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Where sports and arts play nice

Somewhere a graphic designer is smiling/ Works Progress Administration
Somewhere a graphic designer is smiling/ Works Progress Administration

Tattoos, uniforms, and the rest

I have previously written about when the arts and sports communities bicker, but there are times when both groups play nice. Uniforms, advertising copy, and court designs are all examples of where the arts coincide with the sporting world.

On the other side, sports organizations often help the larger community – including the arts – with funding and attention.

This article is more concerned with the attention that the sports world should be giving to the artists that produce their work in order to facilitate the profit that these sporting organizations rake in routinely.

Take, for example, the uniforms of your favourite teams. Whether the designs are the brainchild of Reebok, Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, or some other company, there is a team of creatives designing these flashy pieces of fashion that we, as fans, invest much of our attention and love into. Ignoring the horrific watermelon-inspired Rider unis, numerous uniforms give a certain identity to those who wear it. One only needs to take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers or Chicago Cubs to see the power of art in the formation of a team’s identity. Both have working class aesthetics, are colourful, evocative in terms of history, and instantly translatable in terms of tradition. In contrast, the University of Oregon Ducks are known within the sports community as an innovative team and that identity is evidenced by the tens of uniform combinations which the squad, a set of Nike disciples, can field.

If you think that athletes themselves have forsaken art as the work of less value than that of the athletic variety, you’re wrong. Look at the number of professional athletes with tattoos. I agree with one friend of HBO’s Bill Simmons who jokingly lobbied for each NBA team to have their own tattoo guide. Wouldn’t it be great to hear some twenty-something millionaire backpedalling rationalization for why he has a tattoo of a woman’s lips on his neck? That would be now ex-NBAer Kenyon Martin. What about a New Yorker exposé on Carmelo Anthony’s slapdash reworking of the Warner Brothers logo? Melo’s version of WB, if you’re at all interested, stands for West Baltimore.

Then there are court designs. My favourites being the choices of the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trailblazers (pale wood for the win), and the Milwaukee Bucks’ eye-catching and perfectly distracting design – perfect for when you don’t want to watch Jason Kidd butcher line-up decision or witness an awfully awkward shooting stroke, courtesy of the Greek Freak.

This is to say nothing of logo selections, musical choices, clothing lines, promotional items, billboards, and the myriad of other artistic creations – consumerist as they may be – which are given to those of us who will never dribble a ball or shoot a puck, at least not for money.

So, next time you wear that well-worn jersey out to a game, or pay five bucks for a program, or marvel over the well-written ad copy (alright that last one might just be me), think of the artists who put in serious effort to create those pieces. In short, remember that the arts help sports to sustain themselves. There’s a reason, after all, that Riders are nicknamed the Green and White.

About John Loeppky

I am an athlete with a writing problem, or a writer with a sports problem, you decide. When I’m not editing, playing wheelchair sports, or advocating for the disabled, you can find me de-stressing with friends.