I've been thinking about sports logos for a while, and have intended to do a post on them, but a combination of the Wash U physics department deciding doing homework was a better use of my time and the fact that during the season most posts are informative pieces on current issues about the team, like how Haley should be fired for being aggressive like every study ever done on the topic says to do, and I wouldn't want to bump them down with mindless opinions on things that don't matter at all. But now that the season's over and I'm putting off homework anyway, I thought this would be a good time to do this. (And the fact that I wildly disagree with a fanshot, as you can see here, and wish to describe in detail why.)
This post will be split into two sections. The first one talks about what the ideal NFL logo should be and how it effects helmet designs, and the second one discussing how NFL logos differ from other sports' and what it says about the NFL.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD NFL LOGO?
When it comes to a logo, there are two very important rules to follow. They are, in order of importance:
1. The logo must be "forward pointing"- Football is fundamentally about territory. You want to invade the other teams territory and not have yours invaded. (Have you ever thought about why Chiefs territory is behind them and the opponents territory is in front of them?) If you invade their territory all the way, you get a touchdown, if you don't, you can attempt a field goal for getting close. The winning team is usually the team that is better at moving the ball, and it's important for the logo on the side of the helmet to clearly communicate that.
Here's the Patriots' logo. Try and figure out which direction the team is moving.
Pretty easy, right? Their logo screams which direction they're going. Now let's look at the Raiders' logo. Which direction are they going?
There is no way to tell which way they're going. They just took a logo, put it on their helmet, and that's that. The Chiefs logo obviously has a forward direction, since the freakin arrow points which way we're going.
2. It should include the city's initials- This is one of baseball's best selling points to me. Not anything about the sport, but that basically every team has a logo that is just the city's initials in the teams colors. This point speaks to me personally because, in my mind at least, the entire point of cheering for a sports team is to support your hometown. It's the same feeling as when you brag about something like Mickey Mouse being from Kansas City (or at least the mouse that inspired Mickey Mouse was). You support your hometown team because that hometown is part of your identity, so when your team does well, it's a reflection of you. This is also the reason why I don't understand bandwagon fans. Why would you support a team from a city you have no connection to? Sure, I support Blues hockey and Bulls basketball, but I certainly don't care as much about them as I do about the Chiefs and Royals.
Combining these two criteria is very difficult. If you have the initials in the logo, then you'll be reading it backwards on one side of the helmet, so you need a logo that can reverse the initials without effecting the direction of the logo. There are only four teams in the entire NFL who have pulled this off. they are:
Two notes before I go on to the next section. First, the Dolphins kind of cheated and they and the Titans had it easy since M and T are symmetrical. Secondly, this is the reason I disagreed with that fanshot. It's awesome that we have the logo we do, and the Steelers logo sucks since it doesn't have either one of my qualifications. On to part two.
HOW DOES THE NFL COMPARE?
Here's a picture of all the logos in the NBA. Notice how they differ significantly from the NFL logos?
What I noticed once was that almost every one has either a basketball or basket in it. I wondered why that was. I mean, it's the exact opposite for the NFL, where it's few teams that do have football related items in their logos.
By my count, there are four NFL logos with a football or helmet; The dolphin wearing the helmet, the Browns (which shouldn't count since what else are they supposed to do?), the football underneath the E and T in Jets, and the football underneath the skull in the Buccs logo. Not only does the NFL have fewer football-related logos, but even when they are in the logo, they're not prominently displayed. Before I looked carefully, I never realized the Jets and Buccs had footballs in their logos, but the NBA has basketballs prominently displayed in almost all of their logos.
I figure nobody has done an in-depth study of this, but my theory is that, since the NFL is so much more successful, the teams feel more comfortable not displaying what sport they play since they assume everybody will know, while NBA teams have to advertise what they do. If you don't believe this theory, check out some retro NFL logos from when the NFL wasn't as big as it is now and see if you notice anything.
Also notice how two of these were from old AFL teams, when the AFL was trying to compete with the NFL. While this may not be the whole story, it seems like the theory that leagues that aren't doing as well want more sports gear in their logos seems to explain a lot of these patterns.
On a final note, I like logos that are football and basketball-free. It seems too easy to say "OK, let's pick a mascot and have that mascot carry a football". Or in the NBA's case "Let's put the city and team name in there and draw a picture with a basketball somehow interacting with the letters". There should be some creativity in the logo of a multi-million dollar organization, which is another reason why I'm so fond of our logo, and why I think we have one of the best in the NFL, if not in all of sports. An arrowhead is obviously related to a Chief, but it doesn't scream "CHIEF!!!" at you. This somewhat what redeems the Colts, Cowboys, and Saints logos a bit, despite not fitting my two qualifications. It also is the reason I think we have the best named stadium in the NFL. Every other stadium is named after a person (Paul Brown Stadium), the team (Cleveland Browns Stadium), or, worst of all, a corporation (Gillette Stadium).
So, even if we don't have the best team on the field, we can at least boast of the best logo.