The About Fencing book – a surprising gift to myself

Last night, I got home to find a mysterious package outside my door. It was addressed to me and it seemed to have come from England but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what I had ordered. An unexpected package is among life’s most sublime mysteries.

Box from London

I immediately grabbed a knife and opened the box. Maybe there would be cookies (or biscuits, as I guess the British would call them) inside! Okay, so there were no cookies, but what waited for me inside the box was exciting too!

About Fencing Cover

Massimiliano Longo’s book About Fencing is a wonderful instructional and educational book aimed at beginner fencers, both young and young at heart. You can purchase a copy of it for only $15 here. I discovered this book back in September while I was doing research for my post on why people like fencing. At that time, the author was running an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for translating his fencing manual for kids and adults into English and producing a UK and USA edition of the book. I helped fund the project and promptly forgot about it. I think forgetting about and then being surprised is one of the best aspects of crowd funding. The text suffers a little in some parts from having been translated from Italian but the author’s spirit and excitement about fencing shine through. Longo (like a good fencer should be able to do) masterfully walks the thin line between simplifying enough for children to understand while not talking down to them in any way.

Here are a few of my favorite parts of the book.

Interactive diagrams that show the correct target area for each weapon on a line-drawing in green and ask you to “use your finger as a” sword and start training with the book.

Hit the Target

Amazing visualizations that show how a fencing sword is put together.

Epee Diagram

My favorite written section of the book provided full coverage of fencing for the disabled, including a description of the mechanics of fencing in wheelchairs and the various divisions based on what type of capabilities the fencers have. Best of all, it introduced the concept of fencing for the blind! I know, this sounds like an incredible training exercise that the Inigo Montoya and the man in black may have done, but according to Longo, it’s also an increasingly popular worldwide sport. It’s also egalitarian; sighted fencers can join in with the aid of a simple blind-fold.

If you contributed to the crowd funding of this fine book, you’ll probably be enjoying your copy soon. If not, it’s never to late to purchase one for you or the aspiring fencer in your life. You can find a copy on the Leon Paul website.


The top ten Christmas or holiday gifts for a sports fan

The Friday after Thanksgiving is infamously the first day of the holiday shopping season. Black Friday, as it’s called, is a time for sales of questionable worth and dangerous hordes of stampeding shoppers. The whole phenomenon is a funny one though, because by and large, the only people I know who actually get their holiday shopping done before the last minute are all people I would classify as being the least likely to riot over reduced-price electronics. Most of my friends are just rounding into shopping form now, with plenty of gifts left to buy before the 25th. Their motto (our motto, I suppose I should say,) is “if you leave it until the last minute, it only takes a minute.” Here are the top ten sports related gifts that I’ve reviewed over the last couple years. All are guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of the sports fan in your life!

Bob Ryan’s Scribe

Bob Ryan

Bob Ryan is one of the best known and most respected sports writers in the country. He started as an intern at the Boston Globe in 1968 and retired from full-time work there in 2012 after 44 years as a beat writer and columnist. He is a Boston sports writer, through and through — never bothering to adopt the feigned objective neutrality of many journalists in sports. Although he is “retired” now, he remains almost as prolific as he ever has been and this book is proof of that.

Stadium prints

City Prints Michigan

We’re always on the look-out for tasteful ways to represent beloved sports teams in home decor. Items that fit this bill are worth their weight in, well, not gold at current prices, but aluminum at least. They give the sports fan in the household a way to express pride and love while simultaneously giving their family, partner, or housemates a chance to express their own tasteful sense of home propriety. The large selection of colorful stadium prints from City Prints fits the bill on every detail.

30 for 30 sports documentary box set

ESPN and Bill Simmons’ series of sports documentaries, released under the 30 for 30 brand name, have been home to many of the best sports documentaries of the last several years. Their model of targeting filmmakers from outside of the sports media conglomerate and then asking them to work on a subject of their choosing has produced some very interesting pieces. My favorites (Once Brothers, The Two Escobars, and June 17, 1994) from the series are all included in the box set of twelve films.

NBA player art

Everyplayerintheleague Steph Curry

Baseball is the sport of the trading card but that leaves some very interesting niches for other sports to fill in. Seattle-based illustrator Matthew Hollister decided to create player artwork for every basketball player in the NBA. He displays and sells these funky and attractive prints at his site, EveryPlayerInTheLeague.

The Stanley Cup of popcorn

This gift should be a perennial on every top ten list of gifts ever written. It’s hard to beat the combination of the Stanley Cup, the greatest and most desired trophy in all of sports, with the equally desirable delicious goodness of home-popped popcorn!

Baseballism shirts


The holidays are the perfect time to invest in some stylish, clever baseball apparel for yourself or for the baseball fan in your life. Baseballism is a great place to find baseball apparel that looks and feels good. Their style plays on the traditional aspects of baseball without taking on the conventional and a slightly ugly characteristics of old-school baseball uniforms.

 The Blind Side

A best selling book and Hollywood movie, Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side remains a classic and incredibly contemporary. On top of being a touching story and a great tactical history of football, The Blind Side, is an insightful, challenging book about America, one that has incisive insight into this fall’s cultural issues.

Baseball stadium prints


Not only are these minimalist baseball stadium prints by S. Preston great presents but they’re also a good defense against the fan in your life buying a regular sports poster to remember the season by; one that you will not want hung in your living room. A gift of one of these prints says, “I like how big of a fan you are and I support your team” without saying “let’s turn our house into a locker room.”

Rep your school this holiday season

Michigan Jello

For fans of college sports, December is not just the holiday season, it’s also the time when college football enters into its postseason bowl games and when college basketball starts its regular season in earnest. It’s a great time to pick up something sports related as a gift for yourself or the college sports fan in your life. Here’s a selection of college sports gifts that range the gamut from useful to kitschy.

Sports books for children

Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars

How better to pass on the gift of sports than to give a young sports fan a book that will spark their imagination and inspire them? Two of my childhood favorites, Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars by Walter Brooks and Ice Magic by Matt Christopher are joined by three wonderful baseball books, Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh PiratesYou Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!, and You Never Heard of Willie Mays?! by Jonah Winter.

Bonus: Who’s on first?

Holiday time is classics time in many households. It’s the perfect time to slip back into the wonderful nostalgia and legitimately great entertainment of the mid-twentieth century, back when men were real men, women were real women, and comedians were really funny. Whether it’s an introduction or a reprise for the fiftieth time, watching or listening to Abbott and Costello’s classic Who’s on First comedy bit is a great time. Celebrate the genius of their humor with this selection of Who’s on First memorabilia.

Sports books for children

My family didn’t have a television until I was around six or seven and even after that, it was more often a piece of furniture than an active source of entertainment. Most of my earliest memories of sports come from either playing them or reading about them. As I have been thinking about sports gifts to promote on Dear Sports Fan, I realized that even today, when it’s so much easier to find live sports on TV or streaming over the internet and the number of sports documentaries, radio shows, and podcasts is almost countless, books are unmatched in their ability to stimulate the imagination of young sports fans. Here are a couple of my childhood sports favorites and a trio of books by a friend of mine who writes slightly odd and extremely enjoyable children’s books. Any of these would be a great holiday gift for the young sports fan in your family or social circle!

Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars by Walter Brooks

Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars

The Freddy the Pig series was my favorite as a child. I was even a proud member of a Freddy the Pig fan club! Freddy is the leader of a farm of talking animals in Upstate New York. With the benevolent permission of the farmer, Mr. Bean, Freddy pretty much runs the farm as well as being a reputable detective, explorer, and in this book, baseball manager. In the process of investigating the disappearance of one of the community of Martians living in the area, Freddy goes undercover the manager of a mixed Martian and circus animal baseball team. Published in 1955, this book is full of wonderful era-appropriate characters and plot twists, like the head of the ABI (Animal Bureau of Investigations), J.J. Pomeroy (J. Edgar Hoover, anyone?) as well as the very 1950s Martians and their flying saucer.

I really can’t recommend these books enough. If you want to pair this one with one of the earliest and best of the series, buy a copy of Freddy The Detective too.

Ice Magic by Matt Christopher

Ice Magic

The premise of this book is that a youth hockey player’s fortunes in the rink are predicted by the results of his nightly games on one of those table-top hockey games that are like foosball but with little hockey players on tracks. Matt Christopher was a prolific writer of sports books for children — he wrote well over 100 books — and I must have read a bunch of them but this one was particularly memorable. I think it played some role in making hockey my favorite spectator sport from a young age.

A trio of baseball books by Jonah Winter

Jonah Winter writes children’s books in the spirit of the early Muppets. They’re wonderful for kids and won’t drive you totally mad even if you have to read them out-loud every night for months on end. In these three biographical books about baseball stars from the 50s through the 70s, Winter emphasizes not just his subjects’ achievements on the field but also the challenges they faced as African American, Jewish, or Hispanic baseball players.

Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates

Roberto Clemente Jonah Winter

You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!

Sandy Koufax Jonah Winter

You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!

Willie Mays Jonah Winter

30 for 30 sports documentary box set

I know what you’re thinking. DVDs and Blu-ray are so passe. It’s been years since you (me too) actually watched something off of physical media, you just stream it! Why would you give someone a gift that you wouldn’t use yourself. Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, in the years that you’ve been exclusively streaming your entertainment onto your television (or maybe you just go straight to your laptop) you’ve conditioned yourself to accept a relatively low quality image. Your screen is capable of producing a much nicer picture than the one that is normally produced by streaming. And those blips, where you have to deal with a spinning circle for a few seconds while the buffering catches up, they’re not so bad, right? But they are pretty jarring. They break the spell when you’re watching something immersive. Plus, it’s no fun giving a holiday gift to someone if they can’t tear the wrapping paper off on Christmas Morning/A Hanukkah Evening/Kwanzaa Afternoon/Festivus Midnight.

This box set (ESPN Films 30 for 30: Film Favorites Collection) of twelve of the best films from ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series is a perfect gift for the sports fan in your life. It will look great on her shelf of prized DVDs, Blu-rays, and (gasp) VHS tapes. Plus, unlike many sports documentaries, these are compelling viewing even for non-sports fans. The 30 for 30 documentary series is the brainchild of columnist and media mogul, Bill Simmons. Using his power within ESPN, his celebrity, and (I’m guessing) his particular talents for mildly harassing people until they do what he wants them to do, Simmons corralled well known filmmakers into creating and directing documentaries about sports topics they feel passionate about. The resulting films have been a wide-ranging and interesting mix. Involving people from outside the mainstream sports media world has meant some very unusual choices of subject and style.

This box set of “favorites” from among the series includes twelve documentaries: The Announcement, The Best That Never Was, Catching Hell, The Fab Five, The Marinovich Project, Once Brothers, The Real Rocky, The Two Escobars, The U, Unguarded, June 17, 1994 and Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs The New York Knicks. I haven’t seen all the movies in the series, not even all twelve included in this set, but it does include three that are my three favorites. I’ll give you just a taste of each of the three that I can recommend from personal experience.

Once Brothers

The brothers in question are basketball players Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic. They grew up in Yugoslavia and came of age playing together for their country’s national team. When their country began to split violently in ethnic conflict, their relationship splintered as well. Petrovic sadly died in a car accident before time and the benefit of hindsight could bring them back together. The film follows Divac on a journey back through what is now Serbia and Croatia to trace the history of his relationship with Petrovic. It’s directed by Michael Tolajian who is not a well known filmmaker, but someone who had worked within ESPN, and clearly had a passion and background in the subject matter. His influence makes the film very straightforward. He lets the story and its characters shine.

The Two Escobars

If you were a young soccer fan living in the United States in 1994, like I was, then the United States’ hosting the World Cup was just about the best thing ever. The fact that the U.S. team surprised the world and actually advanced out of the group stage and into the knockout round was just icing on the cake. Our team’s only victory during the group stage was a 2-1 win over Colombia. This win would turn sour in retrospect after a Colombian defender who mistakenly kicked the ball into his own net, Andres Escobar, was murdered in Colombia just a week after their team was eliminated from the World Cup. I remember hearing about that as a kid, feeling sad and also thinking how crazy that was that someone could be killed over soccer. What I didn’t know, was anything about Andres Escobar. I didn’t know that he was seen as the great hope of Colombia, as a pure athletic antidote to the reign of Colombian drug lords, chief among them, Pablo Escobar (the other eponymous Escobar.) This movie tells the story of a country in crisis through the rise and fall of Andres Escobar. It’s not to be missed.

June 17, 1994

Picking up right where we left off, in 1994, this is my favorite of all the 30 for 30 films I’ve seen. Directed by the self-proclaimed “mad scientist” of documentaries, Brett Morgan, it’s a tour de force of filmmaking. Unlike most documentaries, there are no interviews, no voice overs, and no captions to speak of. It’s simply 51 minutes of footage from a single day in 1994, spliced together expertly. What makes it so compelling? Well, let’s just see what happened on that day: the opening of the 1994 World Cup, the New York Rangers celebrating their first Stanley Cup win since 1940, the NBA finals, Arnold Palmer’s last round of golf at the U.S. Open, and a little low-speed chase on an L.A. highway with O.J. Simpson in the back seat of a white bronco.

Rep your school this holiday season

For fans of college sports, December is not just the holiday season, it’s also the time when college football enters into its postseason bowl games and when college basketball starts its regular season in earnest. It’s a great time to pick up something sports related as a gift for yourself or the college sports fan in your life. There are a trillion and a half (exact number) things that you can buy that have your college’s team logo slapped on them somewhat randomly. Many of them are pretty tacky. My philosophy is that tacky is okay but only if the object in question is something used primarily in a sports situation like attending a game, tailgating, or watching at home. If the product is something you would ever use or see in a non-sports situation, like a shirt or a framed piece of artwork, then the bar is higher for tastefulness. Here are a few college sports related gifts that fit those requirements.

Faux Vintage College T-Shirt

Michigan State Shirt These shirts are just over the line in my mind from tacky into classy. I don’t like that they are artificially distressed, I think a good college shirt should earn that look from years of misuse. But, I do like the look, and the fact that there are no words, only a logo, on these shirts makes me like them enough to feature in this post.

Logo Grill Covers

Alabama Grill Cover Barbecuing isn’t a sport, it’s just cooking outside, but for sports fans, the two activities have somehow become inextricably linked. Throwing a college logo onto a grill cover is a low-cost, unobtrusive way to honor that link.

Barbecue Set

Tennessee Grill Tools While you’re out there barbecuing, you will have removed the cover. I hope you do, anyway, otherwise the smell of all that burning plastic is definitely going to attract some unwanted attention from your neighbors and possibly the police or an environmental protection agency. Anyway, with the cover, you’re removing your ability to rep your school. Not to worry! Use these grill tools. I particularly like the subtle embossing of the logo on the spatula. That and the team color on the handle last long after those stickers have fallen off.

Old-School Wall Bottle Openers

Auburn Bottle Opener Other than cooking outside, drinking beer is another activity closely related to watching sports. I’m a sucker for these type of bottle opener that hangs on your wall or doorframe. For some reason, I find opening a bottle on an opener like this 1,000 times more satisfying than using a handheld opener.

Tailgating Table

Clemson Table Okay, I’ll admit that this folding table is firmly on the tacky side of the fence. There’s just something about it that I like. I think maybe, particularly with the Clemson paw print on it, it looks very soft and cozy to sit at. In any event, used solely for tailgating at games, I see no reasonable objection to owning one!

The Best JELL-O Mold

Michigan Jello I cannot imagine a better gift for a sports fan than these JELL-O molds. Look at them. They are so retro, so kitchy, so hysterical. If they had my team, I would totally buy a few of them and enjoy eating jiggly, delicious little college logos on game day.

Thanksgiving football gifts

Thanksgiving is a celebration of abundance. As divorced as most of us are today from the actual harvesting of food, we can still give thanks for the many good things we have in our lives. The ideal Thanksgiving celebration has lots of everything: food, family, cheer (both emotional and liquid,) and lots of football! Thanksgiving is not really a gift giving holiday but why not celebrate the abundance of life with some enjoyable Thanksgiving and football related presents. I know it’s getting close to Thanksgiving itself, but thanks to the wonders of Amazon and their horde of delivery drones [note from the federal government: Amazon is totally not using drones, we are sure of that. Well, pretty sure anyway.] it’s not too late to get yourself or a family member a lovely Thanksgiving treat. In addition to our free Thanksgiving Guide to Football for the Curious, here are a few fun selections:

Gobble Gobble T-Shirt or Onesie

By far the most elegant of the Thanksgiving Turkey/Football clothing I found, this clever design creates the shape of a football from the words “gobble gobble” and thereby inextricably links holiday meal to sport and vise-versa.

Gobble Gobble

The Main Course is Football T-Shirt

If you like colors, this shirt comes in thirteen colors ranging from the expected white, grey, and beige, to unexpectedly bright greens, yellows, and oranges. The design shows a football with a drumstick attached. The makers of the shirt do not recommend you actually serve a football to your Thanksgiving guests but that could be one interpretation. If you decide to give it a try, please write me and tell me how it goes.

Happy Thanksgiving

Baby Demands Football and Turkey

I have to say, if you’re looking for something to put your baby in that’s Thanksgiving themed, you can do a whole lot worse than going with the football element of the holiday. Half of the baby clothes I found on Amazon involve dressing the baby up as a turkey. Oh, sure, it’s totally common to say that a baby is cute enough to eat but I think actually camouflaging your baby as the main dish may be one step across that invisible line. This baby bib matches my Thanksgiving sentiments exactly and simply has the baby demanding turkey and football.


Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection

Who doesn’t love the Peanuts? This collection includes Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie BrownA Charlie Brown Christmas, as well as the classic A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It also has special features like this free video of behind the scenes footage describing the creation of the famous scene where Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown.

Of course, if you’re worried about keeping your family busy while you cook (or conversely while you watch football if that’s the side of the holiday you’re on…) then you’ll need The West Wing so you can watch this:


Stadium prints for sports fans

We’re always on the look-out for tasteful ways to represent beloved sports teams in home decor. Items that fit this bill are worth their weight in, well, not gold at current prices, but aluminum at least. They give the sports fan in the household a way to express pride and love while simultaneously giving their family, partner, or housemates a chance to express their own tasteful sense of home propriety. The large selection of colorful stadium prints from City Prints fits the bill on every detail.

City Prints is an online fine-art print shop founded and operated by Tony and Katie Rodono that specializes in prints of places. The idea for City Prints came to them years after Tony started a traffic counting company. That business didn’t take off but Tony took away an enjoyment of drawing intersections. When the couple had a child, Tony writes on the about page of the City Prints website, he “realized the importance of place” and the idea of making fine-art prints out of locations was born. City Prints sells a wide variety of map-art. I’ve personally purchased one of the few non-map prints, an Apple II computer schematic, so I can vouch for the quality of their work. Most of what they produce are maps of areas as large as the earth and as small as a sports stadium or race track.

All of the prints are available as 12 x 12 prints alone, matted, or matted and framed. You can also get them in 30 x 30 Gallery-Wrapped canvases. Here are some of my favorites with links to the specific product and category so that you can hunt for the print that’s most meaningful to you or the sports fan in your life.

Race Tracks

Churchill Downs — the legendary site of the Kentucky Derby. Put this print up in your living room and mix some refreshing mint juleps.

City Prints Churchill Downs

Talladega Track — for the NASCAR/Will Farrell fan in you(r life.)

City Prints Talladega

College Football

Michigan Stadium — called the Big House, this is one of the original and ultimate bowls in sports.

City Prints Michigan

College Basketball

Cameron Indoor Stadium — the home of the Duke Blue Devils, where Coach Krzyzewski roams the floor and the students stand the entire game.

City Prints Duke

Dean E. Smith Center — home of Duke’s main Rivals, the North Carolina Tarheels. This is a fair and balanced blog.

City Prints NC

NFL Football

Lambeau Field — home to the only collectively owned major professional sports franchise, the Green Bay Packers, Lambeau field is a national treasure.

City Prints Lambeau

NBA Basketball

Madison Square Garden — called basketball’s Mecca, Madison Square Garden in Manhattan is home to the New York Knicks but has also been an important location for the history of college basketball. It hosted the Big East championships for decades.

City Prints MSG

NHL Hockey

Bell Centre — What the New York Yankees are to baseball, the Montreal Canadiens are to hockey. The legendary franchise has won almost exactly one quarter of all the Stanley Cups in history.

City Prints Montreal


White Hart Lane — City Prints has a wide selection of international and domestic soccer stadiums but if you’re looking for a typically British design, the map of Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium is unmatched.

City Prints Tottenham

Fund this project: Cycling Party

Whether you’re an avid sports cyclist, a fan of professional cyclists, or just someone who rides her bike to work everyday and loves board games, you might be interested in this clever board game that represents cycling in an innovative way. Cycling Party is the product of two cycling and board game enthusiasts, Leandro Pérez and Diego Hernando. You can find information about the game on their website,, follow them on Twitter, and help fund their game on Kickstarter.

The game’s simplest version, the junior game, does a great job of teaching the basics of bicycle racing. For example, riders can be in three situations — in the big group of riders, the peleton, a smaller group, the paceline, or alone in a breakaway. In each setting, how far and fast the racers go is determined by rolling two dice but the results are interpreted in different ways — ways that make sense given how things actually work in a race. Riders in the peleton generally move together at the pace of the fastest rider (the highest roll) in the group. Only an extraordinarily good or bad roll will see a rider fall off the back of the peleton or escape away from it. In a small group, a paceline, the riders will still generally stick together  but it takes less to break the group apart. A difference in roll of only four will see one rider move ahead or behind the group. When a rider is all alone, his pace is up to him and him alone. In the real world, this means that a group will almost always catch a lone cyclist because the group can trade off the hard work of leading the pack. In the game, the group moves at a pace set by the highest of several rolls while a lone cyclist only gets one roll. The junior version of the game recognizes the difficulty of climbing mountains by forcing every rider in a peleton or paceline to act like a rider in a breakaway — moving only at their own pace — on mountain roads. It’s a clever way of teaching beginning cycling mechanics while also creating a compelling game.

The senior game adds specialized roles for riders into the mix. Players designate riders as sprinters, climbers, roulers (cyclists who are good at everything,) flat domestiques, mountain section domestiques, and lanterne rouges (basic riders.) Each type of rider has slightly different variables which modify the effect of the die rolled for them each term. The senior game also adds some tactics other than go-very-fast to the game: attacks, retreats, and risky descents abound.

To the excellent gameplay of the junior and senior games, the last version of the game, the master game, adds the element of a multi-stage tour to the mix. Cycling’s greatest and most popular race is the Tour de France. Run annually since 1903, the Tour de France is run (rode) in 21 stages over 23 days. It covers more than 2,000 miles each year. The brilliance of the race, from a fan’s perspective, is that it combines amazing physical feats with interesting one-day tactics and team strategies that bridge the race from stage to stage. The master version of Cycling Party tries to emulate that. I’ve always found the season or campaign version of sports games to be the most compelling. The length of these modes give your imagination a chance to run its course and get attached to the imaginary athletes you control.

I love the way Cycling Party demystifies the physical realities that drive professional cycling and puts players in the place of team managers and riders, forced to make tactical choices to win the race. Help make the game a reality!

Hockey goalie masks: individuality in sports

Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that “loyalty to any one sports team” is a curious thing because, if you accept that the players move from one team to another and eventually retire, rooting for one team must be nothing more than “rooting for laundry.” It’s a clever joke, mostly because it creates such an amusing scenario. What if we did root for literal laundry? “GO TUMBLE-DRY ONLY SHIRTS!!” As with all good observational humor, there’s a deeper truth lurking beneath. Team sports, particularly professional team sports, demand a subordination of the individual to the team that goes far beyond what most of us experience in our professions. The darkest aspect of this subordination is played out in the eagerness of athletes to play through injuries that would sideline most people and should sideline them for the sake of their future health. Professional athletes have few opportunities to express their individuality, which is why the ones they do have — touchdown dances in football and walk-up music in baseball being two clear examples — are so important to them and noticeable to fans. In all of sports there may be no cooler way (except maybe these skeleton helmets) for athletes to express their individuality than hockey goalie masks.

It seems completely crazy now but hockey goalies didn’t wear masks or helmets until 1959. It took only another decade or so for the first goalie to decorate with his mask. According to a fairly comprehensive history of hockey goalie mask designs on, Gerry Cheevers drew a simple stitch onto his otherwise undecorated mask in protest against his coach who ordered him back on the ice after taking a shot to the face. That the beginning of what has become an amazingly diverse artistic endeavor was the action of an athlete asserting his individuality is fitting. Since then the battle between subordination to the team and assertion of the individual has played itself out in the aesthetic of goalie masks.

Goalies like Ed Belfour and Felix Potvin successfully branded themselves with their masks. Belfour always had an eagle design and Potvin always had a cat. These identities and nicknames followed them from team to team and allowed their fans to root for them regardless of what laundry they were wearing. A contemporary of theirs, Ron Hextall believes that a goalie should choose to align his identity with his team’s:

“If you want to tie yourself in there somehow, fine, but I always preferred the team logo rather than something about you,” said Hextall, citing the masks worn by Dryden and Martin Brodeur as easy-to-recognize and iconic. “I still believe a goalie mask should be tied to the organization, the city or the logo rather than to the goalie himself.”

I wonder what he would think of the New York Rangers backup goalie, Cam Talbot, who recently debuted his latest ode to his favorite movie, Ghostbusters? Talbot calls it the “GoalBuster.” Ha!

If you want to get in on the goalie mask game yourself, you can do it with this NHL Mini Goalie Mask Standings Board. You can use these tiny helmets to involve yourself in the NHL by keeping daily standings of divisional or conference standings. Note though, that the masks here are not the masks of individual goalies, they are simply painted in team colors. Sure, you might say, this is easier and safer to do because you never know when a goalie will get traded or injured and his mask design could become obsolete. The cynics among us would note though, that inevitable obsolescence is often a good plan for products like this because it encourages you to buy it again next season. Is it possible that the makers of these helmets are taking a stance against the individuality of athletes so that we sports fans continue to root for laundry?

NBA Player Art

There’s something about sports that encourages a pursuit of completeness. Sports fans seem to like knowing everything about something. It’s not often that you hear them talk about knowing some of the starters from an old championship team by heart or wanting to learn the history of a few teams in a league. Nope, sports fans want to know everything about their favorite team, they want to collect all of the baseball cards from the 1972 Expos, they want a photo collage of all the uniforms in their team’s history. Nowhere is this drive for completeness more obvious than in today’s featured source of gifts for sports fans, EveryPlayerInTheLeague.

EveryPlayerInTheLeague is an art project by Seattle-based illustrator Matthew Hollister. His mission is to create an illustrated rectangular drawing of every basketball player in the National Basketball Association. I love his style. The bulk of the image is in a arch shaped frame. Hollister shows his knowledge about the league by capturing the personalities of each NBA player by showing them doing some action characteristic to them. The backgrounds are made up of partially abstract shapes that are evocative of NBA stadiums while also seeming kind of funky in a 1960-70s kind of way. Team colors are used throughout, within the images and on the periphery of the artwork where they adorn the player’s name as well has his team’s.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces:

Tim Duncan – The Big Fundamental, keeping the ball up at his elbow where it’s far from the hands of prying defenders.

Everyplayerintheleague Tim Duncan

Blake Griffin – This one concentrates not on Griffin’s dynamic athleticism but on his hunted quality. For some reason, people in the NBA love to do nothing more than antagonize Griffin and this image captures his reaction.

Everyplayerintheleague Blake Griffin

Stephen Curry – Curry is the deadliest shooter in the league. This drawing catches him in mid-shot, fully concentrated on sinking another three-pointer despite the effort of the players guarding him.

Everyplayerintheleague Steph Curry

Kevin Garnett – Garnett is the league’s longest running and most enjoyable freak show. Even at 28 years old, entering his 20th season, he’s the most intense guy out there. ALL THE TIME

Everyplayerintheleague Kevin Garnett

DeMarcus Cousins – Cousins is a divisive player. People either love him or hate him. He’s got incredible talent but also a big streak of self-destruction. He tantalizes the fans with his skills and annoys them with his attitude. I love how Hollister captures the duality of Cousins throughout the image, even using a two-toned uniform to cement the characterization.

Everyplayerintheleague DeMarcus Cousins

Kenneth Faried – Faried is all over the place all the time, hair and elbows flying. He’s a prime example of a player who earns his keep by hustling all the time, Faried just happens to be supremely talented as well. He starred on the US World Cup of Basketball team this summer and I’m looking forward to seeing him grow as a player this year.

Everyplayerintheleague Kenneth Faried

You can pick up some of Hollister’s artwork in his shop at Society6. He doesn’t seem to have all of his prints for sale but my guess is that you could request a particular player if you had your heart set on him. The prints are for sale as art prints for $17.68, framed art prints for $35, and the always elegant canvas print for $85.

Happy browsing, happy buying!