Overreactions, Sabres Third Jersey Edition: Guys, this shouldn’t be hard. Really.
Today, was… well, another day in the life.
After weeks and weeks of mind-numbing, pointless, frustrating, over-thought, underplanned teases, we finally saw the Sabres’ new third jersey. How we got to this point this way without a complete comprehensive fuck-up by multiple people involved in the process is beyond rational thought. But this is where we are, and it’s not a good spot. Or a good jersey.
We had known since last year that the Sabres would be breaking out a new uniform. Team President Ted Black had mentioned it on several occasions dating back to last season, and then we got a weird sneak preview at the team’s Blue/Gold scrimmage at Development Camp in July. They played a short video with shots of details of the uniform before a scrimmage attended by a couple thousand people at 4pm on a Friday preceding their “FanFest,” which was poorly planned in itself. (Remember that 10,000 Maniacs concert? Yeah, this is all connected.)
I had low expectations going in. Not just because it seems like I hate everything the organization does, or want to, or anything stereotypical like that, but the track record wasn’t good coming in. The last third jersey, for the team’s 40th anniversary, was over-thought and underwhelming. The recently re-did Buffalo Bandits uniforms, designed by the organization’s creative team, showed a penchant for a sloppy mess of details, needless features and general bad design (Gradient backs with a solid nameplate? Yikes.) What are the odds the people at the computers in the office had all of a sudden learned good taste? Slim. But we had to wait and see. I was open-minded about it.
Alas, my skepticism wasn’t helped by the way they decided to tease it. I criticize the PR/social media department’s lack of substance constantly, but they really turned on the fluff for this one. After the initial video of tight shots of the collar and piping, they decided to randomly post swatches. Or post pictures of pant shells and call them jerseys. With no rhyme or reason, and no final date in sight, they decided posting vague pictures intermittently was the best way to show this off. Icethetics summed it up pretty well. It was getting old and wasn’t generating much goodwill. Even worse, it seemed like they were willingly ignoring the negative feedback and not realizing their plan was a mess.
And that led to today.
The team’s @BuffaloSabres account posted a new swatch this morning, of nothing but solid blue. Everyone chastised them for it immediately, leading Steve Ott to tweet at the account, encouraging them to release the jersey already. After a brief “back-and-forth” between the two, Ott returned later to threaten that he would leak the jersey himself.
In what the naive would see as a player doing something awesome in the name of the fans, Ott posted pics on his account of the new jersey, with him modeling. Vince McMahon would’ve been proud with how well it was scripted. The whole thing stunk like Ott was in on it, and it’s obvious that this wasn’t the plan all along, which goes to show how bad the original game plan was. It seemed like a half-assed effort to try to save face and end the madness, all in the name of generating some attention.
The backlash was immediate. Not just from miserable Sabres fans, but pretty much all Sabres fans. And not just all Sabres fans, but the hockey world in general. Everyone from mainstream media to bloggers to fans everywhere were ripping apart the organization for not only the embarrassingly extended tease concluding in such a lame fashion, but for the horrendous jersey itself.
Even the Atlanta Thrashers 3rd Jersey is pointing and laughing at the new Buffalo Sabres one.
— The Royal Half (@theroyalhalf) September 4, 2013
Those Sabres jerseys had to be designed, approved, made into prototypes, probably approved again, then marketed. So many missed chances.
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) September 4, 2013
The Sabres are bad at everything.
— Dave Lozo (@DaveLozo) September 4, 2013
The organization obviously realized that they had to get it out there, but man, did they fumble this one.
Releasing a new jersey is a huge opportunity in so many ways for an organization. Not only do fans love new shit, but they love to buy it. Give people something cool to buy and they’ll be happy. With training camp starting next week (!!!), this was a tremendous opportunity to generate excitement, and they spent the whole summer annoying people with teases only to half-assed reveal an abhorrent uniform.
The team wasn’t prepared to put this out there (nice gallery on the Sabres website, maybe they should take a hint from Minnesota), and they sure as hell weren’t ready for the backlash. When the team finally posted the pictures on their social media, they went so far as to delete the original Facebook post because of the amount of negative comments (sadly, I did not screenshot). They later reposted it to their Facebook page and started getting comments calling them out for deleting it. It’s one thing to fuck something up, it’s another to try to hide from it. When you’re full of shit in the first place, obviously staging this whole thing, it doesn’t earn you any credibility pulling stunts like this.
And even worse, everyone was laughing at the organization and the team’s social media guy seemed to think it was fantastic that they got all the attention.
— Craig Kanalley (@ckanal) September 4, 2013
It’s good when people are talking about you… except for when they’re all saying what a shitty job you did. As an organization, going Skip Bayless (being a complete moronic jackass, eliciting attention and deluding yourself into thinking it’s good to be talked about for it) on us is not going to help anyone. How do you command any respect or integrity when you’re staging twitter fights with your players to promote a third jersey and then brag about it when everyone’s talking about how awful it went? When the hell did Reese Lansing get hired?
Not to mention, most importantly, this jersey looks fucking stupid. How did this get out of the first meeting? How did it make it to production? This is a trainwreck. A gold front, navy back. Random piping. Giant wordmark saying BUFFALO over a logo that predominantly features a fucking buffalo. Random collar triangles. Giant grey cuffs. Ugly lettering font. Overdesigned captain’s patches. It’s a clusterfuck.
Don’t act like I’m some cynical asshole just trying to rip everything, because I would love to have a jersey that makes me want to hand over my money. I have more jerseys than I need (close to 20 Sabres jerseys, plus more random NHL jerseys) and don’t need an excuse to buy more. But this is shitty and I’d be embarrassed to wear one. Designing a hockey jersey should not be hard, yet the task seemed to be beyond the comprehension of the people in charge.
All in all, with training camp around the corner, I don’t know if the Sabres could’ve done worse. All the fans are pissed. The hockey world thinks the organization is a joke. The team’s got a third that’s not going to sell half of what a decent looking jersey would and fan morale is floundering before the guys even hit the ice for the first time. Where we are is not a good spot for anyone, less than a month away from games that count.
I’m gonna say this to you guys involved in this fiasco down at First Niagara Center: This isn’t good work.
To your bosses: You need to have people that do better than this.