If you were wondering about why we chose the uniform number that we did, or why we painted that particular uniform year, here's the explanation.
Why did we chose that Uniform Number?
People often ask about the use of uniform numbers in the NFL, MLB, NHL and CFL uniform artwork (the story of the NCAA football uniform numbers is different – please read on):
To avoid any potential claims from the Players Associations (NFL, MLB, NHL, CFL), or from Alumni Associations, or from any current players, or from any past players or their families, when we show a jersey number, one of two circumstances apply, either:
A. That particular jersey number was not worn by anyone in that season (this can include retired numbers)
B. That particular jersey number was worn by more than one player that season, and therefore cannot be associated with any one particular player
We have produced our artwork to honor the team and the history of the NFL, MLB, NHL and CFL team, not necessarily to honor individual players. I hope that we have succeeded in this goal!
In the case of our NCAA uniforms, the colleges and universities control the uniform numbers, so we were able to use real uniform numbers in our NCAA football artwork. If you aren’t sure which player is being honored by a particular piece of our NCAA football art, please read the text associated with that image – we have identified the wearer of almost every uniform number in our NCAA artwork.
Why did we choose that uniform and that uniform season?
I believe our original artwork, and the products that used the artwork, celebrate the team's history. As such, we weren't a "hot market" product line - hot market products are all about the “here and now”, whereas our goal was to celebrate the team's rich history.
I wanted our products to have shelf life so that we didn’t have to re-do our product line each and every year. It would have been unnecessary, not to mention prohibitively expensive, for us to renew the line each year in advance of the beginning of the season. I think retailers appreciated the fact that the product line had some shelf life, giving them some breathing room if a product didn’t sell that season, it could still sell in the off-season or the following season because it had not become obsolete.
In choosing which uniforms and seasons to depict, there were quite a few factors at work, some of which were:
- If possible, I tried to show at least one uniform from each decade of a franchise’s existence.
- I tried to choose important seasons in a team's history, ie great seasons and/or Championships and/or big bowl game victories or simply making the playoffs after 20 years of missing the post season.
- When it comes to the early years of a team's history, ie up to the 1950's, some uniforms were chosen simply because they were interesting from a uniform perspective, and therefore it's possible the team didn't have a very good season that year, but they had a great uniform and I felt it was important to show that uniform.
- In the case of the NCAA paintings, and only for the NCAA for the reasons stated above (see Use of Uniform Numbers), I did my best to honor a particular player by showing his jersey number from his "best year", ie a Heisman trophy winning season. What this meant was that it was possible that I showed a uniform, even a recent uniform, that may not have been from a particularly successful season from a won/lost record point of view, but it was the season that a particular player excelled. But in most cases Heisman Trophy winners (or Lombardi or Outland winners) occur in seasons in which the team also had a successful won-lost record.
- When it comes to the uniforms shown from the 1990's and 2000's, I try to pick their best/most successful season(s) of each decade. In many cases I try to show the jersey they wore in the league championship if they made it that far because a championship finals patch is in essence a “badge of honor”. For this reason you might notice that many of the uniforms we painted from the 1990’s and 2000’s have patches on them – this is because the NFL, MLB and NHL all require that both teams playing in the final series/game wear a commemorative patch. In the case of college football, almost all successful teams in the 1990's and 2000's wrap up their seasons with a Bowl game of one sort or another, and most Bowl games in the 1990's and 2000's feature jerseys that have Bowl Game jersey patches worn by both teams.
- When it comes to the 2000's, I believe I tried to show a uniform at least from 2004 onward (ie either 2004 or 2005 or 2006 or 2007) in order to keep things fairly current.
- I stayed away from painting a uniform before the season officially began because the few times that we did paint the art prior to the start of a season, we didn't know for sure what the uniform would look like AND for the NFL/MLB/NHL/CFL, I had to guess at a uniform number that I was almost certain was not going to be worn that season, or in the case of the NCAA, I didn't know which player to honor by showing his uniform number because I couldn’t predict what sort of season a player was going to have. The issue re painting uniforms before the season gets started is a real issue - in the past I have tried to do this with some of our NFL, MLB and NHL teams and I was got caught at least four times in that I was led to believe the uniform would look a certain way, then when the season began I learned that something was changed and that our artwork was therefore wrong and needed to be changed. This usually related to patches but could sometimes also relate to something even more basic (the number of sleeve stripes, size of shoulder numbers, etc.), so I learned the hard way not to paint a uniform until the season was well underway.
- We tried to have a reasonable balance of home and away jerseys, and in recent years we have also tried to show a third jersey or a throwback jersey if possible. Remember, we were trying to honor the history of the team and a nice mix of home, away and 3rd/throwback jerseys is important in telling the story.