The Swooshification of the World

by Rick Reilly


I must get more Swoosh in my life. More, more, more. It's not enough to have the Swoosh on every jersey and scoreboard and dugout rook. It's not enough that the Swoosh is on basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, and volleyballs. It's not enough that the Swoosh is slapped all over more than 40 universities, eight NFL teams, six NHL teams (two more next season) and five Major League Soccer teams.

I want the eye black under baseball and football players' eyes to take the form of a Swoosh. I want hockey sticks, nine-irons and yardage markers to be made in the shape of a Swoosh. I want to know who's in the on-deck Swoosh. I want to watch the Swoosh channel. I want Swoosh condoms (Just Do It).

It's not enough that the Swoosh is on Michael Jordan's beret and Mary Pierce's headband and Gabrielle Reece's beach volleyball top. It's not enough that the center on the Hawaii basketball team had his sideburns shaped into Swooshes. I want a Swoosh tatoo. I want a Swoosh lasered onto my retinas. I want to name my son Swoosh. (If it's a girl, Swooshie.)

I want these things because the Swoosh is the most ubiquitous symobl in sports history. The swoosh is so huge that the name of the company that goes with the Swoosh doesn't even appear anymore. In the ads, on the shoes, even on the company letterhead, all you get is the Swoosh, and you just know. Try that with Keds, pal.

Happiness is a warm Swoosh. Do you see the way it swooshes upward, a snappy little check mark, letting you know that everything in your life is A-O.K.? It's airy, windswept, uplifting. It's the delighted little final stroke your pen makes when endorsing the biggest check of your life.

But there is not enough of it in our lives yet. From here on in, instead of H-O-R-S-E, I want kids to play S-W-O-O-S-H. I want skis to go swoosh! I want to get the autograph of Sheryl Swoosh.

Woe to you who underestimate the Swoosh. Tiger Woods, the coolest athlete on Planet Swoosh, has the Swoosh on the front of his hat and the side of his hat and the back of his hat and on his turtleneck and on his shirt and on his sweater and on his vest and on his pants and on his socks and on his shoes. But when Woods arrived in Thailand two weeks ago, he found that his luggage had been misplaced, and he had to play a pro-am without his usual complement of Swooshes. He lasted just 13 holes before heat and exhaustion got to him. Don't you see? The Swoosh is the source of all his powers!

I wasn't always like this. I used to rage against the Swoosh. "Why?" I yelped at stragers. "Why must the Swoosh run the world?" Why, I asked, after almost 30 years, did the Denver Broncos let the Swoosh people redesign the team's uniforms and logo so that they were suddenly uglier than the jerseys of a meat-market softball team. I cried out against the subliminal Swooshing all over the new Denver uniform. "Don't you see it?" I railed, pointing to the Brocos' new logo. "The horse's nostril! It's a Swoosh!"

In protest I determined to go an entire day without getting Swooshed. I made it 14 minutes, just past my Eggo, when my wife came down in her Swoosh sports bra. Something snapped in me that morning. I gave in. You cannot fight the Swoosh.

I want my kids to attend the University of Caifornia at Swoosh. I want to get up in the morning an eat a big bowlful of chocolate Swooshios as part of a nutritionally balanced breakfast. I want to meet Carolyn Davidson. She's the graphic designer who, after graduating from Portland State in 1972, came up with the Swoosh for Phil Knight, Zeus of Swoosh, for $35. Thirty-five dollars! When she handed it to Knight, she remembers, he said, "I don't love it, but maybe it'll grow on me." Twenty-five years and a zillion dollars later, you think it's alright now, Phil? (Davidson, who in 1983 was given some Nike stock by Knight who recently retired, says her second most famous work is the wallpaper she designed for a motel in Yakima, Wash.) Carolyn Davison, stand up and take your place in world history!

Some experts believe the Swoosh is better known than McDonald's golden arches. Nine national soccer teams including Brazil's, wear the Swoosh. The Tour de France leader wears the Swoosh. When the U.S. played Russia in hockey's recent World Cup, both teams were wearing the Swoosh.

The Swoosh is like Jell-O: There's alway's room for the Swoosh. I want Swoosh on the periodic table of elements right next to boron. I want Swoosh to be the 27th letter of the alphabet. I want to order raw eel at a Swooshi bar.

Do not fight it, brothers and sisters. Trust in the Swoosh. The Swoosh is good and powerful. If our government leaders would only get it, the Swoosh could bail us out of this deficit thing like that. Of course, we would have to make a few small concessions.

Al, does the presidential seal look different to you?


This article appeared in a March 1997 issue of Sports Illustrated.


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