he held up had no number. That marked the third distinct approach by the Dodgers with recent signings: For Rafael Furcal, they gave him a jersey with the number he'll presumably be wearing; for Grady Little, they gave him No. 06, for being the new manager for 2006; and then Nomar gets no number at all (maybe because he's always been No. 5, which is currently owned by Hee-Seop Choi, although the Dodgers will likely part ways with him within the next few weeks). Whoever's in charge of these conferences in L.A. needs to develop some kind of system here." ... And the Yankees, true to their usual protocol, had Johnny Damon pose while wearing a jersey instead of having him hold it up. ... Good contribution from Jeremy Schall, who writes: "I wanted to bring Adrian Hill of the Rutgers basketball team, and his progression of armwear, to your attention. Two years ago he went double-sleeved. Then he sat out a year with a torn ACL and someone got him wearing all sorts of bands, up and down his arms. Major logo creep, though, because the bands are all made by Nike." ... Looks as though the Sabres definitely are going back to their classic unis, but they're not making the switch until the NHL and Reebok finalize the development of the league's long-rumored sleeker uni silhouette -- and it's still not clear when that's going to happen. You can hear Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn talking about all of this here. ... Although low whites remain the dominant NFL sock style these days, we might be witnessing the beginnings of a backlash as a few players are now wearing 1980s-style high whites. First, as Uni Watch reported two weeks ago, it was Mark Clayton; now, it's Chris Chambers, Darren Sharper and Terence Newman. ... Uni Watch has often carped about the leotard effect that's created when a football team wears same-colored pants and socks. But that's nothing compared with the full-on bodysuit look the Ravens sported Dec. 19, when they wore black-on-black (or black-on-black-on-black-on-black-on-black, if you count the helmet, undersleeves and socks). Maybe they're auditioning for the Olympic speed-skating team? ... Two weeks ago Uni Watch wrote about the new fad of NBA players' rolling down their waistbands (to avoid being fined for wearing their shorts too long). An unforeseen side effect of this trend is that a rear view now lets you learn a player's waist size. ... Rob Montoya notes an interesting inaccuracy in the 1970s turquoise throwbacks New Mexico wore against Alcorn State on Dec. 20: "The throwback is missing a Zia symbol, which appeared on the leg of the shorts of the original design. They're unable to use the Zia these days due to an Indian Tribe that has trademarked it. According to some rumors, even the state of New Mexico pays royalties for using the symbol on the state flag." ... The Colts wore a "JD" helmet decal Dec. 24 in memory of James Dungy. ... It was Christmas night. The gifts had been exchanged; the meal had been enjoyed; and Uni Watch was sitting down at the TV for a quick check of the day's NFL action, highlighted by the hideous Baltimore-Minnesota purplefest. In walked Mama Uni Watch, who commented, "Ooh, what pretty uniforms!" -- at which point an appalled Uni Watch launched into a soliloquy on the evils of purple, why it's a pestilence that must be expunged from the planet, yada yada yada. "Don't be silly," Mama Uni Watch replied. "Purple is a lovely color." The obvious conclusion: Uni Watch must have been adopted.

Sox Redux
Uni Watch's recent surveys of NBA tights and socks drew lots of reaction. Let's start with tights:

•  The big news is that Kobe Bryant was not the first to wear full-length tights. As Joel Mellor and Chris Jones point out, Jerry Stackhouse wore them during last season's playoffs. Stackhouse missed the first 26 games of this season with a sore knee, but he finally made his season debut Dec. 23, and sure enough, he was tights-clad (that's him toward the back of this photo).

•  Meanwhile, several additional players have joined the tights brigade, including Ray Allen, Eddie Curry, Nick Van Exel (who also has dressed like this), Michael Redd (who's alternating between white tights at home and black on the road), and Rashad McCants (who quickly was told to stop wearing them, according to the "No More Tights" section of this article). Thanks to Michael Korczynski, Jack Harrington and Robert Danneker for their contributions on this front.

•  Uni Watch had scoffed at the notion that a player running back and forth under hot lights would need tights to keep his legs warm. But Brent Belote says it's not so far-fetched: "As a former Lakers employee (PR department), I can assure you that the Staples Center is absolutely freezing until about halfway through the second quarter of any game. This is because the ice underneath the floor is still there and the only thing separating the free throw line from ice is about 8 inches of wood and rubber. I was routinely wearing a suit and would still be cold."

•  Several readers noted that the padded compression shorts shown here actually are intended for the gridiron, not the hardcourt. As Rob Danneker explains, "The shorts are a 'football girdle' that holds the hip, tail, and thigh pads in place. Here's a listing for one."

Okay, on to the realm of socks, where a red-faced Uni Watch is embarrassed to admit a huge gaffe: Contrary to what was written in this space two weeks ago, the 1999 Pacers were not the first NBA team to don black socks in the playoffs. As many readers pointed out, that honor goes to the 1996 Bulls. Big thanks to all who helped set the record straight.

In other sock follow-ups:

•  Longtime contributor Ross Yoshida reminds Uni Watch of an NBA sock style that was briefly in fashion: having the team name woven into the sock. "Remember when these were standard issue for some teams?" he writes. "This was during the late '80s, when the high socks and stripes were starting to phase out. It was a transitional period -- some teams wore the team name, some continued to wear stripes (Celtics, Jazz, Kings), and others just went to plain white (no NBA logo yet)."

•  And Clark Rucker notes that wearing team names on the socks hasn't been limited to the NBA.

•  From Mike Hawkins: "From the mid-'60s to the early '70s, North Carolina players wore outer sanitaries over inner hose that, weirdly, had the players' numbers on them. This photo shows Bobby Lewis (22) and Larry Miller (44), with a young Pat Riley in the middle. Other great players forced to wear those socks included Mitch Kupchak, Charlie Scott, Bob McAdoo, Phil Ford, Walter Davis, Dennis Wuycik, and George Karl. They were eliminated in the early '70s and have not gone down in history as one of Dean Smith's great contributions to basketball."

•  From Andy Head, who's clearly aware of Uni Watch's fondness for striped socks: "Thought you might be interested in seeing what the girls at West Valley High School in Yakima, Washington, wore in the state playoffs last March. I think they look pretty sharp, personally." Uni Watch heartily agrees.

•  Finally, Kristal Kilgore notes that Chauncey Billups has been risking a fine by wearing black socks while the rest of the Pistons are wearing white. She also adds, "About the tights, maybe it all comes down to sex -- chicks just dig a guy in tights. I would like my name to be at the top of the list for researchers if Uni Watch cares to look further into this topic. Just line up the athletes, put them in their tights, and parade 'em by me." You heard it here first, guys.

Home Sweet Home
Lots of readers answered Uni Watch's call for examples of two teams both wearing home uniforms (like the USC/UCLA games of yore). Before getting to them, Uni Watch first needs to explain that throwback games don't count since they sort of take place in an alternate universe to begin with. Road-vs.-road is just as interesting as home-vs.-home, however.

With those stipulations in place, there's a surprisingly large number of examples. Just last weekend, in fact, Central Florida and Nevada both wore their home jerseys in the Hawaii Bowl. Here are some more:

•  Aman Loodu notes that Memphis and Cincinnati both wore their road colors when facing each other a few weeks ago.

•  From Frank Mercogliano: "At Idaho State this year, we hosted Montana-Western, and they had nice new white road uniforms with a large red stripe on them. Apparently the stripe bled in the wash, turning the uniforms pink, so they wore their black home uniforms instead. Since it was 'Orange Wave' day, we wore our home uniforms as well. Also: When Idaho State, Idaho and Boise State were all in the Big Sky Conference, for basketball at least, everyone wore their road uniforms to play each other, and at the time all three schools had two sets of road uniforms (we still wear black or orange on the road)."

•  From Jeff Dunnavant: "This is a painting of a photo from the '62 Alabama/Tennessee game in Knoxville. Note that 'Bama is wearing crimson jerseys, and there's a description under the painting as to why (rules at the time didn't prohibit it). Alabama and Tennessee did this on several occasions."

•  From Jose Frontanes: "Last year Maryland and George Washington both wore their road jerseys during the BB&T Classic. Illinois basketball wears orange at home sometimes, and that gives the same effect."

•  Indeed, as if to prove Frontanes' point, longtime Uni Watch devotee the Rev. NÝrb (who would certainly qualify for a fully endowed Uni Watch research chair if not for his unfortunate affection for purple) checks in with this: "A game that immediately comes to mind is that Wisconsin/Illinois basketball game that took place on February 18th, 2004 -- surely noteworthy to Uni Watch due to the cardinal-red/burnt-orange fiasco-ness of it all."

•  From Patrick Walsh: "In the 2002 NIT Finals -- Syracuse vs. South Carolina -- there was confusion as to who was the designated home team (it was supposed to be South Carolina), and both teams arrived at Madison Square Garden with their white jerseys. Syracuse sent a team manager back to the hotel to get the team's road orange jerseys, but NYC traffic isn't easy to navigate, so the game started with the teams playing white vs. white. Midway through the first half, the jerseys arrived and a timeout was called as Syracuse changed. But they only changed their shirts and played through the first half with orange shirts and white shorts. They finally wore their full road uniforms in the second half."

•  From Scot Peirson: "It's true that USC and UCLA both wore home jerseys for their matchups at the L.A. Coliseum. But there's also this: Through the 1960s and '70s, the Bruins wore their blues both home and road for Pac-10 games, and Pac-10 teams visiting UCLA wore their colors. In fact, didn't UCLA and Ohio State both wear their colors at the 1976 Rose Bowl?" Uni Watch has been unable to confirm this last point -- anyone?

•  From Tim O'Neil: "For years the Princeton-Rutgers game was played between scarlet-clad Rutgers and Princeton in their black shirts with orange stripes on the sleeves. Even more obscurely, in 1973 or 1974, Columbia played all their games, home and away, in their Columbia blue shirts. I know they wore them down in Princeton when they played us."

•  From Michael Churchill: "I know of one example from personal experience: World Bowl XIII, the 2005 championship game of NFL Europe. NFL Europe usually keeps to football tradition, with the home team wearing colored jerseys, the visiting team wearing white, and one of the teams designated as 'home' for the championship game. But last season the Amsterdam Admirals and Berlin Thunder both wore colors."

•  James Ash has a sort of tangential example from just last week: McNeese State forgot to pack its uniforms for a trip to Louisiana-Lafayette and had to wear the ULL practice unis while the Ragin' Cajuns wore their regular home whites, so it was Louisiana vs. Louisiana. (For full details, look here.)

•  That's similar to what happened to Michigan State a few decades back, as Mike Lewandowski explains: "In a basketball game at St. John's Arena in the 1970s, Michigan State's uniforms were stolen from their locker room before the game, and the equipment manager had left the home uniforms back in East Lansing. So Ohio State wore their home uniforms, and Michigan State wore the Ohio State road uniforms. I know that there's a picture of this game on the floor of Value City Arena in Columbus, but I haven't been able to find one online." Anyone?

•  Uni Watch's longstanding ignorance of all things soccer-related was noted by several readers, who noted that home vs. home is fairly common in that sport. As Douglas Mulliken explains: "Unless there's a significant similarity, club and international soccer teams almost always wear their home uniform. In fact, instead of referring to home and away uniforms, they are called first and second shirts. This has changed a bit in England, however, because so many teams wear red. Also, teams from the same city generally have different stadiums, but in the few cases where they do not (mostly in Italy), the two teams will both wear their home uniform, with the 'away' team changing only the short color, if necessary. Here's a picture from one of the Milan/Inter matches last year. Inter generally wears black shorts, so that's how you can tell that it was Milan's 'home' game. And here's a picture from the Rome rivalry, Lazio/Roma. Both play in Rome's Olympic stadium. Sometimes Roma wears white shorts, sometimes not. Vaguely similar to the UCLA/USC game in terms of colors, no?"

•  And Andy Silvester fills us in on another overseas sport: "Cricket teams in the UK don't have home or away jerseys. The game is played in whites for four- or five-day matches, and in the aptly named pajamas for one-day games. When there's a clash, neither team has to change kits and will just play in their normal jerseys, because the structure of the game is such that it's impossible to confuse a batsman for a fielder, even at a quick glance."

Return to the Island of Misfit Unis
Last week's column about rarely seen uni components drew lots of response, including some corrections. Let's get to it:

•  First, contrary to what Uni Watch had reported, Dec. 18 did not mark the first regular season appearance of the Bills' blue-over-white combo since 2002. Turns out it had appeared one time each in 2003 (Week 11) and 2004 (Week 1). Thanks to Doug Brei for the update.

•  Uni Watch mistakenly thought Denver's blue pants had been worn only once in the regular season, in Week 3 of 2003. But as several Broncos fans pointed out, they also were worn six weeks after that. In addition, Uni Watch knew the blue pants had been worn at least once in a preseason game several years earlier but didn't realize there was a good story associated with that. For more details, check out the "Blue Monday" section of this PDF file (with thanks to reader Darin Juhnke).

•  Uni Watch correctly reported that the Rams have never worn these white pants, but Philip Maney points out that their blue pants have been worn three times -- not twice, as Uni Watch had stated. In addition to the games Uni Watch had cited (Week 1 of 2003 and Week 11 of this season), they also wore the blues in Week 3 of 2003. "They've lost all three of those games," Maney notes. "I love the blue pants and think they should wear them more often, but we have enough bad luck as it is without adding to it."

•  And just to make things more confusing, before the Rams had their current seldom-used blue pants and white pants, they had another set of seldom-used blue pants and white pants. These designs, which were part of the team's official wardrobe in 2001 and 2002, had short gold "dagger stripes" (sort of like the Broncos' pant stripes, but not as long), instead of full-length piping. Uni Watch was aware of these britches but thought they'd never been worn. And that's almost correct: The blues never saw the light of day, but the whites were worn for a 2001 preseason game in San Diego (and, oddly, also were featured on this Super Bowl promo poster). More background on this generation of pants is available here. Big thanks to Mike New and Gary Crichlow for their Rams-related help.

•  Several readers provided additional info on LSU's policy of wearing white at home (which means the Tigers' purple jersey appears very infrequently). As Doug Brei explains, "LSU's white jersey tradition dates back to 1958 [when the team won the national championship while wearing white at home and superstitious coach Paul Dietzel decided to stick with that format thereafter]. In 1982, the NCAA mandated that colors be worn at home, so the Tigers wore purple from 1982 through 1994. Head coach Gerry DiNardo then led a successful campaign for the NCAA to change the rule, and the Tigers have worn white at home since 1995."

Jeff Porche picks up the story from there: "LSU wears purple at home in only two circumstances: The first, such as in this year's Appalachian State and North Texas games, is when LSU feels they can win no matter what color jerseys they wear [Uni Watch believes the actual standard for such games is that they're nonconference and untelevised]; the second, which to my knowledge has only happened twice, is when the visitor objects to the switch, because NCAA rules stipulate that in order for a team to wear white at home, the visiting team must agree. This was done by Oregon State in 2004, because they didn't want to wear black jerseys in Louisiana in late summer. The other time was done by Vanderbilt in 1996. Vandy was still mad at LSU for hiring Gerry DiNardo. In that case, LSU wore special gold jerseys for that one game. This was done partly because of the superstition of not wearing purple at home, and partly because LSU's baseball team had gone undefeated in the College World Series after wearing gold jerseys for the first time in school history.

"During this same period, LSU has agreed to wear the purple jerseys twice as the visiting team. One was in 2000 against Florida; the other was in the 2000 Peach Bowl against Georgia Tech (another team that prefers to wear white at home). And then there are the other one-time revisions to LSU's football jerseys, which were done during the DiNardo era. The first was the purple pants fiasco of 1995. The Tigers wore them with their white shirts in a road loss to Kentucky. They have never been seen again. The second was a gold jersey/white helmet combo worn during the 1997 Independence Bowl against Notre Dame. Those jerseys haven't been worn again since. In fact, since DiNardo has left the school, no other coach has brought in alternate jerseys."

Year-End Housecleaning
Some final follow-ups on a few random topics from recent weeks:

•  Uni Watch previously had written about the infamous "hit list" or "bounty" towel worn by Packers defensive lineman Charles Martin in a 1986 game against the Bears (possibly the only towel ever to be mentioned in an NFL player's obituary). But photos had proven elusive -- until Paul Pleva came up with this one. "It's kind of hard to make out the numbers on the towel," he writes, "but I'm pretty sure I see 9 (Jim McMahon), 34 (Walter Payton) and 83 (Willie Gault)."

•  Thanks also to the many readers who responded to Uni Watch's call for photos of Iowa's "ANF" helmet decal, which the team wore from 1985 through 1992. The letters stood for "America Needs Farmers," and they were added to the helmet by coach Hayden Fry to draw attention to the worsening plight of Midwestern family farms.

•  Two weeks ago, Uni Watch poked a bit of fun at Indiana's warm-up pants. This prompted some mild outrage from John Lanctot and Drew Stivers. "Indiana has been wearing those since Bobby Knight was the coach," Lanctot writes. "And he's carried on the tradition at Texas Tech, where the players wear black-and-red striped warm-ups." Let's just hope Knight never ends up coaching at LSU.

Final Thought
Before we turn out the lights on 2005, Uni Watch sends an XXXXXL-sized shout-out to everyone who has written in this year with contributions, suggestions, explanations, salutations, corrections, photos, links and rants. You people are the best -- the best! -- and this column is much, much better because of the help you all provide. Looking forward to more in 2006.

Paul Lukas, like any smart New Yorker, knows New Year's Eve is for amateurs. Archives of his "Uni Watch" columns are available here, here and here. Got feedback for him, or want to be added to his mailing list? Contact him here.