Mister Rogers and the U.S. Navy

Connected, but not quite how you think. Plus, uniforms and why some people wear them, links to the sunglasses companies I mentioned, and 7 other things worth reading.

In 2017, a Navy destroyer called the USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan.

It was a terrible tragedy. Seven sailors were killed.

The destroyer’s captain, Commander Bryce Benson, had been asleep in his cabin during the 1:30 a.m. collision.

His naval career was over. He even faced a court-martial, although the Navy ultimately dropped the charges and decided to let him to retire.

Afterward, the guilt and the pain of being abruptly cut off from the military life he’d known were tough. As his case unfolded, he coped in part by volunteering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Benson wore “a yellow polo shirt and ball cap stitched with the word ‘volunteer’ and the round emblem of the national park,” reporter Meg Rose wrote this week, in covering his story for Pro Publica.

“This,” he told her, “has provided me a place to come in a uniform.”

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Beautiful day

Let’s talk about a different uniform. The movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers (a/k/a Mister Rogers) opens today.

I think it’s fair to call this film “long-awaited,” at least among people I know.

I’ve only seen trailers so far, but the degree to which Hanks seems to flat-out become the late children’s host is uncanny.

Even if you didn’t watch Mister Rogers as a child, maybe you know the Mister Rogers persona: his flat, deliberate way of speaking, his kind, patient manner, and the ritual he created of zipping up his cardigan and tying his sneakers (while singing) at the opening of every show.

In an interview with The Washington Post this week, Hanks talked about how putting on the sweater and shoes each time was like a superhero changing into his costume and cape.

“You are definitely no longer yourself,” he told the Post. “You are this other very identified, a very almost commoditized human being that was Mr. Rogers.”

Cool vest, bro

We all have our uniforms. Sometimes they’re literal. Sometimes, metaphoric.

This week, it became a Big Deal that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman wore his army uniform to testify before Congress (he had to, according to a military rule).

Last week, it was a Big Deal that Colin Kaepernick worked out before cameras to help determine if he ever wears an NFL uniform again, but wore a “Kunta Kinte” t-shirt (the lead slave character from Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’).

I spend less time in New York City lately, but we took my daughter there when she had a day off from school. I was surprised to see that finance bros are still wearing the standard “Patagonia vest with dress shirt and khakis” uniform.

Seriously, when I wrote about that six months ago, I thought for sure it was on its last legs.

And bless his vest. #midtownuniform 📷: @gbadavas
November 21, 2019

Clearly, not the case.

Confidence vs. herdmind

It feels like this is the part where I’m supposed to give a little speech about how your uniform doesn’t matter and it’s what you are underneath that matters most.


  • (a) this is not an after-school special, and

  • (b) who am I kidding?

Heck, I’m writing this while wearing the same simple, blue t-shirt, jeans and hoodie de facto uniform that I wear almost every day.

Besides, like it or not, uniforms do matter.

They identify us as part of a group—or as self-reliant enough to stand out on our own. They give us confidence, or else show that we need to be part of the herd.

You wear it, or it wears you.

It reminds me of a truism from law school, which I’ll paraphrase.

If you don’t know who the jerk in the uniform is, maybe be careful that it hasn’t become you.

Sunglasses magnates I know

I wrote the other day about the surprising number of people I know who manufacture and import sunglasses from China.

I hadn’t told them I was going to write about them, so I didn’t include links to their companies. But, I’ve now run it by two of them:

  • Company 1: Foldies, run by my friend and former work colleague, Shea.

  • Company 2: TMPLS & BRDGS EYEWEAR, run by Tito, the man responsible for making my hair look so good every few weeks.

7 other things worth reading today

  1. Colin Kaepernick’s event put the focus on a waiver that some aspiring players are asked to sign when they show up for a tryout. Some NFL player agents say they had no idea their clients were signing them (and giving up rights) until Kaepernick’s event made it an issue. (NBC Sports)

  2. Free newspaper. (Meaning, you can have the entire unprofitable business.) (WBIR)

  3. The inventor of the Nerf football has died. (Cleveland 19)

  4. A Utah woman faces felony charges for walking around topless. She was in her own home, in front of her stepchildren. (Associated Press)

  5. The man behind Borat and Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen, gave a speech calling Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Google “the greatest propaganda machine in history.” (CNBC)

  6. Study: More trees, less risk of death in cities. (Thomson Reuters)

  7. Tesla revealed its Cybertruck. Sort of. (CNET)

Ideas and feedback actively solicited. Find me anytime at billmurphyjr@understandably.com, or on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter. Be excellent to each other.