Great logos of the World Series

Image result for red sox dodgers

Two of the globe’s biggest sporting brands battled in American baseball’s 2018 World Series, fielding not simply the best line-ups in the sport but arguably two of the most recognisable sports logos.

The lettering that adorns the caps of both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox might only be superseded by the famed ‘NY’ of the Yankees when it comes to brand recognition. These logos, Boston’s old time ‘B’ and the interlocked ‘LA’ of the Dodgers, are increasingly popular among people in cafes, pubs and in parks, marking a confusing time in sporting culture where the uniforms worn by professional players are considerably more important to the public – at least the casual fans among us – than the sports they play.

So in many ways this is the ideal scenario for any sport: having brands within the game, be they team logos or individual players, that elevate a league’s presence amid an overly crowded and light-speed popular culture.

Whether ‘LA’ or ‘B’ succeeded really didn’t matter to most folks outside of Boston or Los Angeles, but that their reach is so great – and therefore their cache so strong – must mean a great deal to baseball’s promoters who perhaps never anticipated the fashionable appeal of its clubs.

Like Manchester United or the Los Angeles Lakers, these clubs enjoy uninterrupted popularity whether they win or lose. Success can help but it’s perhaps the perception of success that becomes more important in the long run.

And certainly value, monetary value that is, helps with that perception. This is why Dodger and Sox caps are only growing in number in big international cities, while Orioles and Mariners caps are nowhere to be seen. That’s a shame because their logos are really pretty cool, too.

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Outdoor hockey, on thin ice?

Is outdoor hockey likely to stay?

It took a puck to the crotch following the Heritage Classic in Calgary a few years back.

Instead of praising the fun and tradition of the game, as has happened in past al fresco forays, several reporters are stuck on the cons – and probably still, to their frozen seats.

Look we understand: it’s difficult to be perky about outdoor hockey when freezing your butt off. Then again, when was the last time reporters sat in the bleachers, 1919?

Criticism covered the bitter cold winds, chipped ice and the tennis-ball like puck. Not to mention the Calgary Flames flamboyant vintage uniforms which offended more than a few. Hey, the fans seemed to enjoy it game in technicolor.

David Stubbs of The Vancouver Sun wrote:

“The temperatures were so cold, in fact, that the McMahon sheet was little better than playground quality, requiring monotonous work by repair crews and manual flooding between periods, Zamboni machines kept off for fear they’d crack the surface.”

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN wrote:

“Those 41,022 freezing fans at McMahon Stadium on Sunday may have attended the sporting event of their lives. The question now for the NHL: How many more towns will have that feeling before the thrill is gone?”

Randy Sportak of The Calgary Sun wrote:

“Was it a classic? Not really. The calibre of play was more akin to the level you’d see on ESPN Classic.”

Yes, ice conditions weren’t stellar, and okay, it was minus-8.6C at puck drop. But this was hardly premised as a hockey clinic. It was always a clever marketing activity – a brilliant way to pique the interest of new and fair-weather fans – no pun intended.

And come on, how good are those jerseys?

Top football technology

With the NFL season halfway through, let’s talk football technology.

Style + Tech For Men once posted a Top 11 Highest-scoring Advancements in Super Bowl Technology. It’s a good list, with my favorite being No. 2, Supervision, a system of multiple high-speed cameras.

These cameras provide us football nuts with high-def, ultra-slow-motion replays, which have revolutionized watching the pro game in particular. Just think about David Tyree’s legendary helmet catch, or Santonio Holmes game-winning-back-of-the-end-zone-grab. Neither would have reached such heights without the advent of super on-field shots.

The best replay moments certainly occur, however, when your favorite back is tearing up the field, arms pumping, legs churning, ball tucked high and tight. Slow-mo poetry.

Tampa Bay vintage

New Lightning jersey

The Tampa Bay Lightning Leaf-style look is still great, despite more mixed reviews than a Super Bowl anthem singing.

News sites, blogs and fan polls about the flash digs differ in their views with those in favour hardly overwhelming the detractors.

I find this strange because the new jersey is all class. I’m no Armani but I don’t know how you could conjure something better – even with Giorgio himself leading the design team. Some fans are tough to please I guess.

The two-tone uniforms with simplified lightning bolt logo hark back to another era. And that can only be a good thing. Let’s face it, the old jersey was caught in that early 90s design vortex that has hurt so many hockey team identities – as well as teen idols like Luke Perry and various R&B stars.

General Manager Steve Yzerman and the club consulted strategic brand development firm SME to develop the new brand, with an emphasis on a “classic” and “iconic” look.

And I think they succeeded. The blue and white incarnation is reminiscent of classic Maple Leafs uniforms, which hopefully for Tampa’s sake, inspires classic Leafs-like victories.

Where have all the quarterback heroes gone?

Remember when even the NFL’s worst quarterbacks were stars? When on any given Sunday, on any given team, you’d see a guy behind center you trusted, looked up to, and rooted for the previous week – no matter the numbers?

Certainly many of yesteryear’s QBs lacked a rocket arm, had questionable footwork, and struggled to fill out their jerseys. They often threw more picks than touchdowns and tossed as many wounded ducks as frozen ropes. But still, they had the requisite John Wayne gait, Mellencamp mop, and loads of bravado. Average Joe owned the huddle with as much gumption as Joe Cool.

Unfortunately today’s NFL prefers potential over personality, cannons over catapults, and statistics over leaders. Perception is nine-tenths of the law and there’s no place for quarterback dweebs anymore. In fact, you only have to glance down the list of starters for 2010-11 to see that there are two kinds of signal-callers today: the elite, qualified by their numbers, and the prospects, qualified mostly by their appearance. On the one hand there’s Brady, Romo, The Mannings, Rivers, Brees, Roethlisberger and of course Favre – some of the all-time gunslingers, shootn’ up endzones and corralling touchdowns. On the other, there’s a roll call of players that will someday, maybe, be good.

But there’s nothing in between. Quarterback heroes are hard to come by.

When I started watching pro football as a kid in the early Eighties, it really felt like every quarterback was a superstar, regardless of their pedigree. This may have been caused by my miniature second grade stature, but they were much larger than life – even on TV. Every one of them had the aura of a leader, could zing the ball over oncoming pass rushers, and withstand a hit to the chops. Every one of them galvanized their team against the odds, knew which play to call and marched to the line of scrimmage with the same look of invincibility. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

The truth is, guys like Dave Krieg, Bobby Hebert, Neil Lomax, Steve Grogan, Jim Everett and Ken O’Brien probably didn’t do all those things on a regular basis. They probably threw as many interceptions as completions, now that I think about it. Okay sure, they were probably closer to being the Jay Cutlers of the era -good, but not quite great. Mark Malone, anyone? (60 touchdowns, 81 interceptions for his career).

Still, I can’t help but think there was real consistency to those old quarterbacks. A persistence. Yes, they were more Workin’ Day and Night than Thriller, but that’s what endeared us to them. They were just always there – starting. It was their names – not the name of some multi-millionaire rookie hovering over their shoulder – that always flashed up onscreen in those budget yellow titles. They labored through three-win seasons, took the hits to their much smaller, uncut, Goose-from-Top Gun bodies. And yet, they always bounced back up. These men may not have been franchise quarterbacks as we consider them today, but media and fans alike never screamed for their heads with nearly the same ferociously that they do today. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

More than two-thirds of today’s pro QBs, by contrast, are either a work in progress, wet behind the ears or a flat-out gamble. Think about it: is your team’s current quarterback a lock to finish the 2010-11 season? If you’re a Colts, Giants, Saints, Chargers, Cowboys, Patriots, Texans or Packers fan you probably answered yes. The rest of you, like me – a Miami Dolphins fan with some reservations – probably don’t have a clue how the playbook will, well, play out. It’s just a strange era.

So why is today’s NFL rife with newcomers at the game’s most important position? My first thought is that a few teams have a PR unit bucking for more SportsCenter’s highlights. Quarterback controversies are all the rage in Bristol.

Boo-yah!

But seriously, contracts in 2010 are a different ball game to 1982, and that’s clearly a chief source of the problem. Owners are watching first-stringers like hawks, pouncing on any opportunity to test out their prized draft pick instead. Consider Joe Flacco, the Ravens would-be saviour; yes, Flacco is a good QB. Big. Strong. Can whip up a small tornado with his spiral. But did anyone foresee this dude stepping into the starting role so soon and succeeding? Not even Romo or Rodgers were expressed to the top of the depth chart in their first year. (Granted Baltimore’s existing depth was rather shallow). Or how about Josh Freeman suddenly owning the Bucs gig? Was Jeff Garcia really that bad? Just another case of a team void of a genuine play-caller forced to rush in a young guy with no business as a starter so early in his career.

Now, I’m not saying these gifted athletes aren’t up to the challenge, nor should they be underestimated. Matt Ryan, Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez are prime examples of the youth movement at its best. But just because Ryan looked like Tom Brady in his first season, or because Stafford showed the guts of a young John Elway in his, does the entire league need to lean on their potential stars so early, instead of their savvy veterans? Did we learn nothing from the JaMarcus Russell debacle?

Meanwhile, how many accomplished, quality QBs are riding the pine this season, simply because of Gen Y love? Well, there’s Pennington, Bulger, Anderson, Collins, Hill, Carr, Vick, Feeley, Boller, O’Sullivan, Wallace and Redman to name just a few. Of course, a couple of these players would start under a different employer – one not obsessed with grooming the next Big Ben. (Not that his career is a model for success!).

Experience isn’t much of a merit badge these days. We know that. It’s not even as useful as knot-tying or hiking. No. it’s all about arm strength and freakish height folks. Anyone under 6’6 need not apply, unless their name is Brees or they relish holding a clipboard.

It might just be nostalgia, but I miss that quarterbacks were once stars by virtue of hours clocked, not pre-draft hype. They were classically skilled but not powerful. Confident, yet grizzled. A little rough around the edges with a noodle arm and flat ass. But every team had their guy, didn’t they? Average or not, short or stout, he started and usually finished. He just played football, come sleet or snow. And that’s why he always seemed so heroic.

At least, that’s how I remember it.

NBA Jam is back like it’s 1993

If you were a kid in the early Nineties like me, you’ll know what I mean when I say, it was like the whole world was created just for you. Baywatch, Hammer, Zubaz pants and the return of the McRib sandwich – these things only come together once in a lifetime folks.

Add the now classic Nintendo  game, NBA Jam, to this esteemed list. It’s a game that seemingly only came around once. That is, until EA Sports teamed with Wii to reboot the basketball gem for release. Take a look back at the promotional video and if the hairs on your neck don’t whip upright, or you don’t have a sudden urge to dig up your old pink and lime green zubaz, please, call me. We need to talk.

How the Jabulani spoiled the 2010 World Cup

This year’s football World Cup hasn’t exactly been an exercise in precision has it?

It’s time to officially blame the Jabulani ball.

The shiny new number, famous for dipping on unsuspecting goalkeepers, is oddly constructed with just eight panels instead of the traditional 32. Apparently the architects were looking for a marketing angle instead of performance.

Following weeks of criticism, scientists around the world recently tested the ball – interestingly as the World Cup draws to a close – and concluded that its fewer panels and internal stitching make it as close to a perfect sphere as a ball has ever been. So mission accomplished, I guess.

Imperfect spheres in sports like tennis, golf and cricket provide those games their unique characteristics, where the trajectory and bounce, and players’ reactions to such movements, are part of the romance of each sport. The same is true of soccer, if not even more so.

I’ve had an affinity with the soccer ball – the real ball, that is – since I was five years old. While many other kids were busy hoofing the ball up field or showing their parents how hard they could tackle, my brother and I methodically dribbled in and out of witches hats, juggled up and down the field and prodded the ball around the pitch until we collapsed into a heap of sweaty polyester and Lotto leather. Mastering the ball, imperfect as it was, is what fuelled our passion for the sport.

Watching soccer today, we love to see others work with the ball, control it and conquer its nuances. You only have to study Lionel Messi or Arjen Robben to appreciate how a soccer ball can move – its size, weight and texture, each contributing to the beauty of its roll.

However, this Jabulani simply doesn’t move the way a soccer ball should. It has unquestionably undermined the art form’s best technicians and reduced the “beautiful game” to a game of chance. Certainly goalies have struggled, as the Jabulani dips and wavers toward goal, never really settling on a flight path. But it is, in fact, attackers who have even more reason to gripe. Consider the countless skewed free kicks, wayward crosses and loose penalties lofted over the crossbar this tournament. There have been some unusually embarrassing moments to say the least.

We’ve heard the commentators lament the weird texture of the new ball and how it seems to sway in the air, sometimes stopping but rarely spinning as a soccer ball should. We’ve also heard players tell the press they can’t predict which way the ball will ultimately travel, making passes difficult to anticipate.

But how does this all affect the fan watching at home?

Well, when your favourite midfielder tries a long ball, the Jabulani doesn’t sit up, but instead skids off the grass as if on ice, leaving the intended recipient little chance of tracking it down. Or when the world’s best wing-back pushes a routine short delivery to the central midfield, he often misjudges the ball’s weight, tapping it to a charging opponent like an overly inflated beach ball.

The Jabulani clearly hurt the masters of the short ball, Italy, at this World Cup, disrupting the flow of their normally elegantly timed offensive build-ups. Countries that traditionally revel in the long pass, like England and Australia, suffered too. Neither team caught the Jabulani’s drift. I wonder how David Beckham would have fared?

Jabulani supporters might point to Brazil’s Robhino, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan or Spain’s David Villa, and highlight their outstanding open field runs during this Cup. To that I say, sure, there have been some strong moves, and even a few impressive finishes. But they’ve been few and many of the better goals have simply illustrated why it’s so difficult for keepers to read the ball’s flight.

Soccer is a game that requires great anticipation and it’s the sport’s supreme anticipators who usually dominate the world stage. These football experts have been painfully handicapped this 2010 Cup, forced to relearn their touch and regauge their natural instincts. And in turn, we’ve been delivered a weaker soccer product than deserved.