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Why Can’t Teams Use the Right Fonts on Retired Number Banners?

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[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest post from reader Michael Raskin, who brings up a point that I think most of us have griped about at one time or another. Enjoy. — PL]

By Michael Raskin

There’s a lot of talk on Uni Watch about fonts and typography, but I’m not sure we’ve ever focused on my pet peeve: incorrect fonts on retired number banners. A prime example can be found here in South Florida, where I live: The Panthers’ banner for Roberto Luongo’s banner features a “1” that the team never wore, even though they got it right in the press conference and during the on-ice ceremony itself.

Here are some other examples:

  • The L.A. Kings had the right(ish) Gretzky font at the time of his number retirement but have now changed it, along with the team’s other banners, to a consistent (wrong) font:

  • The Canucks have a long history of wrong or era-inappropriate fonts:
  • Sometimes a banner will have the wrong fonts and logos. Charles Barkley’s 76ers banner, for example, went up to the rafters with a logo he never wore (as well as a font they’ve never used). They revised the logo part, and then they did this (so Barkley has already had three different banner designs!):

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Most of these problems break down into three categories

  1.  A player from an earlier era gets a banner with the the team’s current font, which they never wore (Pavel Bure).
  2. A team keeps updating its banners to keep pace with their logo/color/brand changes. (Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Stars, L.A. Kings).
  3. Numbers that should have been easy but they just blew it: Luongo, Patrick Ewing and Derek Harper.

Personally, I think the whole idea of changing a banner after the fact doesn’t feel right. Granted, I’ll never have my number retired for anything, but if I did, and I went through the ceremony, it would feel a little odd if I looked up years later to find they’d changed it to another color just because the team went through a redesign sometime after my number-retirement ceremony. Isn’t a retired number banner supposed to evoke a sense of “forever” or “eternity”? What’s the point if you’re going to keep changing the banner design?

I imagine there are numerous additional examples throughout sports but figured I’d get the conversation started. 

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Paul here. I love this topic, and I know there are sooooo many additional examples out there, so feel free to post them in today’s comments.

It seems like we could use a set of rules governing the designs of retired number banners. To me, it seems fairly simple and straightforward:

  1. Use the fonts, colors, and logos that the player wore during his time with the team.
  2. After following rule No. 1, don’t change the banner design. (If the banner gets old and ratty, just make a new one with the same design. Or better yet, make two or three identical banners to begin with, so you can have some in reserve if needed and you’ll know they were produced to the same specs.)

That’s it — done and done. I can imagine rare instances in which I team might need to deviate from these rules due to special circumstances (I wouldn’t expect or want the Guardians to maintain an old banner showing Chief Wahoo, for example, and I suppose moving to a new stadium or arena might sometimes require a different banner-display situation that could in turn require having new banners made), but they should at least try to at least stay true to the spirit of the rules.

Or at least that’s my take. What’s yours?


 

Very Easy on the Eyes

Good-looking MNF game last night, as KC hosted the Raiders. These teams have been playing twice a year for over half a century now, in pretty much the same uniforms the whole time, but it never gets old, at least for me.

And yes, KC running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had those white lines on his visor, like I wrote about last week.


 

Retro-Futuro

With Mary about to move out (looks like that will finally happen next Monday), big changes are afoot here at Uni Watch HQ — some new furniture, rearranging which stuff is hanging on which wall, and generally replacing a lot of the things that Mary’s taking with her. One thing I’m gonna be needing is a new bedside lamp, so I was really happy to discover this super-cool 1960s flying saucer-style model at a local yard sale on Sunday. Got it for $20 — score!

I love the design, and even the plug has a nifty little bullseye stamped into it — a nice touch:

I don’t know anything about lighting design/history/etc. So when I posted a photo of the lamp on social media yesterday, I was surprised when one of my more knowledgeable friends informed me that my new lamp is a fairly notable collectible called a Dazor UFO. There’s one currently listed on eBay for nearly 500 clams! That seems like a bit much, but another one did sell last month for $125.

I found a good article about the Dazor UFOs here. Didn’t realize my yard sale find had such a backstory!

More on Uni Watch
Comments (44)

    I don’t really have a strong opinion about this, but one could argue that using a modern font is more of a choice than a mistake. Perhaps it makes a statement that while time moves on, these all-time greats are still – in spirit – a part of us today. A possible analogy is old timers baseball games where the old timers are usually outfitted in modern-looking uniforms.

    It drives me nuts when the Phillies bring back the old guys like Schmidt, Carlton, etc. and they have them wearing the current unis. Looks awful…

    It’s possible that, unless there are throwbacks lying about, there AREN’T period-specific uniforms for those old-timers to wear.

    Not every player can fit into what they wore in the 1980s, and it’s a challenge to create on short notice a period-appropriate one-off (or two-off) uniform in a short period.

    It seems silly to have really ancient guys suit up anyway, but I can see why there would simply not be a 1983 home uniform in a box that would still fit a guy in 2022.

    When the Browns inducted Clay Matthews into the Ring of Honor in 2019, they dressed him and his whole family in No. 57 jerseys. But they weren’t the style of jersey he ever wore; they were those hideous crap jobs the team was currently wearing at the time. The whole look was embarrassingly horrible.

    I imagine Clay took his jersey back home and used it as a rag to wash the ’75 Mercury Capri he always drove while playing here.

    The Rangers did not wear vertically arched NOB until 1990-91. Before that they wore them straight across. So they had a choice of old-school straight or newer vertically arched, and instead they went with radially arched, which they never wore. A strange choice.

    For whatever reason, the Sixers have NEVER gotten their banners right. They have changed them every few years for some reason but never for the better. I am all
    for consistency but there should be some fidelity to the era in which the player played. And if that means not going all Canucks style and completely revamping the team colors, then so be it.
    What makes the Sixers’ current banners particularly bad is the shape of the numbers. Look at the “4” and “6” – they’re horribly miscut! Like a child did the work. Why?

    I think I posted this before, but here is an example from the Cubs. When they retired Ron Santo’s #10, they used the wrong font for the numbers. (see my picture showing the Banks flag with the right font vs the Santo one using the wrong one link) They subsequently changed it (link) but initially it was wrong

    Cubs retired number flags are still very wrong. You can either have blue numbers without names (the style all these guys were during their best Cub days), OR use names with the numbers, with a red outline (current style). Names on pinstripes without a red outline has never been a thing.

    1) I’m glad that the Carolina Hurricanes have been consistent with font. The question will be if they will change their font if some current players get retired numbers in the future (unless, of course, what will now be the red alternate sweaters stick around and become the primaries at some point down the road since they’ve gone back to the original font with that sweater only).

    2) Paul, hope that plug works and continues to be dependable. Had one of those bullseye-style plugs fail on an old lamp of my parents’, which required a rewiring. Don’t want to alarm or scare … hope it’s not an issue with your new purchase. Nicely done.

    The way I see it, if the number is retired, it is reserved across all (new and current) uniform designs anyway, even though the player wore a past design. That said, when the design, specifically the colors, are completely different (thinking a creamsicle era Bucs player in the modern design) it certainly is jarring. But I don’t think that many franchise make such drastic and lasting changes to the uniform / colors.
    My solution would be to not have retired number banners that resemble the uniforms. Simply have them in the team colors with a relatively generic number font.

    Exactly! Keep it as basic as possible: generic block numbers and font in the two main team colors (add pinstripes if you are a baseball team with pinstripes or the Orlando Magic) and presto. Maybe a fancy border, like the Celtics do. But that is it. No team logo, no current fonts or colors. Basic.

    The only thing getting retired is the number, not the name or the uniform. There’s no reason the banner has to look like a jersey.

    Paul’s rules would not be necessary if teams would just stop redesigning their “identities” every half-decade. Pick a look and stick to it, and your banners will always be consistent.

    Lakers come to mind when it comes to retired jerseys. Shaq actually had the only one that came closest to his actual jsersey (after an initial goof that made it look like they had his NOB on the front of his wishbone-style jersey) but it has since been changed to the generic-looking jersey.

    I agree with these rules – the retired numbers should look era-appropriate if you use banners, it helps tell the history of the team. To that end, I vehemently disagree about Chief Wahoo. One of the biggest points I made about the re-brand, including in a letter I wrote to the team, was that history should not be washed over. There is an important reason they BECAME the Guardians, and scrubbing Wahoo from historical photos / footage / memorials or calling past teams the Guardians covers over what should be an important and ongoing conversation. The name change should, in my view, be seen as a step in an important chain of events that started with an understanding of the historical problems with the team name (not simply pressure from the commissioner and the promise of and All Star game) and continues past the name change to actual advocacy with first nations people.

    The way different teams treat 42 in baseball has always driven me crazy. Some teams use their own font/color, some use the Dodgers, some put 42 at the end of their lists, some in numerical order, some in chronological order. I need consistency!

    Do NHL teams acknowledge Gretzky’s league-wide number retirement the way MLB teams do for Jackie Robinson? If so, what kind of treatment does #99 get from teams that he didn’t play for?

    Great point. I’ve never seen it anywhere other than LA (although I’ve never been to the other arenas he called home). I will continue to look as I attempt complete my journey of NHL arenas over the next few seasons. Maybe with the 25th anniversary of his retirement coming up in a few years, the NHL can do something.

    So where do the Red Wings fall? They redesigned their banners when they retired Steve Yzerman’s number in 2007, but Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom are the only players who’ve had their numbers retired where the banner style accurately reflects what they wore. The other players are all from the Original Six era, so the modern winged wheel on the banners don’t necessarily reflect the version they wore (the wing tilted down a little, the different details on the wheel), and they definitely didn’t wear vertically-arched NOBs in their playing days, since those weren’t introduced until 1982.

    The original banners had their quirks, though. Names on the back would only have been period-accurate for Alex Delvecchio toward the tail end of his career (and extremely rare, if at all, for him to have worn an NOB on a then-road red jersey!). The numbers themselves had little inconsistencies, but in the old days, consistency on the jersey numbers wasn’t exactly the highest priority.

    I’ve Always had a Problem with the number font the Lakers use on their Retired jersey banner. It has the Drop shadow but its not the same font they use on the on-Court Jersey and its a small detail that drive me insane. I feel that the numbers are skinnier and a generic block number, not the actual Lakers numbers. I guess I’m in the right place though

    It Looks especially bad on the number 2, which normally slants at a 45 degree angle on the jersey, yet on the banner is a hard right angle. This is especially tough as that Retired Jersey banner has Several #2’s (Wilkes, Baylor, Goodrich, Johnson, Worthy, and Bryant)

    Came here to say this same exact thing. Would be awesome if they used the historically correct jersey for each player!

    I Love that they Included Pau Gasol Jersey that has yet To go up, but not that Mickey Mouse Bubble Trophy from 2020, Lol. If they Just Chose to simply put all the numbers in Purple with the drop shadow from the Magic era, I would be Ok with that as the majority (Including Kobe and Shaq) wore that style.

    My 2 issues are that the font on the actual banner is just so way off, and I just realized George Mikan’s number has not been retired.

    update – They must have read my mind
    link

    On a tangent, my soap box is that most professional sports teams retire way too many numbers. Simply having a good, even long, career should not be the bar. It waters down the honor.

    (steps down off soap box)

    What’s the correct or preferred treatment of a player that wore different fonts/styles while with the same team? Do you use the one they played their most memorable years with? The one they retired/left in?

    A little off-topic: I’m fine with hanging numbers in the rafters. And they should look like the uniform the player wore. But I would not take the numbers out of circulation.

    So this is the rare one where I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with Paul and/or the original poster in that I think you have to look at it on a case-by-case basis and not have an across-the-board rule.

    Here in Milwaukee, we have the Admirals, a minor-league hockey team, and Wave, a longstanding arena soccer team, who play at the UWM Panther Arena, aka the old MECCA. The Admirals have been around for over 50 years and have had a number of different looks. They’ve also won a few titles and have a fairly large set of retired numbers.

    They’ve gone with era-appropriate banners, and when they hang a banner, they stick with it.

    The result: They have a bunch of banners with vastly different looks. And, to be honest, I think it looks like a mess.

    It’s a blurry picture, but here’s one set: link

    And here’s the other, albeit somewhat obscured by the scoreboard: link

    While I get that it *is* a minor-league team, it also looks really minor-league, in that it just doesn’t look cohesive. It has no plan whatsoever other than making the banners the same size. Given some have a color backing and some don’t, I don’t even think they’re all made by the same place. My OCD flips out a little when I think about it.

    I bring up the Wave, as they also have their banners in there, and UWM basketball even has a few of its own, all of which utilize different styles. In the end, it just looks like a messy jumble.

    Now compare that to new Fiserv Forum, where the banners used by the Bucks (link) and Marquette (link) have a degree of era-appropriateness to them, specially the Marquette ones, yet they also have a certain synergy. They don’t look like a hodgepodge, which is what you get when you go entirely era appropriate. It’s a far cleaner look than the Arena.

    This also brings up another point: The same banner does not work well across different facilities. The size of the banners used at the Bradley Center and Panther Arena would have obscured views in Fiserv Forum, so they *had* to use different ones.

    Moving to the Brewers, this is what their retired numbers looked like at County Stadium: link. Those signs would not have worked well at Miller Park — too small and not terribly proportional in the much larger building — so they changed to something that did look better: link

    However, note that those numbers utilize the Brewers’ 2000-19 uniform style numbers. It’s 2022, the team changed its uniforms in 2020, but the team hasn’t updated the retired numbers’ appearance. So now, those numbers are both not of the style the guys actually wore and not of the current era but of an outdated era. In my mind, it screams oversight; “Oops, something you guys forgot to update when you changed logos.” I consider this to be a faux pas on the Brewers’ part, with the easiest solution being to update the retired numbers to the current style. If that’s the way you’ve chosen to go, be consistent.

    All that said, do I think there should be a hard and fast rule? Honestly, no.

    Here would be my rule: Make it look good. That involves some semblance of consistency.

    I don’t mind the Kings’ one because it has consistency — consistency in fonts and consistency in using era-appropriate colors.

    If you choose to go entirely with the current colors & fonts, fine, just make sure it’s consistent.

    If you go with some elements of the past, fine, just make sure there’s some common thread that ties the banners together, like a same font and design style someplace, somehow. Even the Marquette ones I showed have a consistency to the name and years’ fonts that ties them together.

    I don’t feel like there has to be a singular way of doing business for everyone, especially since I can see differing ways, to use past parlance, Pepsi & Coke teams might handle banners.

    My rule is simple: Make it look good. That’s all.

    Cool lamp…probably even cooler lit!
    As far as how retired numbers for players should be rendered, I prefer they match the style said player wore. And the number(s) stay retired.
    Similar stance for championship banners…don’t go retconning a championship team’s ‘we won in that’ look just because said team decides to refresh/rename/rebrand.
    I’d hope these ‘rules’ go out the window when a franchise changes hands, but hey…it could happen and probably has.

    In regards to banners, I think they should follow a consistent format, but not necessarily be updated to the current era of uniforms. i.e. a team should put up banners always backed by the same color and same format, but if the team changed styles in the 90s, a more recently retired number should have a different number font than one from the 70s.

    As for baseball (the sport I like more than basketball) I’m curious your thoughts on displaying retired numbers. Personally I like teams that put up plaques that mimic the jersey (Yankees, Mets, Orioles). But I DON’T care for teams that opt to simplify that design like the Orioles do (their retired number display is NNOB, unlike their jerseys). Meanwhile I don’t dislike teams like the Brewers or Astros that have different designs not based on jerseys, but depriving us of a tequila sunrise plaque is just rough man.

    Lastly my least favorite style has to be the Rays who just sorta throw a couple numbers on a wall, with little distinction or prominent display, it could be mistaken for a phone number on a billboard if you didn’t know what you were looking for.

    Anyway I’m curious on your thoughts, it would probably be a fun Bulletin (RIP) article to do if there’s a slow week, ranking the MLB retired jersey displays

    No, only on their banners. Which is one solution some teams use. Here in Philadelphia, the Phillies use a font that they’ve never worn, and all the numbers are red/white (overlooking the few years of maroon, the one year of blue/yellow, and so on), with Jackie Robinson’s #42 in blue/white with the same font. But they have always done this, going back to Vet Stadium. The Flyers haven’t ever really changed their number font, and as such is correct on their banners. The Eagles use the current font, even though most of the retired honorees did not. And the Sixers are just a mess. See above.

    It’s a 2D rendering. It isn’t complicated like trying to replicate a blousy flannel baseball uniform out of polyester or throwback a football uniform to a time with 3/4 sleeves and smaller, simpler helmets. Get the easy stuff right.

    I’ve seen a plug with the bullseye on it before. It must have been when I was a kid.

    I think your rules are pretty well-stated, Paul, and great topic Michael! It’s also interesting to me to compare and contrast how the outdoor sports (baseball and football) treat their retired numbers compared to basketball and hockey- and also each other! The ‘ring of fame’ thing seems ubiquitous in football, but different baseball teams have a variety of styles for theirs.

    the devils had the wrong number font on scott niedermayer’s banner originally

    it has since been corrected

    As I answered somewhere above, keep it basic: square or rectangle of fabric, no names or logos, just the number. Fans will know who wore that number. Two color scheme, maybe add pinstripes and a single color border around the banner and that is it. For football and baseball, use the same rules but paint it on a wall. As basic and generic as possible, no names and no team logos.

    This evokes a bit of the same as Jim Thome’s HOF plaque. A cap he wore for ONE INNING in his career. I understand why Chief Wahoo was eliminated, but that’s the cap he wore as a member of the Tribe. It didn’t make sense put the block C on his cap. And for that reason, I disagree with your assertion that the Guardians should remove Indians retired numbers/logos. Stop selling Indians gear, stop advertising it, whatever. But I agree with the sense of “foreverness” and that it looks ridiculous to have a modern logo for an old player. The sense of keep the logo and font they played under on the banner, full stop. I don’t think there was ever a banner for Sammy Baugh, Bobby Mitchell or Sean Taylor, but if there was… put the accurate logo.

    I generally agree with Paul’s rules for handling these things. I can think of one outlier though.

    The Seahawks have their 12th Man flag that they raise before games and, last I knew, the flag is still in the style of their early 2000s Shaun Alexander era uniforms. I imagine that’s when they officially retired it and/or created the flag. However, if there was ever a time where updating it seems correct, I would think it’s this case. I assume the 12th man represents the fans of every era, so should it really be tied to a particular time period from the past? Using the team’s current design makes the most sense in such a situation (to me, at least).

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