Major League Baseball has a bunch of special logos it uses for spring training. It also has a special web page where those logos can be accessed (no, I can’t tell you where that page is, so don’t ask). The top of that page looks like this.
Arrgghh!! I’d like to think that most Uni Watch readers are smart and observant enough to have already spotted the punctuation error in that design, namely that the apostrophe on “Spring ’09″ is facing the wrong way. In fact, it’s not an apostrophe at all — it’s a single open-quote.
This error, which ranks pretty high on my list of life’s great annoyances, has been creeping into sports graphics with increasing frequency lately. And not just in date references — the open-quote miscast as an apostrophe also shows up in this type of statement, where its misuse is just as egregious. And there’s an iconic sports phrase whose punctuation is constantly botched.
The apostrophe catastrophe, as I like to call it, is rooted in word-processing and desktop-publishing programs, most of which use “smart quotes” (i.e., they automatically assume that if there’s a space immediately prior to the quote/apostrophe key being hit, that means you want an open-quote). It’s easy enough to override this default mode — with Macs, you type option-shift-] to get a real apostrophe, regardless of what precedes it; not sure how to do it in Windows — but most people don’t do this. I used to think it was because they were lazy, but now I think it’s because the incorrect imposition of smart quotes has led people to mistakenly think that the backwards open-quote is actually correct. So now the disease is spreading to non-digital writing as well.
The apostrophe catastrophe isn’t limited to sports, of course. It was rampant in last year’s political season, which featured incorrectly punctuated graphics for Obama, McCain, Clinton, anti-Clinton, Gravel, and Paul, among many other candidates. Many of those were created by amateur designers, but the same can’t be said for this sign, which appeared at the Republican National Convention (the mistake isn’t as obvious in that font, but it’s there). Even last year’s Halloween episode of The Simpsons was infected by this virus: The episode featured a voting-themed scene that included this and this. The net result of all this is a populace that increasingly has no idea what an apostrophe is for.
Who’s to blame for all these mistakes? The primary responsibility lies with graphic designers, since they’re the ones who set the type. But for every incorrectly formatted apostrophe, there’s someone (or maybe several someones) higher up the ladder who signed off on it. So I’m hereby asking — nay, demanding — that people THINK when they employ apostrophes. Think about what this character represents: It stands for something that’s missing, and it should look the same no matter where it appears within a word. If people can’t figure that out, we might be better off just skipping the apostrophe altogether.
Granted, the apostrophe catastrophe is not universal (at least not yet, although it’s getting there), and I wouldn’t bring it up on this site if not for its increasing prominence in the sports world. So just to bring things full circle, take a look at this Taco Bell commercial, which ran during the Super Bowl. Did you notice how it ended? Sigh.
(And yes, I realize there are also tons of examples of people who mistakenly use apostrophes for plural nouns, but that’s a much more obvious problem that has nothing to do with digital design. Let’s please not list any of those in today’s comments. Thanks.)
The Proctor Files, Continued: Sunday’s gargantuan post prompted a note from our resident sporting goods expert, Terry Proctor:
Sunday’s columns from Phil and Rick were interesting. Regarding the numbering inconsistencies: Up until the NFL negotiated a deal to have a single manufacturer make all the teams’ uniforms, it was every team for itself. Some teams were provincial and went with local or regional manufacturers — for example, the Bears and Chicago Cardinals used Chicago’s Wilson or King-O’Shea (a Wilson subsidiary). The Green Bay Packers used Berlin, Wisc.-based Sand-Knit in the Lombardi era. The Cowboys uniforms were made by Southland Athletic of Terrell, Texas (east of Big D).
Teams like the Steelers bought their uniforms through either Wilson or Rawlings. And they didn’t buy each year. They would usually replace only a few badly worn jerseys or have the numbers changed on a particular shirt. You might have purchased the original set of jerseys from Wilson. But you then purchased the fill-ins through Rawlings, thereby ending up with a slightly different number font. No harm, no foul. Money was usually tight in those days and you did what you had to in order to get by.
Poor Terry’s probably given up on my ever running the transcript of the interview I did with him a few months back, but I hereby vow to transcribe that tape today. Really.
DIY Reminder: If you’ve created a DIY jersey or undertaken some similar project and would be willing to be interviewed for an ESPN article that I plan to write, please get in touch pronto. Thanks.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Citigroup honchos are “exploring the possibility” of backing out of their deal with the Mets. … Our NFL White at Home” page, compiled by Tim Brulia, has now been updated to include info from the 2008 season. … This seems like a good system: If your team loses the Super Bowl, your state gets free dirty movies. … The Seibu Lions have some new logos and uniforms. “They have changed their baby blue to a ‘Legend Blue,’ which is a link to the great Lions teams of the past when they were known as the Nishitetsu Lions,” writes Jeremy Brahm. “The i dotted with the apostrophe looks weird for us but works for the Japanese. Here’s a detailed look at the new uniform. The inner collar has 13 stars, representing their 13 Japan Series championships (10 for Seibu, 3 for Nishitetsu). On the right sleeve, there’s the Saitama Seibu wordmark, and the left sleeve has the new logo. Underneath the edge of the second button will be the slogan ‘I believe in Lions’ (I think this will not be visible). They actually have not made enough uniforms to wear during spring training, so they’ll wear this at home and this on the road during that time.” … Post-Super Bowl note: When Roethlisberger scored that first apparent TD (which was then overruled by an Arizona challenge), he was going to be stopped well short of goal line until one of his offensive linemen grabbed him and tackled him forward into the end zone. This is the very definition of “pushing or helping the runner,” which is a penalty. Has its own ref signal and everything, but I have never seen it called in all my years of watching football. Has anyone else? … Good view of Rob Blake’s faceguard here (with thanks to Brandon Tarpey). … Fun little story here about the father/son team that created the little clips that hold NFL facemasks in place (thanks, Vince). … Speaking of facemasks, yesterday’s Ticker included a link to this photo of a skier wearing a faceguard, which I thought was unusual. But as several readers pointed out to me, faceguards are very common in the slalom, because the skiers crash though the hinged gates. My thanks to all who helped fill me in on this. … Hunter Johnson sent along a bunch of old Alabama hoops photos. I particularly like how the stripes on the shorts and socks mimic each other here. … “A local theater troupe here in Chicago is performing a play entitled Beer,” writes Russ Chibe. “The obvious choice for the main character’s apparel would be a Brewers jersey, but he goes above and beyond the call of duty and actually sports a J.J. Hardy Cerveceros jersey. I blame you for the fact that I was half-distracted by the jersey during the entirety of the play.” … Interesting note from CJ Fleck, who writes: “Richard Nixon had the uniforms of the White House guards redesigned while he was president (He was inspired by the palace guards of many other countries). While I was in DC for the inauguration, I went through the newly redone Museum of American History and nabbed two shots of the royal outfits, which were not well-received in this bastion of democracy we call America.” … “This weekend was the 100th anniversary of LSU basketball,” writes Mark Jones. “A few hours before the LSU/Arkansas game, they staged an alumni game with former Tigers players, including Josh Maravich (son of the Pistol) who played for LSU several years ago. He wore a pair of his dad’s floppy socks from his Jazz days, with the low-cut Chucks and his dad’s No. 23 and haircut — very different from how Josh looked in his LSU playing days.” … According to Eric Reckman, Arizona State’s student section broke out into a cheer of “You wear purple!” (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) during Saturday’s ASU/Washington game. And no, I had nothing to do with it. … Two notes from Denny Jones regarding Super Bowl merch: First, the little rivet on the underside of the Steelers’ championship caps has been logo-stamped. And second, did you notice that little brown splotch on the upper-left chest of the Steelers’ championship T-shirts? Turns out it’s a do-gooder label, because there’s no better way to save the planet than by churning out tons of useless merch. … Virginia point guard Sammy Zeglinski wears No. 13. But his jersey was ripped during Sunday’s Virginia/Duke game, so he had to switch to No. 1, with NNOB (with thanks to Chad Dotson). … Jose Palacios sent me a really cool gift: an Astros baseball card book from 1987. It features year-by-year galleries of ’Stros cards (including the franchise’s pre-Astros years). The whole thing was sponsored by Surf laundry soap, whose parent company generously provided a coupon on the last page (no expiration date — score!). I love how they included that arrow explaining that you can “Save 50¢ on Surf” with a 50¢ Surf coupon. … Good logo analysis here (with thanks to Darin Doughty). … Everything from here to the end of the Ticker is from Phil: A uni designer has been chosen for the 2010 U.S. snowboarding team. … Last item on this Q&A page addresses the issue of NFL uniform options. … A Minnesota soccer club is sending its old uniforms to Bangladesh.