The 76ers New Mascot: You Are Not Reading This

It’s the day after Christmas, so the chances that you are reading this have never been lower, even considering that I once wrote a post about letter spacing. So given that you are off doing meaningful things with your family instead of reading this, I’m going to take this opportunity to write about the new mascot of the Philadelphia 76ers. (That’s a basketball team, in case you were wondering.) (Basketball is the one with the bouncing orange ball, in case you were wondering that, too.)

The 76ers, named for the number of fans they have in attendance during each home game, have never been known for their sophisticated design sensibilities. In the early 1990s, Sixers player Charles Barkley said this about his team’s new uniforms: “They look like my daughter got ahold of some crayons and designed them.”

Recently, the team asked fans to vote on a new mascot to replace their old mascot, Hip Hop. Hip Hop, pictured above, is notable for being unbearably stupid, possibly the worst mascot in all of sports, and that’s saying something because there are a lot of bad sports mascots (all of them but two, by my count). Anyway, the three new choices the 76ers presented were not much better than Hip Hop. According to a story on ESPN, “A poll by the local ABC affiliate found more than half of voters opting for ‘None of the above.'”

The first choice is “Big Ben,” modeled after Philadelphia hero Ben Franklin, if Ben Franklin were played by a drunken Nick Nolte in a sleeveless undershirt.

Choice number two is B. Franklin Dogg (“The extra G is for ‘Gah, what is that thing?'”). B. Dogg is basically what you’d get if McGruff the Crime Dog and Poochy from the Simpsons got together and had a puppy.

The final choice is “Phil E. Moose,” who, if he is selected as the new mascot, will be the first moose within 300 miles of the city.

We talk a lot on this site about the importance of design decisions being meaningful. I’d argue that the three mascot options the Sixers presented failed precisely because they were not meaningful. The moose and the dog(g) really have nothing to do with anything related to basketball or the 76ers. And while Benjamin Franklin is iconic of the city, I don’t think anyone wants to see him belittled in a tank top or a circus costume.

Personally, I think it would be fine with most fans if the 76ers did not have a mascot at all, because, as I mentioned above, most mascots are terrible. The only two who are not unbearably annoying are the Phillie Phanatic (by far the best) and the San Diego Chicken (a distant second). Also, mascots in NBA basketball are a bit superfluous because any break in the action is filled with fans taking half-court shots for a lifetime supply of turtle wax, short guys doing weird acrobatic routines with trampolines and basketballs, and “dance” teams performing routines that make parents shield their children’s eyes

But if the Sixers are determined to have a mascot, I hope they’ll listen the growing legion of fans calling for the return of Muppet-ish guy Big Shot, pictured here, who was retired by the team in 1996. I’m not sure why he appeals to me. Must be that we have the same physique and hair color.

Now get back to your families. Happy holidays!

Super Bowl Logos: The Good, the Bad, and the WordArt

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It’s a tradition as old as singer Rick Astley: Graphic designers huddle in libraries and coffee shops (anywhere that a newspaper might have accidentally fallen open to the sports page) and snicker at how hideous that year’s Super Bowl logo is. Then we sniffle and wish that someone would pay us what the Super Bowl logo designers got paid.

First a note about the Super Bowl, Roman numerals, and years: Each year, the Super Bowl determines the champion of the season that started the previous September. Because the bulk of the regular season and the playoffs are played in different calendar years, the NFL opts to use Roman numerals, which no one can read anyway, to identify its championship game. So, for instance, when the Saints beat the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV yesterday (in the year 2010, for our visitors from the future), the game determined the champion of the 2009 NFL season.

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2354When the first Super Bowl was played in 1967, the logo was designed by the commissioner’s 9-year-old nephew on an Etch A Sketch* because Microsoft WordArt had not yet been invented. Since then, the Super Bowl logo has evolved considerably to include bold Roman numerals, bold beer-bottle-inspired composition, and bold color palettes of blue and some warm color (except Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994, when by law all sports-related graphic design featured teal and purple).

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vgehj2k0esq6g6vkrfxgSome logos have included elements that speak to the location of the event, like Super Bowl XXI, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California; Super Bowl XXXVII, which includes San Diego’s Point Loma lighthouse; and Super Bowl XLII, which features the shape of the state of Arizona. Some evoke a sense of place through color, like the tropical-feeling blue and orange of Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

2369-1You can see every Super Bowl logo at www.sportslogos.net/team.php?id=593. It’s interesting to see them all in one place, as they reflect a change in design sensibilities and capabilities over the decades, from the simple, type-based logos of the early years to the complex recent iterations, clearly generated on computers. My favorite is Super Bowl XIII, played in 1979, which I believe is an homage not only to the country’s biggest sporting event, but also to the advent of the dot matrix printer.

I’m interested to see what happens in 2016, when the Roman numeral for the 50th Super Bowl will be, simply, the letter L. I’m hoping the logo will be a big, bold Helvetica L, preferably in black.

*Not really. The commissioner’s nephew was probably 12 or 13.