Fans tackle logo logistics for Ravens

February 28, 1999|By JOHN EISENBERG

The Ravens' new logo is fine. Assuming, of course, that some part-time security guard doesn't claim he submitted it.

Any new logo is fine, really, as long as it doesn't land the team in court, where the old logo currently resides in a messy trademark dispute that could cost the team millions.

Generally speaking, logos aren't quite as fun or effective when they inhibit a team's ability to pay players and win games.

A new logo consisting of a grainy, black-and-white head shot of the CEO of PSINet would have sufficed for the Ravens as long it didn't prevent them from signing free agents.

Come to think of it, it's amazing PSINet didn't buy the logo rights along with everything else and then devise some virtual helmet for the players, accessible only with a 56k modem. Or whatever.

In any case, once they realized it was a bad idea to keep the old logo, the Ravens decided to switch to a new one composed of a shield featuring the letters B and R and the state colors. But so many fans complained that the team, obviously incapable of getting this logo thing right, just gave up and opted to let the fans make the call in a telephone vote sponsored by The Sun.

That was a commendable idea, except that, of course, giving the public a voice is a dangerous concept. Remember what happened when Stanford University let the students pick a new school nickname? The students voted for "Trees." The administration was forced to pick a benign compromise choice, the Cardinal. (FYI: The school's mascot at basketball games is a tree.)

Not that there was any danger of the Ravens winding up with a goofy logo on their helmets because the fans didn't take the vote seriously. Pro football fans are dead serious about their symbolism. And the Ravens offered only three mainstream finalists, eliminating the chances of an embarrassing winner. No cartoon birds. No Poe puns. (How about an all-black helmet and all-black uniforms? Actually, no. Any number of punk bands could claim they'd used it first. We'd be right back in court.)

Fortunately, the fans picked the best of the three choices.

One was a head shot of a raven facing forward on an extremely bad hair day. He appeared to have spent hours either sitting in a wind tunnel or blow-drying his bouffant straight up. He bore such a resemblance to Gene Simmons, bass guitarist for the rock group Kiss, that another trademark lawsuit probably was inevitable.

That logo finished second, saving thousands in future legal fees.

Another choice was the shield the team had intended to use until so many fans complained. You can understand the outrage. The shield resembled a police badge. It's possible some fans would have felt they were being arrested, giving them another indignity to withstand on top of stomaching so many losses.

The Ravens' front office wanted that logo, but it finished last among the finalists. Talk about maintaining your track record.

The winner? It's a profile depiction of a slit-eyed raven with an open beak, preparing either to munch an opponent or boo, depending on your world view.

It was the least daring of the finalists, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Philadelphia's Eagle and, oddly enough, Mike Ditka. It doesn't break any new ground, but it's fine. It'll wear well over the years, until the team either changes logos again or another part-time security guard shows up with his sketchbook.

The best thing to come out of the whole episode is the evidence of the public's good judgment, which could sway the Ravens to use telephone polls more extensively. Now there's an idea.

How about it? Forget Brian Billick, let the fans pick the team's starting quarterback next season. Jim Harbaugh? Eric Zeier? Wally Richardson? A rookie? Scott Mitchell? Just dial the right SunDial code, fans, and you make the call!

And what about the draft? Should the Ravens pick a quarterback in the first round? A receiver? Should they deal the pick? Let Mel Kiper Jr. make it? Call SunDial, fans.

Shoot, given how well the logo vote worked out, the Ravens could ask fans to make all kinds of decisions, including whether to take PSINet's money for the stadium name. Actually, that decision probably was off limits, for 105 million reasons.

But the logo vote went well, or as well as could be expected. The new logo is reasonable and, most important, original. And if there's any lesson in all this, it's that a bad logo is a borrowed logo, and all the rest are grand.

This one passes the test. Or at least, as of now, we think it does.

Pub Date: 2/28/99

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