Uni Watch breaks down 10 uni myths

Originally Published: August 18, 2011
By Paul Lukas | Page 2

In the lead-up to last February's Super Bowl, Tiki Barber interviewed a bunch of Green Bay players and asked them, "Do you know what the 'G' on the Packers' helmet stands for?" The answer, he said, was, "Greatness."

Uni Watch

It took about two weeks before the Packers officially pronounced this to be totally bogus. (The logo actually stands for Green Bay -- duh.) But by that time the story had gone viral and become entrenched on various message boards, in assorted follow-up stories and in Uni Watch's inbox, where countless fans helpfully wrote in to say, "Hey, check out this story about the Packers' helmet logo!" A few emails like this continue to trickle in every week. Uni Watch has so far resisted the urge to tell such petitioners that the "G" stands for "Gullible."

The "'G' is for greatness" story is the latest example of that most tantalizing of uni-related phenomena: the uniform myth. It's no surprise that such tall tales end up spreading through the uni-verse -- sports are all about mythmaking, after all, and lots of other fields are rife with urban legends, so why not the world of uniforms and logos? There are also myth-like stories floating around that are actually true but nonetheless have an air of mystery or inconclusiveness around them.

So today will be Mythbuster Day here at Uni Watch HQ. We'll examine a bunch of commonly held uni-related storylines -- things that Uni Watch has heard repeated many times over the years -- and see if they're true. Ready? Here we go:

1. The MLB "silhouetted batter" logo is based on Harmon Killebrew

This one, which has been floating around for decades, got a boost earlier this year when Killebrew passed away. It was even mentioned last month during the home run derby and the MLB All-Star Game. It's a nice story, and Killebrew believed it, but it isn't true. Yes, the logo looks like Killebrew; it also looks like lots of other players. More importantly, the man who designed the logo, Jerry Dior, has always said it wasn't based on any one player. In fact, his assignment was to create an "indistinct" figure, so he used several photos to make a composite (for further details on this, look here).

Mythbuster verdict: FALSE

2. The NBA logo is based on Jerry West

This myth is a direct outgrowth of the previous one, because the NBA logo was inspired by the MLB mark. Although the league has never officially confirmed who's shown on the logo, graphic designer Alan Siegel, who created the symbol, has always been upfront about it: It was Jerry West (additional details can be found on Siegel's website).

Mythbuster verdict: TRUE

3. The Mets took blue from the Brooklyn Dodgers, orange from the New York Giants and pinstripes from the Yankees

This one has really gathered steam in recent years. It's partially true -- the Mets did indeed take their color scheme from the Dodgers and Giants. But that's it. The whole point of the color inspiration was that the Mets were inheriting the tradition of New York's two National League franchises, which had moved to California a few years before the Amazin's came into being. There was never any intent to reference or take inspiration from the Yankees. So why did the Mets use pinstripes? Answer: Why not? In 1961, the year before the Mets debuted, nine of the 18 MLB teams wore pins. It's a safe bet that most of them weren't tributing the Yankees either.


4. The Broncos and their swooshes

Nike designed the uniforms that the Broncos have been wearing since 1997 (although Reebok has manufactured them for the past 10 years). Conspiracy theorists have long maintained that the pants stripe was designed to look like a swoosh, especially when a player is in a three-point stance. Some fans go further, saying that the horse on the team's helmet logo has a nostril that looks suspiciously swoosh-like. Harmless coincidence or diabolical corporate plot? If the team knows, it isn't saying. "I've heard some of those statements circulated as urban myth, but I cannot confirm or deny them," Broncos corporate communications director Jim Saccomano said. "I just do not have that knowledge, either way."

Mythbusters verdict: DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS

5. The Yankees were the first major league baseball team to wear uniform numbers

You probably heard this one a lot while growing up. Uni Watch sure did. Sorry, Bronx Bombers fans -- you can claim many things, but not this. The Indians experimented with numbers on their sleeves in 1916 and '17, and the Cardinals did likewise in 1923. "OK," you may be thinking, "but the Yanks were the first team to wear uni numbers on their backs." Nope, that's not accurate, either. The Yanks and Indians were both scheduled to wear back-numbered jerseys for their home openers on April 16, 1929, but the Yankees were rained out that day, while the Tribe went ahead and played. So any way you slice it, the Indians get the credit for introducing uniform numbers at the big league level.

Mythbuster verdict: FALSE

6. "Remember that season when the White Sox wore shorts?"

Broadcasters love to bring this one up. Whenever the talk in the booth turns to ugly uniforms, someone will say, "Yeah, and then there was that season when the White Sox wore the shorts. Jeez, remember that?" The implication is that the Sox wore shorts for an entire season, which isn't even remotely close to being true. They wore the shorts exactly three times in 1976: Aug. 8, Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 -- and that's it. It's amazing how the legend of the shorts has grown out of three games that were played in a two-week span. (For more about the Sox in shorts, including a video clip of the Aug. 22 game, look here.)


7. The little "H" in the Canadiens logo stands for "Habs"

Hockey fans love to say that the little "H" in the center of the Montreal Canadiens' logo stands for "Habs" or "les Habitants." Makes them feel all sophisticated and worldly, like they actually know French. But the truth is much simpler, almost boring: The "H" stands for "Hockey," as in "Club de Hockey Canadien."

Mythbuster verdict: FALSE

8. The Bob Short shout-out

For the first 10 years of the Texas Rangers' existence, the team's home jersey insignia was bookended by a capital "R" and a capital "S". The party line, often repeated by fans and broadcasters, is that this was a nod to then-Rangers owner Robert Short. Is that true? "Yup, that's what it was for -- for Bob Short," a Rangers spokesperson said. And there you have it.

Mythbuster verdict: TRUE

9. The first shin guards were worn by Roger Bresnahan

OK, so even most die-hard baseball fans don't know about this one, but it's still interesting. Here's the deal: For decades, the standard story has been that the first shin guards ever to appear on a baseball field were worn by Giants catcher Roger Bresnahan in 1907. But new research by Baseball Hall of Fame curator Tom Shieber indicates that umpire Charles Daniels was wearing cricket-style shin guards way back in 1888 -- nearly 20 years before Bresnahan (further info here).

Mythbuster verdict: FALSE

10. The Germany-Ireland Connection

Green isn't one of Germany's national colors, so why has the German national soccer team often worn green over the years? Soccer fans often cite the story that Germany's first international match after World War II was against Ireland and that Germany began wearing green as a gesture of thanks to the Irish for welcoming the Germans back to the world sporting community. That's a really nice storyline; too bad it isn't true. Germany's first postwar international match, held on Nov. 22, 1950, was against Switzerland. (It didn't play Ireland until nearly a year later.) So why does Germany wear green? Because it's an official color of the German Football Federation.

Mythbuster verdict: FALSE

Honorable mention: Some folks apparently believe the Yanks adopted pinstripes to create a slimming effect on Babe Ruth's rather robust profile. A fun idea, but an easy one to debunk. For one thing, the Babe was a pretty trim fella early in his career, so no slimming was necessary. More importantly, the Yankees first wore pinstripes in 1912 -- two years before the Bambino's big league debut and eight years before the Red Sox dropped him in the Yankees' lap. ... For years the story has been that the Bills switched from white helmets to red in 1984 because QB Joe Ferguson was color-blind and couldn't pick out his own receivers from all his white-helmeted divisional rivals (Colts, Dolphins, and Pats). While it's true the team thought a helmet color change might help Ferguson, he has repeatedly stated -- most recently in a Uni Watch interview earlier this summer -- he is not color-blind. ... Last fall a series of uniform mock-ups began circulating, supposedly showing how Nike planned to redesign all 32 NFL teams in 2012. As Nike and the league both confirmed, the mock-ups were nothing more than some fan's Photoshop fever dream, but they were treated as the real deal for about two weeks, and Uni Watch still receives the occasional outraged email about them ("Have you seen what they're planning to do to my team?!").

Paul Lukas doesn't believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or those titanium necklaces. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch website, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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