Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs

The following are three examples of nonverbal signs that work well.

1. Metaphor -- Tar Heel logo. This is a little bit of a different take on the classic Tar Heel logo. Typically it is an image of a Carolina blue footprint with a black tar print on the heel. Despite the fact that this logo is slightly different colored with a pointy tar print, it is still instantly recognizable as the UNC Tar Heels logo. So what makes this a good metaphor for a Tar Heel? Obviously, the logo incorporates tar on the heel of a footprint. Because it is not a photographic portrayal of a Tar Heel, the image can be presented in school colors as well, making it an even better portrayal of the school. Anyone familiar with collegiate athletics should instantly recognize this logo in any form it may take.

2. Signage -- Unicycle Lane. This unicycle lane in Portland presents a whimsical bit of signage. Most everyone has seen bicycle lanes marked with an icon of a bike and its rider, but this sign makes it safe for circus performers to travel down the road. Despite the fact that the sign is just a few white lines painted on the road, the image is immediately recognizable as a unicyclist juggling. It is a good example of signage because even if you've never seen a juggling unicyclist going down the road, you will have no problem knowing that's what this sign represents.
3. Culturally laden signage -- Martini sign. The Martini is the premier American cocktail. It is a permanent fixture of American life, of the American imagination, of America's image in the rest of the world. Invented in the United States in the 1870s, the Martini has gone through many incarnations from the original version with gin, vermouth and an olive to the modern, flavored versions like chocolate and apple. The image of the triangular Martini glass with an olive has remained a significant sign in America. Throughout the country, the neon image can be seen outside of establishments where you can pick up a stiff drink and enjoy the night life. James Bond and others have helped make the Martini an international hit, but it remains biggest here at home. Just seeing the neon Martini glass is enough to bring to mind American sophisticates in tuxedos trading witty barbs..."I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry Martini."

Here are a few examples of a nonverbal signs that don't work:

4. These three logos were all used by professional football teams. By looking at them, though, you'd have know way to know they had anything to do with sports much less which team they belonged to. The first image seems to be some kind of bleeding Rorschach Inkblot Test. The second logo appears to be a hammer, possibly the kind of wood hammer carpenters use. And the third logo is apparently Pink Floyd cover art. In actuality, the first logo was for the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League. The second logo was for the Berlin Thunder of the World League. And the third logo was for our own Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks of the World League of American Football. The lesson here is that logos must actually be recognizable and represent what they intend to represent. For more horrible logos, check out this site.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Emotional designs

Emotional designs often contradict cognitive assessments. Like Don Norman's three teapots, just because a certain design functions better than another does not make it more important or connected to the user. Often an emotional connection will determine an object's worth to a person. The following are some emotional designs that I have found in the sports world:
  • Ugly Throwback Jerseys: Some of the fastest-selling pieces of sports merchandise on the market these days are throwback jerseys. Everyone from the hottest rapper to the most out-of-shape, middle-aged father of four can be seen sporting a vintage look. Companies like Mitchell & Ness have built their business upon the appeal of these outdated uniforms. But what are these jerseys' appeal? For some consumers, it's all about having a unique look that is not seen on SportsCenter every night. For most, though, it seems to be about a feeling of nostalgia. Fans want to feel that connection to a team or a player that they idolized growing up, and they're willing to pay anywhere from $50-$1,000 to feel it. Below you will find the uniform that the Houston Astros began wearing in 1975. The rainbow design has earned the jersey a spot on most people's list of the worst uniforms of all-time, but it also has made a connection with fans as one of the top-selling throwback jerseys.

  • Outdated Stadiums: Similar to sports uniforms, fans become emotionally attached to arenas or stadiums. The problem is that with ever-advancing technological and design advancements, old stadiums not only become unprofitable, but they sometimes become unsafe. At Yankee Stadium, for instance, sections of the roof have crashed down into the stands in recent years. If a game was being played at the time, fans certainly would have been killed. Yet many Yankees diehards have fought against the new stadium, which will begin hosting the Yanks in 2009. The advent of luxury boxes has also become a major source of income for sports teams, making stadiums without them obsolete. Fans are even emotionally attached to the "cookie-cutter" stadiums built in the 1960s and 70s that don't feature distinctive designs like the Yankee Stadium facade. These stadiums were built for multi-purpose functions, having the ability to host baseball or football games. Their designs make them much less aesthetically pleasing, and horribly out-of-date when compared to the modern throwback stadiums that began being built after the success of Camden Yards in Baltimore. One such cookie-cutter facility that was destroyed last season was the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium. Despite all its flaws, Cards fans mourned the loss of old Busch Stadium. Below are images of old Busch Stadium (left), new Busch Stadium and a link to a clip of emotional Cards fans that must be seen to be believed.

Emotional Cardinals fans

  • American Indian mascots: One of the most controversial sports issues in recent years has been the use of American Indian mascots. Professional and college teams have used American Indian mascots for years, with the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo, for instance, dating back to 1915. Some teams like the Florida State Seminoles claim they are honoring American Indians while others like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins use caricatures and terms that some deem offensive. People on both sides of the issue have emotional responses to the mascots. Fans who have supported their team for years, line up to battle those who call for name and mascot changes. Meanwhile, American Indian groups have used boycotts and lawsuits to battle what they deem as racist mascots. Recently, the NCAA instituted ruled aimed at eliminated the use of American Indian nicknames. The following are two of the mascot images that have created the most emotional responses...Chief Wahoo and the Redskins logo.


The Tar Heels posted their second straight impressive win Saturday night after the loss to the Hokies, beating Georgia Tech 77-61. Some thoughts from Section 200:

  • Last time these two teams met, Tyler Hansbrough led a UNC comeback with 40 points. This year, Paul Hewitt had his Yellow Jackets hammer Psycho T every time he stepped on the court. A number of the fouls were pretty dirty with Zach Peacock and Ra'Sean Dickey drawing the two intentional fouls that were called. Overall, Psycho T hit 14 of 15 free throws, making GT pay for its tactic with 24 points. Nevertheless, it was a ridiculous showing...I thought Hewitt had more class than to pull a Rick Barnes move.
  • Every year, the UNC athletic budget includes thousands of dollars worth of corrective surgery for varsity athletes. Everything from knees, to feet, to shoulders gets fixed up. So why can't UNC foot the bill and get Psycho T some LASIK surgery? For the third game that I've attended this season, the bug-eyed brute lost a contact after a hard foul Saturday. At least this time there was a timeout immediately following so he could put a new one in and get accustomed to it before shooting the free throws. Usually his sight is off a little bit after putting a new one in. So, for the sake of free-throw percentage, get Psycho T some LASIK or at the least some rec specs.
  • Reyshawn Terry finally looked good offensively, going 7-for-9 for 16 points after scoring just 17 points total in the previous four games. He also had one amazing dunk on a fast break where he was fouled and hung on the rim, smacking the backboard. Definitely worthy of a SportsCenter top 10.
  • My skills at ticket scalping came in handy again as there was almost no one selling before the game. Fortunately, I wore my warm clothes and was prepared to wait outside well after the game started. My goal was to get in for $20 or less, which wasn't going to happen with a regular ticket because of the out-of-whack supply and demand. So I went over and staked out the student entrance, holding up one finger and trying to look as pitiful in the cold as possible. It must have worked because after about 5-10 minutes, someone was nice enough to hand me his extra ticket for free.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ron Mexico's flavored water

I thought my man Mike Vick was smarter than his little bro Marcus, but apparently not. According to an article on SI.com, police in Miami are examining a water bottle that The Great One tried to bring onto a flight out of Miami International Airport. It seems there was a secret compartment built into the water bottle that had been used to store marijuana. The worst punishment McVick could get is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine...don't bet on the jail time.

The latest news continues a troubling slide for The Great One. At Virginia Tech, he was untouchable, but since becoming a star for the Falcons, he's been accused of spreading an STD (and using the alias Ron Mexico), flicked off fans, been labeled a "coach killer" and now this. Marcus' rap sheet suddenly doesn't look quite as bad: relations with an underage girl, possession of marijuana, a gun charge and "The Stomp."

I never said the Vicks were saints, but it's getting harder to defend them. This is especially true when you consider their unrealized potential. Marcus had many chances at VT before being kicked out of school, and he has yet to do anything in the pros. Mike looked like a sure Hall of Famer in his first couple years, but setting QB rushing records doesn't cut it any more. If he doesn't straighten up, this will be his last year in Atlanta. Perhaps he'll end up like his cousin Aaron Brooks, washed up and playing for the Raiders...a fate worse than jail time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hokies in Top 25

For the first time in 11 years, Virginia Tech was ranked in the AP Top 25 for men's basketball. It wasn't a complete shock, and no one can say the Hokies aren't deserving of their No. 23 spot after beating No. 5 Dook and No. 1 Carolina in the same week. In the next week, Tech plays at Florida State and at home against Maryland, we'll see if the Hokies come back to Earth and play at the level of their competition as they're prone to do.

For more on the ranked Hokies, check this out.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Shopping at The Gap

Giants defensive end Michael Strahan already has the NFL record for most sacks in a season with 22.5 in 2001, and now he can add another record: worst prenup ever. Strahan's divorce case, which has been covered extensively by bastion of journalism The New York Post, came to a conclusion on Friday. According to court records, Strahan must pay $15.3 million along with child support despite the fact that his net worth is about $22 million. Here's the kicker: Strahan's ex-wife said the gap-toothed star and his lawyer devised the uneven distribution of assets in a prenup they had her sign the night before their wedding.

Strahan played in just nine games last season because of injury, and his career is winding down after 14 seasons in the NFL. He's 36 years old, so there won't be any more big-time contracts coming his way. He'd better hope his pal Tiki Barber can help get him a job in the broadcasting booth, otherwise Strahan may be reminiscing about the good old days while eating early bird specials.

Check out what Strahan will have to pay for the settlement, as compiled by The New York Post:

Hokies and Heels

For the first time in many Virginia Tech-UNC matchups, I didn't know who I was going to root for on Saturday. Typically the Hokies and Heels make it easy on me: Tech is usually the best in football while UNC stinks, and UNC usually rules in hoops while the Hokies are weak. That meant that I could cheer for the team that had more riding on the specific game. A loss at Keenan Stadium would have ruined the Hokies football season this year, so I rooted for them. Last year, a defeat against Tech in basketball would have truly hurt the Heels' ranking, so I went for UNC. The Hokies win last week over No. 5 Dook tossed all that out the window.

UNC came into the game at Cassell Coliseum ranked No. 1 in the country and would surely lose that ranking if it lost. But the Heels were bound to lose at sometime, and it might as well be to the Hokies early in the season. Tech coming off one of its biggest upsets ever, could get its biggest ever and announce that it could really compete in the ACC. It ended up the Hokies won 94-88, and instead of ecstatic for Tech like I was after the Dook win, I was kind of just numb.
A few thoughts on the game:

  • The Cassell was really rocking for the game with a sellout of nearly 10,000 fans. I've only been to a few games there when it was that packed...the ACC opener against UNC in Tech's inaugural season in the league and the NCAA women's tournament when Tech hosted two rounds come to mind. When Hokie Nation fill the Cassell, it really is one of the toughest places to play in the ACC. The way the arena is built, with the stands rising at a sharper angle than in typical arenas, makes for louder crowd noise than at the Dean Dome and it may be comparable to Cameron. If only the fans would come out when the Hokies play weak competition like VMI, then maybe they wouldn't blow those games.

  • Seth Greenberg and the Hokies have done a good job approaching the ACC like they are a mid-major team. Instead of trying to compete with the Carolinas, Dooks and Marylands for the McDonald's All-Americans, they've recruited solid guys who will stay all four years. That may make for some lean years early on, but the Hokies are reaping the rewards now by being more polished than the young Carolina and Dook teams.

  • The Heels' comeback was almost one for the books. They were down by 20 points with 4:30 remaining in the game and almost made it all the way back. I was getting images in my head of the game in 1992 when UNC came back from 22 down against Wake Forest and the game in 1993 when UNC came back from 21 down against Florida State. In those comebacks, however, the Heels had nearly the entire second half to rally. There just wasn't enough time against the Hokies.

  • The final result was probably the best thing that could have happened. Now the Hokies have proven they can beat anyone, and they may actually have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996. The Heels will bounce back and have plenty of time to return to No. 1. Ahhh the beauty of college basketball, a tournament decides the champion instead of some random BCS voters.

For your viewing, reading pleasure:

Friday, January 12, 2007

Can Beckham save MLS? No.

It was announced Thursday that David Beckham -- the most overrated soccer star in the world -- was joining the L.A. Galaxy of MLS, and all it took was a contract that could be worth $250 million over five years to bring him to the states. The idea is that Becks' weekly hairdo changes will catch the attention of the masses of soccer-playing kids in the U.S. and turn them into paying customers...saving the floundering pro league. It's not gonna happen.

In a 2006 survey of MLS salaries conducted by The Washington Post, it was found that the average MLS player makes a burger-flipping salary of $11,700. Sure there were those like Team USA star Landon Donovan who made a league-high $900,000 and phenom-turned-flameout Freddy Adu who raked in $500,000 towards that first car, but those guys were few and far between. As long as salaries are counted in the thousands and not millions, then why would any soccer star come to the U.S. instead of going overseas to lucrative leagues with the best athletes?

Not to mention that Becks is past his prime. At 31, he lost his captainship of England and was let go by Real Madrid. Always one to enjoy the limelight with wife Posh Spice, I don't see Becks just focusing on his game in L.A. either. It won't be long before we see the duo attending premiers and then Paris Hilton will inevitably break up the marriage. At least it's good to see that Becks will finally be able to feed his family...because Posh really looks like she could use a square meal.

Boo Hoos

Growing up in Virginia as both a UNC and Virginia Tech fan meant that I could fully explore my hatred of the University of Virginia. UVa is a bit like a slightly less objectionable version of Dook. UVa fans and people who go there look down on Virginia Tech and seem to think they're upper class citizens for some reason. UVa doesn't have a campus; it has the grounds. It doesn't have freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors; it has first years, second years, third years and fourth years. The school's founder isn't Thomas Jefferson; he is Mr. Jefferson.

Any way, Wednesday brought a day of the year that I always look forward to, when the Tar Heels play the Cavaliers at home and can whip those jerks. The Heels came into the game ranked No. 1 at 14-1 while UVa had been up and down, going 9-4 with wins over Arizona and Gonzaga, and blowout losses to Appalachian State and Utah. I thought this UVa team would give Carolina a run, and it did before the Heels pulled away to win 79-69.
Some thoughts:

  • I took Susan to the game and it was the first time she'd ever been to a college basketball game. Thankfully it was a good game and she really got into it until the final couple minutes where UVa was forced to foul. Unlike after the last football game I took her to, VT-Duke, she said she will return to a basketball game.
  • The fact that the Heels shot 37.9 percent from the field didn't bother me as much as the 63.4 percent on free throws. The free throws number was padded by some freebies in the final minutes because they seemed to clang them all night. They can overcome some of their shooting woes because they are good rebounders, but missing free throws like that will cost them against good competition.
  • Virginia point guard Sean Singletary should get a lot more recognition. He only scored 14 points with 7 assists, but he carried the Cavs and kept them close all night. You could really notice a change in their team when he was off the court in foul trouble and Ty Lawson could not keep up with him.
  • Despite his team losing focus against some opponents, I think Dave Leitao has the Cavs on the right track. In a couple of years he'll have them back in Top 25 territory after Pete Gillen sweatily ran the team into the ground. And I'm glad, it's not as much fun hating on a loser.
  • It was good to see Roy Williams do his patented jacket toss, even if it was in anger at a ref and not his players. Nothing gets the Heels pumped up faster than when Ol' Roy breaks out one of his favorite angry moves: 1) slapping his hands while in the huddle; 2) throwing the clipboard to the ground; or 3) tossing the jacket.
  • On another note, they really need to put some ATMs outside the Dean Dome. I guess they want to discourage scalping tickets, but it ratchets up the degree of difficulty when you realize you need a ticket and only have $10 in your pocket. But as I've found, there's always a way to get into a game...even if you have to get someone to come $30 off his asking price.

Hokie Nation travels

On Jan. 6, I was lucky enough to be in attendance at Cameron Indoor Stadium as Virginia Tech upset No. 5 Dook 69-67 in overtime.
A few thoughts on the game:

  • Maybe it was because of global warming or perhaps Durham's proximity to hell, but it was 75 degrees outside. And despite all their fancy book learning, the Dookies obviously don't know how to work a thermostat because it was easily 105 degrees inside the cramped arena. I was wearing jeans and short sleeves and began sweating profusely as soon as I entered the door. It finally made sense to me why so many Cameron Crazies choose to go shirtless. By the time I got home that afternoon, my fiancee Susan insisted that I remained at least 3 feet from her at all times until I showered.
  • It was my first trip to Cameron and I was impressed by the overall atmosphere, but it was not overly intimidating. As a favor to my friend Mike, who is a Dook fan and was nice enough to bring me along to the game, I only wore a maroon collared VT shirt. I left the gobbler noisemaker at home. The octogenarians in our section shot me a few dirty looks, but the biggest reactions I got were from fellow Hokies. There was a pretty strong Tech contingent there, because as everyone knows, Hokie Nation travels.
  • As for the Cameron Crazies, I didn't think they were everything that Mr. Vitale makes them out to be. The VT players didn't seem bothered by the preppy kids' coordinated cheers or flailing arms either. Final free-throw count: VT 13-18; Dook 18-28. My thought is: You can't intimidate thugs. A couple of years ago, the Hokies had a player named Terry Taylor who admitted that he had previously sold drugs while basically living on the streets. Do you think a guy like that is going to care if a 140-pound beanpole with a 1,600 SAT yells "airball" at him? The Crazies did do one thing during Hokies free throws that seemed totally out of line. They pulled their shirts over their heads and jumped around like monkeys. The Crazies have to be smart enough to realize there are racial undertones to such behavior, and with the recent uproar over Dook lacrosse in the community, I'm shocked nothing has been said about this.
  • Coach K once again revealed himself as a ridiculous blowhard. After the Tech win, Zabian Dowdell pulled his jersey out in the direction of the Crazies in celebration. This move is done all the time by players nowadays, and seeing as how Dowdell was on the court the previous year when Dook beat Tech on a last-second half-court shot by Sean Dockery, it seemed a more than reasonable celebration. Of course Coach K pulled him aside, and according to Dowdell, said "You're too classy a guy to be carrying on like that." Yeah K, your sideline cursing and your players' pompous behavior really shows you to be the picture of class.
  • In the end it was one of the biggest wins in VT basketball history and certainly the best Tech game I've ever been to. It just made it all that much sweeter that it was at Dook.