Monday, January 30, 2012

A Super Bowl Ad Worth Watching

National Football League
The N.F.L.'s Super Bowl commercial includes an actor portraying the Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, whose career was cut short by knee injuries.
The New York Times is reporting that the NFL will be running a commercial on player safety during the third quarter of the upcoming Super Bowl.

The concept sounds interesting:
The commercial, directed by Peter Berg — who created the TV program “Friday Night Lights” — will be shown during the final commercial break of the third quarter. It uses one long kick return as a way to take viewers through the evolution of the game’s rules and equipment, from the sport’s beginnings on a muddy field in Canton, Ohio, when players wore no helmets or pads, to the present in a brightly lighted Soldier Field.

At one point, a leather helmet peels back to reveal a more modern one made of plastic. Later, a player grabs an opponent’s face mask, a violation of current rules.

Only the most devoted fan would recognize all the references. The flying wedge, a blocking technique that is believed to have made its debut in 1892 but was banned soon after, is shown briefly in the opening seconds. Near the end, a horse-collar tackle, only recently forbidden, is featured.

But nobody, particularly the casual fan at whom the commercial is primarily aimed, will miss its closing message, delivered by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis: “Here’s to making the next century safer and more exciting. Forever forward. Forever football.”
I'm a little uneasy making Ray Lewis a spokesman for anything related to saving lives, but that's beside the point.

There's also been some criticism leveled at the NFL that, after years of ignoring the problem, it took lawsuits for them to actually address it. And that's very fair, but again a little beside the point. Yes, they waited too long to address the problems inherent in the game. But they are addressing them, even if reluctantly. And the fact that they feel compelled to spend their valuable Super Bowl face time on this is a huge step forward. You may recall that last year they ran a much less hard-hitting ad, if you'll pardon the pun.

I'm intrigued to see the ad. Even if that screenshot's the closest our Packers will get to the game this year. The re-created mid-1960s uniforms look pretty good, although I'll have to check those 5's.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Gloves are Off

Nike's first NFL product has been unveiled; "Vapor Jet" gloves. When a player crosses his hands just so, the pattern combines to form his team's logo. Very popular among players who like to mug for the cameras.

This concept isn't exactly new; Nike has produced these for their college programs for the last few years:

Today Nike posted photos to its Facebook page with a Packers version and one for each of the League's 32 teams under the heading "Pro Bowl 2012".

The meaningless Pro Bowl is one thing, but I don't think we should expect to see these in an actual game; they seem tailor-made for a 15-yard Unsportsmanlike Conduct flag. The NFL isn't too keen on the use of props in celebrations.

UPDATED 1/30/2012:   Greg Jennings wore these gloves in the Pro Bowl, and made the first hand-shout in NFL game history, albeit the exhibition game.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jerry Kramer's Rings

Last week, the Packers tweeted this photo:

A photo of all 5 of Jerry Kramer's #Packers championship rings -1961, '62, '65, Super Bowls I & II:
But wait — I thought the Packers didn't issue championship rings to players in 1962. Didn't players receive watches instead?

Let's look at the photo a little more closely.

A very impressive collection.

Okay. The four on the right are easy. Looking at those four from middle finger to pinky, we have the 1965 championship ring, then the two Super Bowl rings, 1967 over 1966, then finally the 1961 ring.

It's the ring on his index finger that's at issue, the one they're calling a "1962 ring". Here it is, a little closer still:

Ah, mystery solved.

That's not a championship ring; it's a Packers Hall of Fame ring, given to him upon his induction in 1975. Compare it with Ray Nitschke's Class of '78 ring, sold by Heritage Auctions last April:

Heritage Auctions

Easy mistake, since PHoF rings are so seldom seen.

So far as I know, no player was issued a ring following the 1962 World Championship. But I'd love to see Mr. Kramer's watch.

(h/t: David van der Steen)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The "Majik Man"

Sports Illustrated is currently running a photo gallery of 1980s sports posters. Packers fans of a certain age will recognize this one:

Photo: Courtesy of the Costacos Brothers
and Adam Shopkorn, New York

Ah, yes. Don Majkowski. All-Pro quarterback out of Virginia, most remembered these days for being the Packers' version of Wally Pipp.

Majkowski was injured during the first quarter of a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1992, and his backup came in to lead a comback 24-23 win in the final seconds of the game. The Majik Man never got his job back, as that former backup went on to start the next 253 Packer games (and a handful for some other teams we won't mention).

Majkowski was a good quarterback—he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2005—he just wasn't Brett Favre.

Although you can barely see his Packers jersey under that shredded cutaway coat, Majkowski played during the "silkscreen era" of the 1980s/early 1990s. You can see it more clearly in this photo:

Sewn-on tackle-twill numbers wouldn't return to a Packer uniform until the blue and gold 1994 throwbacks (and for good with the 1995 home and road jerseys).

Majkowski is also notable for his uniform number. When he first started with the Packers in 1987, he was issued Paul Hornung's #5.

In his second season, Majkowski changed to #7, which he would wear for the remainder of his time in Green Bay. He explained the number switch this way:
People kept asking me how it feels to wear Paul Hornung's number. I kept hearing that, and I realized the impact Hornung had. I wanted to wear a number people could remember me for."
That helps date the poster to 1988 or later.

Note also Dad Braisher's "G" logo on the sleeve - that was part of Forrest Gregg's 1984 uniform overhaul.

The "Majik Man" poster is part of a gallery exhibition:
On January 21, Country Club and Mondrian in Los Angeles is opening its "For the Kids" exhibit, which will feature the classic sports posters of John and Tock Costacos. The brothers were originally sports T-shirt manufacturers, but started a side business creating "fantasy" sports posters that gave professional sports heroes a larger-than-life look and appeal.
I certainly remember this poster. I didn't have it on my wall, but plenty of my friends did.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"The Men of Old Green Bay" - January, 1936

This picture of the 1935 Green Bay Packers club was published in the San Francisco Examiner on January 17, 1936.

BIG PACKERS—Here are the men of old Green Bay, Wisconsin, who will open Sunday's K.C. charity football encounter at Kezar Stadium against the Pacific Coast All Stars.

LARGE LINE—Perhaps they don't show it here, but these fellows in forward wall are hefty. Left to right: Gantenbein, Schwammel, Evans, Svendsen, Michalske, Hubbard, Rose.

CLEVER BACKS—Dark haired fellow on left is Arnold Herber, great passer. The blond is Hank Bruder, blocking quarter. Next, Clarke Hinkle, full, and George Sauer, left half.
Fine looking men, one and all. Don Hutson, having just finished his rookie season, is notably absent from the picture, but there is at least one other unidentified Packer in the background (wearing #12), so perhaps Don made the trip but not the Examiner's sports page.

1935, you may remember, was the first season of Curly Lambeau's brief two-year foray into green uniforms.

As the caption notes, the Packers were in San Francisco for an post-season exhibition game at Kezar Stadium.

These games were part vacation and part goodwill tour, spreading the popularity of pro football across the country. Lambeau also used them as an opportunity to scout college players, particuarly at bowl games.

The Packers would make another California trip the following year, during which they filmed the "Pete Smith Specialties" short film Pigskin Champions.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Get 'Em Next Year

Well, I guess we can stop the comparisons with the 1962 Packers.

That was painful. What a crushing loss, and what a miserable end to a spectacular season.

Guess we won't have as much to talk about as we did, say, a year ago. But never fear, we can close the book on 2011 and still have ninety-two other seasons to talk about. Lots of good Packer history to occupy us as we wait for the 2012 campaign to start.

On a housekeeping note, should soon be re-directed to this very page. Just as soon as Lycos gets around to processing the transfer. And the next step in the evolution of this database and blog will be complete.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Return of the Database

Many of you have noticed that we've been having problems with the original Green Bay Packers Uniform Database, dead links and trouble with the domain name.

That should all be over now; I have moved the Database to this very blog; click on the "Uniform Timeline" link at right to access the chronological timeline of Packer uniforms. "Main Blog" will bring you back here.

The domain name should point to this blog soon, if I can get Lycos to release my own darn property to me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Jersey Shortage?

Nike's impending takeover of the league-wide uniform contract is starting to impact retailers, who are running out of Reebok jerseys to sell:

NFL jersey switch may make Packers favorites tough to find

Green Bay Packers fans look over jerseys last week at the Packers Pro Shop inside Lambeau Field. A combination of factors, from the recent NFL labor dispute to Reebok's expiring contract with the league, could cause a shortage of popular jerseys. (Gannett Wisconsin Media)
Written by
Richard Ryman
Gannett Wisconsin Media

GREEN BAY — Popular Green Bay Packers jerseys are going to be scarce over the next three months. Then they're going to be more expensive.

The NFL's decision to change suppliers from Reebok to Nike, combined with the Packers' nationwide popularity, is depleting inventories of merchandise, especially jerseys.

"I think all of us that sell Packers merchandise are experiencing the same challenges," said Kate Hogan, director of retail operations for the Packers. "We bought heavy going in and we bought a lot of jerseys. We are not going to be able to sustain it much longer."

Reebok's 10-year contract to supply NFLapparel is ending. In April, Nike and several other new vendors will take over. As a result, retailers say, Reebok ordered conservatively going into the season. The company's plans also were affected by the NFL lockout, which still was in effect when buying decisions were made.

"Everybody knew coming in it was going to be a tough year for all merchandise," said Brian Swallow, senior vice president of strategy and business development for Fanatics, an online retailer.

"It's very tough being a vendor and retailer. You have to prognosticate, sometimes a year in advance. That being said, in your lame duck year you are going to be very conservative."

The most popular teams will experience the worst shortages, and the Packers are breaking all sorts of popularity records this year, from on-field performance to stock sales to merchandise sales.

"It's absolutely a great brand, winning team, a lot of press coverage nationally," Hogan said. "Even I did not predict we'd be doing the level (of sales) we are."

Sheri Tanner, owner of the Jersey Store, 1931 Holmgren Way, Ashwaubenon, said her business is up more than 50 percent this year with at least two home games remaining. Fanatics said its sales of Packers merchandise was up 170 percent through mid-December.

Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews jerseys were the most popular sold through November by NFLShop .com, according to the NFL, and Packers merchandise led all team sales at the NFL's online store.

Emptying shelves

Shelves, real and virtual, are getting bare.

"What we have on the site is what's available. When it's gone, it's gone," Swallow said.

Mike Walters, manager of The Jersey Store, said his shop is buying what it can find and contracting for some exclusive custom pieces, though they will miss the sales they could have offered, particularly of sweatshirts and jackets.

"It's a nice problem to have, everything flying off the shelves," he said.

Hogan said adult jerseys, Sideline gear and some other goods cannot be restocked. Women's apparel, long-sleeve T-shirts and certain colors, such as gold, are also in short supply, but children's jerseys are plentiful.

Custom-made playoff apparel, however, will be available as always because it is not made until needed.

Joanna Hunter, manager of corporate communications for the NFL, said in an email that may be able to take up some slack.

"No, we are not concerned. can supplement other retailers' offerings so fans can get the gear they are seeking," Hunter wrote.

Nonetheless, Hogan and Tanner recommended fans who plan on buying do it soon. "If there is a jersey they want, they should buy it now. We have some inventory left," Hogan said. "Whether from us or anybody else, they should do it now."

Nike will raise prices when it introduces its lineup in April, Walters said.

The cheapest Nike jersey will be $100, up from $75. Authentic Jerseys will be $250, a $60 to $75 increase for Packers fans.

The price increase is not unprecedented. Walters said that 10 years ago Reebok spruced up the jerseys and raised the price from $45 to $60.

He said Nike is promising its jerseys will be snazzy. "We haven't been able to see it. They tell me it's a great jersey, that it's a lot better than what's in the marketplace now," he said.

With the new contracts, Nike will produce a narrower range of products than Reebok. Other venders, such as Forty Seven Brand and New ERA will provide new items, and others, such as VF Imagewear and G3, will continue to provide merchandise under renewed contracts, Hogan said.

Walters said the new arrangement will be better for retailers and fans.

"What it brings back for us is more variety in the marketplace," he said.

Packers' popularity

The Internet is boosting Packers' merchandise sales nationwide, Hogan said. Wisconsin residents continue to purchase the most items from the Packers Pro Shop, but buyers come from all 50 states as well as several countries.

The Packers are working to increase Internet sales. The organization has a good email list, and it has a great brand, but the Pro Shop has to be competitive and deliver on service and product, Hogan said.

"You still have to do the work. If you just sat back, it wouldn't come to you," she said.

Fanatics actually sells more Packers items to non-Wisconsin residents than residents, who account for about 14 percent of sales, Swallow said."I think the angle is who really is America's team," he said. "The Packers have just been resilient. It's a testament to how Packers fans are loyal and passionate about that team."

For local retailers, Tanner said in-person sales can be affected by the makeup of people attending the games. Playoff game crowds are often different than regular season. She said this year's Christmas Day turnout was more like a playoff game, because there were a lot of people who don't normally attend. That meant more sales and a further depletion of stock.

"It was unbelievable. We were overwhelmed," she said.

Hogan said shoppers might have to adjust expectations, buying road jerseys instead of home jerseys, for example.
Couple interesting takeaways from this article:
  • The cost of replica jerseys will be going up. Unfortunate, but not surprising.

  • Nike is promising its jerseys will be "snazzy"? "Better than what's in the marketplace now"?

  • "Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews jerseys were the most popular sold through November by NFLShop .com, according to the NFL, and Packers merchandise led all team sales at the NFL's online store." I'm also glad to see that the Packers are leading the, ahem, pack in merchandise sales across the board.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Go! You Packers Go!"

Eric Karll's marvelous fight song "Go! You Packers Go!", written for the Packers in 1931, has been re-recorded for a 21st-century audience. Green Bay-based Madera Music, under the name "Curly's Curmudgeon Band", has recorded a brand-new recording of the gridiron classic for its 80th birthday.

"Go! You Packers Go!" is now available from Amazon and iTunes.

I'm not a huge fan of the B-side, a lo-fi cover by James Kocian, but the primary recording is wonderful. It begins with a instrumental rendition of the song performed by a nine-piece band, and then repeats the entire song with Karll's vocals. They get bonus points for the original lyric "On, you blue and gold to glory/Win this game the same old story".

Eric Karll was a jingle writer in Milwaukee when he composed the fight song, the first for a pro football team (preceding Washington's "Hail to the Redskins" by at least six years). His lyrics were snappy:
Hail, hail, the gang's all here to yell for you,
And keep you going in your winning ways,
Hail, hail, the gang's all here to tell you too,
That win or lose, we'll always sing your praises Packers;

Go, you Packers, go and get 'em,
Go, you fighting fools upset 'em,
Smash their line with all your might,
A touchdown, Packers,
Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight!
On, you Blue and Gold, to glory,
Win this game the same old story,
Fight, you Packers,
Fight, and bring the bacon home to Old Green Bay.
First printings of the sheet music featured the 1930 World Championship team, and a rare picture of Curly Lambeau in uniform.

1930 was the second and final year of the small circular numbers; by 1931 the Packers had returned to plain blue jerseys.

The song itself takes up the next three pages.

On the back, Green Bay's famous Lumberjack Band.

Later printings, such as this one from the mid-1950s, featured an arial photo of City Stadium on the cover.

This is only the second commercial recording of "Go! You Packers Go!" of which I am aware. The first was on a 1961 album called National Football League Marching Songs. "Officially sanctioned by the NFL" (according to the cover), the album featured conductor/composer Bernie Green conducting a group with the impressive-sounding name of the "National Football League Marching Band".

The album featured the fight song for thirteen of the league's fourteen teams, rounded out with "Hooray for Mr. Football." The expansion Minnesota Vikings, then in their freshman season, weren't included in the fun; the album was recorded in July of 1960, after the Minnesota franchise was awarded but before it had been given a name, much less a fight song.

Each track is introduced by a star player. "Go! You Packers Go!" was the fifth track on side two, and featured an introduction by none other than Bart Starr.

Although the album is long since out of print (and largely forgotten, as is "the National Football League Marching Band"), it turns up on eBay every now and then, both in original LP and bootleg CD formats. All fourteen tracks are also available on the blog of Jersey City's independent community radio station WFMU.

Wikipedia claims that Lawrence Welk also recorded a version of the song (and owned the rights at one point), but I haven't been able to locate it. As much as I would love that to be true, I'm inclined to believe that's yet another example of Wikipediac nonsense.

Go download it, buy the CD and support Curly's Curmudgeon Band. Show them how much we love our Packers' rich history. Maybe next we could convince them to record a version of the 1936 Milwaukee Brewer anthem, "Our Team's Leading the Hit Parade".

Then play it loud and yell for the Packers, keep them going in their winning ways!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Getting the Message Across

My brother sent me this photo of today's page in his 2012 Green Bay Packers Desk Calendar:

Now if they would only tell the NFL...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Gold Standard?

Last Sunday, at Jacksonville's last game of the season, outgoing owners Wayne and Delores Weaver were given gold-plated helmets from the team as a thank-you for bringing the Jaguars to town twenty years ago.

The helmets were created for the team by Hydro Graphics Inc., the Portland-based custom painting company responsible for the chrome Nike helmets worn by the Oregon Ducks in the 2012 Rose Bowl.

But don't hold that against them.

The helmets themselves are interesting. This might be the wave of the future, as Nike prepares to assume the league-wide uniform contract.

The mirror finish is a little much for me, but I rather like the muted effect on the back bumper.

So, is this something we could ever see the Packers doing? We already know that Nike has some (perhaps) minor changes in store for the Pack when they take over the uniforms, so it's not impossible that the Packers. The helmet finish has already been altered at least once, when the Packers moved to the current metallic "pearlized" sheen in 2001. This could be the next step in their aesthetic evolution.

Okay, that's a "collectible" mini-helmet from a couple years ago. Maybe it wouldn't have to look as garish as all that. Perhaps something closer to the new Notre Dame helmets, which were designed to mimic the famous Golden Dome.

If a paint company can match Notre Dame's administration building, surely they could come up with a pretty good approximation of the Packers' shade of athletic gold. Perhaps in a satin finish, like this gold-plated saxophone:

That color's not too far off.

We can only wonder what Nike might have in store for us.