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!

Gifts for Sports Fans: Quirky products for tailgating

No, not that kind of tailgating! We at Dear Sports Fan don’t encourage tailgating in your car unless you’re a professional race car driver. Today we’re talking about tailgating before a sporting event! Google defines tailgating as “eat[ing] an informal meal served from the back of a parked vehicle, typically in the parking lot of a sports stadium.” That’s a good definition but it doesn’t capture the sheer enthusiasm and total seriousness with which true tailgating sports fans regard the tradition of tailgating. If you’ve ever gone to a game five hours early to be wined and dined (or should that be beered and fed?) with some of the most elaborate in-car or under-tent cooking you’ve ever seen, then you know what I’m talking about.

Yesterday I got an email from Quirky advertising a few of their quirky products for tailgating and I thought I would pass them on to you. Quirky is a unique company that brings aspiring inventors and product managers into a community of people who love great stuff and then pairs them with the production wherewithal to create, market, and sell unique, orginal products. Everything they sell on their website was invented, designed, and created from within the Quirky community. If you’re interested, sign up here! Many of these inventions would make great gifts for the sports fan in your life, whether that’s your boyfriend, wife, son, or mother. Or even yourself!

The Grill Wrangler

Grill Wrangler

If you’re serious about tailgating, then you’re serious about conserving space in your car. Every extra tool you bring for cooking means one fewer beer or burger. This is a zero sum game, people! Paul A. Wachtel, the inventor of this product knows what I’m talking about. The grill wrangler is a three tools cleverly packaged together. It’s a spatula, a fork, and tongs. I know that when I cook, I love my tongs so much that I use them even when the task at hand is much more suited to another implement. I bet I’m not the only one who does this. With this tool, I could have my tongs and flip things without breaking them too.

Metal Sliders

Metal Sliders

This next invention is perfect for germ-phobic kebab lovers. It’s a set of metal skewers that have a built in metal tag that slides down the skewer, pushing the now perfectly cooked skewered food off the skewer as it goes. It’s one of those solutions to a problem that has bugged you for ages that seems so obvious once someone else (Tim Hayes, in this case) invents it and shows it to you.



Sometimes, like with the last product, inventions solve long unsolved problem. Other times, like with this sweet little gadget, they make something perfectly good, even better. Everyone knows the best part of a hot-dog is the outside, where it makes contact with the grill and picks up all those wonderful charcoally, slightly burnt flavors. The Cyclone takes a normal hot dog and transforms it into something with three or four times the surface area to get all charcoally and slightly burnt on the grill by spiral cutting it. That’s right, it’s (as its inventor, Zoli Honig writes on the website,) a “clever tool that spiral-cuts any wiener in seconds.” Used with sausages, as opposed to the pre-cooked hot dog, the spiral cut creates a more even, safer way to grill them to perfection.

Sports Style, Retro and Encyclopedic

One of the consequences of sports and sports teams being so well known by such a large percentage of the population, is that their colors, uniforms, and logos become fertile ground for cultural artifacts that refer to sports in one way or another. A few weeks ago, in a post about the controversy over the name of the NFL team, the Washington Redskins, we linked to a contest a design company had run to develop new logos for the team. Here are three other projects that use the language of sports for stylistic purposes.

An encyclopedic record of WWF champions

As found on, this compendious poster showing the history of the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) is obviously a work of great devotion. His wrestlers are simple figures with cube-shaped heads that seem to evoke the character heads from the video game Minecraft.  Professional wrestling isn’t really a sport, in my mind, but it shares many elements of sport and people who follow it are a lot like sports fans. Creator Scott Modrzynski has also done a lot of work creating foogos or logos made of food. One of my favorites is a deconstructed s’mores version of the Pittsburgh Penguins logo. It’s truly remarkable! And while the foogos are too perishable to buy, some of his other work is for sale here.

NHL sprites

Sticking with hockey, and also found by, here is a set of “sprites” representing the 30 NHL hockey teams plus the now defunct but still remembered fondly, Minnesota North Stars. These images are free to download. A sprite, as I discovered on wikipedia, was a shortcut used commonly in the early days of computer graphics to create a character that could be moved around on top of a background image without having to rebuild the background constantly. There is a set of comics that use sprites as characters for stylistic reasons but also because (again) it’s easier that using characters and backgrounds that have to be rebuilt for each image. One of the most popular of these comics used sprites from the video game Megaman. It’s these characters that artist, Adam4283 emulates when creating his set of hockey players.

8-bit tees of NFL helmets

Our last find is a set of T-shirts sold on with simple, 8-bit style representations of NFL team helmets on the front. The unnamed creator of these shirts left a message explaining that “If you feel yourself being transported back to the days of Tecmo Bowl, don’t be alarmed…that was the idea.” Tecmo Bowl was one of the first, and still one of the most loved, football video games ever. To get a sense of how popular it remains, there’s a youtube video of someone playing the game that has received over 1.6 million views since being posted in 2006. These shirts are a clever homage to the game.

There’s a few shared elements in all three of these products. All of them mash-up well-known sports visuals with video-game graphics. All of them evoke an earlier time. And all of them would make a great gift for a sports fan in your life!