On Love and Logos
I do not come from a “sports” family.
When I count on my hand how many times I have watched a ballgame with my father or brother I am looking at a fist. Zero times. So on a gray morning four years ago when my sports enthusiast boyfriend (now baby-daddy and life partner) practically wept in grief over the fact that I did not attend a Cal/Stanford game during my time at Berkeley, I realized in an instant what needed to happen, I would learn the game of basketball. Of all the ball sports this seemed to be his favorite.
My strategy was air tight. I could practice drills off Youtube, join in on my gyms pickup games and learn to dunk on the mossy hoop at the end of the street. I would be able to do things like locate the score of a game on the television screen. Jargon, names, stats, I would study, study, study, and quickly I too could come know the joy of fan mentality. Love will make you do crazy things.
By the time my coffee wore off and I was well down the rabbit hole of Youtube’s farting babies I remembered that I am 5’4”...alright a little over 5’3” weighing in at a slight 100 lbs. and I hate getting my finger jammed. Uugh. It’s right up there with screaming babies on planes and Donald Trump’s face. I can’t take it. Thus, for four years I have watched Rick Gilbert the founder and designer of Grafletics with awe and wonder as he has poured his heart out into the Portland fan community. And, four years (and a farting baby of our own) later, I think I have begun to understand his love affair with sports.
His standard cure for my indifference has been the idea that sports connect people. For years and years he has chipped away at my apathy. “Sports creates community!” he would declare again and again, eyes alight with the fire of good news but, I was busy flipping the channel from Sports Center to E!, because watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is a lot like watching basketball players try to score.
Being a sports fan is fun. For a couple hours we forget ourselves and experience the vicarious thrill of sinking a 3 pointer all the way from the basement couch. When they win we win. When they lose we lose. We are in it together each giving the other meaning. It feels good to be a part of a cause, even if only to have a better team than the Clippers, neener-neener-neener. See , I know basketball things! clap clap clap! This September many of us will be stepping up our Blazermania by applying for the newly released official Trailblazer state license plate. The new plates feature the first edition of the Trailblazers iconic pinwheel. Which for the longest time I thought represented a spinning blade. You know like to cut down trees- to ‘blaze’ a trail? Makes total sense. Come to find out, I was way off.
Released in 1970 the original logo has been called the most conceptual in the NBA. Designed by then-owner Harry Glickman’s cousin Frank Glickman it has a different visual impact from the one we see today. Black lines are on the left, red on the right set on a white background, a representation of two five-on-five basket ball teams facing off. Each line represents a player. With a small stretch of the imagination the graphic takes on elements from the letter “p” in a toneless lower-case wordmark: ‘portland’. The franchise has since changed this static design three times tilting it 45 degrees, flip- flopping colors, adding and rejecting backgrounds and borders transforming it from motionless to manic.
Portland in the 1970‘s was anything but motionless. It was abuzz with political unrest and social movement. Some highlights of that year include a week long anti-war protest on the PSU campus resulting in a police squad charging students sending 28 to the hospital. The next day 4,000 people march on city hall. Two thousand disgruntled Oregonians amass downtown in an effort to stop the U.S. Army from storing 13,000 lbs. of nerve and mustard gas out east in Hermiston. Prostitution abounded as did litter, and traffic congestion. Citizens had begun to make noise about the environment. Construction on the Freemont bridge began and Portland planted its green and blue flag. In response to public anxiety infamous Governor Tom McCall eased tensions by holding the nation’s first government sponsored rock concert “Vortex I” at McIver state park. Harry Glickman made his contribution by turning a red state into a black and red state with the cities first ever basketball team the Trailblazers.“Oh but what will our logo be?” He must have pondered, “something clean, something timeless. I know I’ll call cousin Frank, he’ll get the job done!” So, baby cousin Frank (I’m postulating here) birthed the pinwheel. He was from Boston according to internet sources. I couldn’t decipher how familiar he was with Portland. Perhaps in Boston without an internet or Instagram the many natural features Portland had to offer with its mountainous and rivered landscapes were not top of mind. We could have had something similar to the old Denver Nuggets logo (see below). Either one really... right? Compared to the current Golden State Warriors Golden Gate Bridge design, the Seattle Sonics space needle logo or the mountain atop the Denver Nuggets label, the Blazer pinwheel seems bereft of place. Didn’t Frank get the memo? This is for a basketball team, they will be playing for Portland Oregon, thanks. Compare it to any NBA logo now or then and the pinwheel is clearly the rebel. Save a little competition from the Houston Rocket’s although no one knows what that logo looks like anyway because it’s buried deep, deep down in James Harden’s beard.
But whatever because there is something timeless and amazing about the pinwheel. Portland is weird and the pinwheel is weird. In this town it is everywhere, as it should be, because we love our city and we love our basketball team and it represents the two. So thanks Frank, and Go Blaze!
I am proud to say that this season I will be attending Blazer games out of my own volition with Rick and our lovely feisty three year old. Anyone know where to get those toddler headphones.....?