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When Logos Go Wrong
November 6, 2013 5:11 AM   Subscribe

Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth discusses poorly designed sports team logos throughout history.
posted by reenum (55 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's my idea of interesting sportswriting. Thanks.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:32 AM on November 6, 2013


Who wouldn't root for the Montreal elb?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:33 AM on November 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I'm with Faint of Butt. I have one of these, based solely on the design.
posted by nushustu at 5:41 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It does seem like if you're going to name a team the Hooters, you may as well go all the way with the logo. Like the Vigilantes did.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 5:50 AM on November 6, 2013


I don't get what prompted Baltimore to switch from the extremely appealing cartoon Orioles logo to the dry-toast-dull version.

"You know what kids these days love? REALISTIC ILLUSTRATIONS OF BIRDS."
posted by overeducated_alligator at 5:58 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What! I figured 'elb' made sense somehow in French. There's an M?? Now that I am enlightened, it's not like the delightful discovery of the arrow in the Fed Ex logo. It's more like a befuddled "Why did you write 'elb' if you wanted to show an M?"

I've always loved the Jersey Devils logo, because cryptozoology + hockey + clever design = awesome. The Hartford Whalers one was quite nice too.
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:03 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems like more of a lets-judge-past-logos-with-current-design-sensibilities rather then just when logos gone wrong. 20-30-40 years on I could see many of our modern logos being mercilessly mocked.
posted by edgeways at 6:03 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's an M??

There's an E?!
posted by wensink at 6:05 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Seems like more of a lets-judge-past-logos-with-current-design-sensibilities rather then just when logos gone wrong.

Most of the examples here aren't just "Oh, they used to use more representational person-figures! How droll!"; they're "What the fuck is going on with that guy's feet?" Would that Denver Nuggets prospector ever have looked good?
posted by Etrigan at 6:13 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is great. Funny and spot on.

It's increasingly difficult to defend the Cleveland mascot.... However, when supporters of the current Chief Wahoo say he is a vast improvement... they ain't lying.

The current furor over the Washington Redskins somehow misses Cleveland (perhaps because, you know, it's Cleveland.) The Washington Logo depicts a fine, proud man. It's the name that grates on some people. The Indians logo is still over the top, but compared to how it used to look... yeah, a vast improvement.

I always thought that the other team in Cleveland, the Cleveland Browns, with the brown football helmet logo, was perfect for a town like Cleveland and a perfect model for Washington. The Washington "Reds" with a hammar and sickle would suit DC perfectly.
posted by three blind mice at 6:19 AM on November 6, 2013


I love stuff like this and could read about sport's logos all day. The Milwaukee Buck's 1968-1993 logo is pretty amazing.
posted by PHINC at 6:20 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The worst NBA franchise in its history also had its best logo.

Meanwhile, the first NFL team based in New England to win a championship had the same name, and perhaps the worst logo in NFL history. It's basically G'nort.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:23 AM on November 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


That's what happens when you hire Jay Ward to design your logo, PHINC.
posted by Bromius at 6:25 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Canucks have gone back to using the 70s logo in recent years.
posted by arcticseal at 6:25 AM on November 6, 2013


I just scrolled down until I found the Tampa Bay Buccaneers old logo. I knew it had to be there.
posted by lordrunningclam at 6:27 AM on November 6, 2013


A lot of the more ancient logos look awkward and ratty mostly because of the reproduction technology available at the time. That, and, in some cases, what we have surviving today are umpteenth-generation reproductions from the original.

Oh, and, some maple leafs are that extensively crenulated. That's an awesome logo.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:37 AM on November 6, 2013


I liked the old Nuggets logo with the crazy prospector.
posted by mullacc at 6:38 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like the old Tampa bay logo. The new Patriot logo, on the other hand reminds me of something that would look better on a mail truck. The old "Pat" logo was much cooler. Unfortunately I see my old high school has switched to the new logo too.
posted by TedW at 6:45 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


That weird old Tigers logo makes me laugh every time I see it.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:46 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


About the old Pittsburgh logo:
That's not a pirate. That's some dude from accounts receivable who got too drunk at the office Halloween party while dressed as a pirate.

Don't be hatin' on tha A.R. bruthahood!
posted by TedW at 6:49 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're going to flip through sportslogos.net and lazily pick on 1920s era logos, at least find a copy of the original logo, not one redrawn by some incompetent with MS Paint.

Compare the sportslogos version of the 1927 Detroit logo with actual photos:

Heillman, Lu Blue, Bob Fothergill. The one on Fothergill's pinstriped home uniform is actually kind of badass, but the Heillman photo with the away kit shows that it's not quite as derpy as sportslogos would have you believe.
posted by zamboni at 6:53 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Canucks logo always makes me think it was designed by someone who had been doing smart phone icons for too long. I guess when you have these jerseys in your past everything is an improvement.

Lou, I agree with your love for the Hartford Whalers logo. It's doubly awesome that their old farm team was the Binghamton Whalers and they just turned that same logo on it's side.
posted by cmfletcher at 6:59 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


"You know what kids these days love? REALISTIC ILLUSTRATIONS OF BIRDS."

The Orioles returned to the cartoon bird in the last year or two - I always liked the realistic one, if only to listen to Michael Kay (part of his schtick during Yankee radio broadcasts was describing the home and away team uniforms in exacting detail) describe it as "ornithologically-correct".
posted by jalexei at 7:05 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't get the "old = laughable bad!" narrative folks are criticizing this article for. A lot of the exemplars of good design the writer praises are among the oldest. If anything, the narrative I'm picking up is "1950-1990 were dark years."

I like this article a lot. The writing was sharp and amusing, plus it started with the awesome Detroit Red Wings logo and ended with the awesome Montreal elb logo (praising both, even when elaborating on the bizarre, difficult-to-parse signifier that is the latter).
posted by erlking at 7:09 AM on November 6, 2013


"In the 2006 offseason, the [Spokane] Indians began a process to redesign their logo and uniforms. As per tradition, they began by avoiding the use of any American Indian imagery, but early in the process of redesign, the Spokane Nation contacted the team about officially supporting the team. In the process, the tribe gave permission to the team to adopt subtle and tasteful imagery, in order to pay homage to the team’s history and new connection with the tribe. The cooperation, called "historic" by the team, included the creation of a secondary logo written in Salish, the traditional language of the tribe."
Awesome.
posted by zamboni at 7:12 AM on November 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Agree with 90% of this, but he's dead wrong about the Win! Twins! logo. It's so goofily awesome that it's long been the only thing I've liked about the Twins.
posted by COBRA! at 7:20 AM on November 6, 2013


ever since the gallery of regrettable food, nobody can just write about shit anymore. everything has to read like somebody's testing out their stand-up act.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:27 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Etrigan: "Would that Denver Nuggets prospector ever have looked good?"

In fact, according to the most recent analyses, that Nuggets prospector is as fucking awesome as ever. A lot of logos in there that this guy is completely right about, but when it comes to the crazy trippin' gold prospector hallucination mascot? He's completely wrong. That one is a wonder.
posted by barnacles at 7:30 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bonjour, je suis Pierre le Pélican. Je viens de vos cauchemars. Je suis un démon de l'enfer. Embrasse-moi.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:43 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a kid in the early 1990s, it blew my mind when I found out that the Milwaukee Brewers logo contained an M and a B.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 7:48 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


The problem with the old Buccaneers was not the super-awesome "Bruce the Pirate" but their decision to go with an orange creamsicle color scheme. You put Bruce on their current red/black/pewter uni and you have the best looking uniforms in the NFL.

I also miss classic Pat the Patriot (and the white helmets). The current Pats logo is bland and shares an outline w/ the Carolina Panthers AND Jacksonville Jaguars. Talk about boring and unimaginative.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:54 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like the Colt .45s logo. On the other hand, if they hadn't become the Astros, we'd never have gotten the rainbow uniforms.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:05 AM on November 6, 2013


I always liked the original logo for New Hampshire's minor league baseball team, currently the Fisher Cats. Originally the team was to be called the New Hampshire Primaries and its logo and alternate logo were awesome.
posted by gauche at 8:06 AM on November 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


This is as good a time as any to mention Dave's Geeky Hockey. In addition to sketching out some awesome designs, he turns some of them into the real thing, for which he can gladly take my money.
posted by plinth at 8:06 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Originally the team was to be called the New Hampshire Primaries and its logo and alternate logo were awesome.

I would wear anything with that alternate logo.
posted by Etrigan at 8:17 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Most of these logos are fabulous.

The New England Patriots logo, on the other hand, looks like John Kerry's head is flying around in a burning tri-corner hat.
posted by compartment at 8:17 AM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Many of my friends (me included) would call out "Flying Elvises -- BOSTON CHAPTER!" whenever the Patriots appeared with that new logo.
posted by Etrigan at 8:20 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would wear anything with that alternate logo.

Right!? I'm kind of idly wondering if I know anybody with an embroidery machine.
posted by gauche at 8:22 AM on November 6, 2013


Many of my friends (me included) would call out "Flying Elvises -- BOSTON CHAPTER!" whenever the Patriots appeared with that new logo.

Yeah, it's commonly called the Flying Elvis. On the other hand, the old logo looked like a Revolutionary War re-enactor about to take a dump.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:23 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I never understood the hate-on people have with the Expos logo. I saw the M right away... took me a lot longer to recognize the lowercase e.

The Canucks logo, too... It's a stylized letter C! For Canucks! It's an awesome bit of 1970s logo design. The 2000s-era cleaned up version made it kinder, gentler, and friendlier to low-resolution television screens just at the time people were replacing their old CRT TVs for HD flat-panels, but it also looks a lot less like a capital letter C.
posted by ardgedee at 8:27 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


insert your foot into my skull, human
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:53 AM on November 6, 2013


That Red Sock is also suffering from some sort of copying degradation where it's been sloppily vectorized and outlined, so it wouldn't have been so horrendously ugly in practice. Though I guess the phallic interpretations might remain.
posted by RobotHero at 9:09 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The apocryphal story (cannot vouch for the veracity) was that when Stanford decided to change their mascot from the "Indians" in the 70s, the students voted on a replacement. The name that won was "Robber Barons" (after Leland Stanford, the ex-governor, railroad magnate, and founder of the University).

The Trustees wouldn't have it, so they implemented "Cardinal." The color! No "s" on the end. So Stanford does not have a mascot to this day: they have a color. And no one is exactly sure what that color is....

Note: The Tree is the LSJUMB (band) mascot--NOT the University mascot.
posted by CrowGoat at 9:29 AM on November 6, 2013


plinth: "This is as good a time as any to mention Dave's Geeky Hockey."

Oh my god!! Why am I just finding out about this? Thank you plinth.
posted by arkham_inmate_0801 at 9:31 AM on November 6, 2013


fallacy of the beard: "ever since the gallery of regrettable food, nobody can just write about shit anymore. everything has to read like somebody's testing out their stand-up act."

Thankfully, this didn't have a bunch of ranting about Islamofascism.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:27 AM on November 6, 2013


> The old "Pat" logo was much cooler.

I've got to depart with you there. The best point made in TFA is that you shouldn't necessarily treat the logo as something that will depict the mascot itself, as though the players' helmets and jerseys are just a canvas to be painted on. Consider the Rams and Vikings, whose helmets have actual horns depicted on them in the place that those horns would actually be* if the athletes actually were literal rams or Vikings.

Thus, if it could be done, the best possible option would be to have the Patriots' helmets actually look like tricorn hats. Since that isn't feasible, an abstract-ish logo is a decent fallback. This is to take nothing away from Pat Patriot — he's probably the best-executed version of that style of logo — but you're basically putting a picture of a football player on an actual football player's helmet. Even Rene Magritte would need a minute to sort out that referential complexity.

(Of course, another solution is to have one logo that gets used in non-uniform contexts, and a different logo that goes on the actual uniform.)

* Yes, I know that real Vikings didn't wear horned helmets.
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:38 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Portland Buckaroos ("now-defunct professional Western Hockey League. 3-time Lester Patrick Cup champions") has a pretty amazing logo.

A cowboy.. on ice-skates.. lassoing himself.. holding a hockey stick.. with a 10 gallon hat covering his eyes.. ON A FUCKING HORSE ALSO WEARING ICE SKATES
posted by wcfields at 10:56 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


That godawful Rex Sox logo is supposed to be representing Eastern Massachusetts, right? Because if that's a sock, there are many better ways it could have gone.

For myself, I didn't see the "M" in the "elb" logo until a girlfriend pointed it out to me in my mid-twenties. My other favorite of this is the Kansas State logo. Everybody else sees a wildcat, as intended, and I can see that if I try. But I will always first and foremost see a nerdy anime girl.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:59 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


A cowboy.. on ice-skates.. lassoing himself.. holding a hockey stick.. with a 10 gallon hat covering his eyes.. ON A FUCKING HORSE ALSO WEARING ICE SKATES

But the horse is only wearing ice skates on two feet so he's skating on those feet and they're his front feet and his back end is up in the air like he's trying to buck the rider off. My god that's amazing.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:27 AM on November 6, 2013


Nice to see Mike Tanier getting some MeFi love. Big fan of his since his days at Football Outsiders, through to his work at the NYT and now Sports on Earth.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:01 PM on November 6, 2013


A cowboy.. on ice-skates.. lassoing himself.. holding a hockey stick.. with a 10 gallon hat covering his eyes.. ON A FUCKING HORSE ALSO WEARING ICE SKATES

THINK! You can think any think that you wish! Think a race on a horse on a ball with a fish!
posted by not that girl at 1:38 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Totally thought that title said "When Legos Go Wrong" and was expecting a completely different thread. I think I like this one better actually.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:53 PM on November 6, 2013


My other favorite of this is the Kansas State logo. Everybody else sees a wildcat, as intended, and I can see that if I try. But I will always first and foremost see a nerdy anime girl.

I was like 12 or 13 before I realized that the University of Iowa logo was not a jumble of abstract shapes.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:54 PM on November 6, 2013


I remember asking my dad what "elb" stood for, and I think he told me it was a French acronym that was something like "Expos le Baiseballe" or some such.

I think he might have been Calvin's Dad-ing me tho.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:05 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Uther Bentrazor: I remember asking my dad what "elb" stood for, and I think he told me it was a French acronym that was something like "Expos le Baiseballe" or some such.

I had always been told (and certainly repeated to many others over the years without questioning it too much) that it stood for "Expansion League Baseball" for some reason.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:04 PM on November 7, 2013


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