Sunday, May 12, 2013

There's a science to Banner Day

Banner Day 2013 was fun. I entered 2 banners, which I posted on Saturday, neither of which was selected as a finalist, which I think I'll learn to accept. Seriously though, I don't disagree with the finalists. There were a lot of great banners. Almost 100 of them, down from nearly 300 last year. Everyone who came out under the threatening skies of springtime did a great job, and there was a small contingent of fans down the foul lines and with cameras in the upper reaches of the stadium taking pictures (see my photo album).

Now, my banner didn't fare well in the parade or in the stadium afterwards. And this is part of what I call the "science" of Banner Day. I had 2 banners, both roughly 22x28, both basically a thin poster board (one was packaged as poster board that came in a package of 3, the other on paper of a similar context, but from the printer at Staples). But they weren't exactly the same size. The paper from Staples was slightly bigger, and I was using the packaging from the poster board as a cover. It was skin tight to the poster board, so the slightly larger paper didn't fit. So thought number 1, either trim down the larger banner to fit the covering better, or find a larger covering. Of course, I was really only concerned with the covering because of the rain. The covering ripped a bit because of trying to jam in the larger banner, and I placed it down in a puddle by my seat by accident, with the exposed corner down, and it got wet.

That was just a small problem after the parade. The poser board wasn't very sturdy. It's good for doing something on an easel, and the brand that I used has an invisible grid which helped me line things up, which was good (except it was really hard to see, even up close, to take advantage of). The printed paper was basically the same context. It was easy to hold up with two hands, but it was hard to commit to giving two hands to my banners (even the two packaged together), so how do I try to roll it or hold it with one hand to work a camera in the other? I did have two extra sets of hands for the parade to help me show off both banners. And then it was windy. The banners, when out of the covering, were really hard to contain in the wind. Either it would try to escape my hands, or it would blow right into my body and cling to me. Next time, I definitely wouldn't use this material. Maybe if I secure it to a larger more sturdy poster board (last year, I used a foam poster board that needed two people to carry that might work here). I had thought about that, but just didn't have time to make it happen. There needs to be an all-(reasonable) weather parade test for the banner(s) to make sure they stand up to anything. I didn't see anyone else having that sort of problem.

Next, in the design of the banner. All of my banners have been made with drawings or tracings on printer paper that are cut out and assembled onto the poster board. I've done that because it gives me the ability to have a do-over in case of problems in the drawing, and in the case of last year's banner, I didn't know exactly how it would lay out until I had made all of the pieces. I could have everything there, move it around, and then decide on a final layout. Also, since I like tracing off the computer screen, i need a medium that fits on my computer screen, and printer paper, or pieces of printer paper work, while a large poster board wouldn't. I don't think that's a bad way of doing it, but looking at most of the other banners, they have computer printouts, bedsheets, and more sturdy things. I need to figure that out for next year.

And the last thing. The winner had a moving part. The banner had Shea Stadium next to Citi Field with the Shea Home Run Apple in the middle, and the apple was controlled to go up and down.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Banner number 2

Okay, and now on to Banner number 2.

This banner idea and design has evolved from something inspired by Casey Stengel and Harry Caray to something that helps promote what I feel will be a hidden theme in Banner Day this year - the All-Star Game at Citi Field taking place sometime in July. The first evolution of this banner came from a "thing" that I've been doing at Mets games since 2009. It has origins that date all the way back to September 28, 2008, for the final game at Shea Stadium, when the Mets were hanging on by a thread and needing the Cubs to beat Milwaukee on the final day of the season to extend the Mets season and to extend the life of Shea Stadium by just a little bit.

We hit the 7th inning stretch of the Mets game needing help from the Cubbies, and I decided to get clever and invoke a little help from the baseball Gods by calling on Harry Caray's famous alteration of one of the lines in "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", where he would show how he really felt and sing "Root, Root, Root for the Cubbies" (instead of rooting for the "home team"). On that day, it didn't work. Both games seemed to implode on us at right about the same moment. But somewhere that offseason, I came up with a Casey Stengel-Mets-inspired version of what Harry Caray famously had done for years - "Root, Root, Root for the Metsies". I would love for that to catch on, and I decided this offseason that it had possibilities as a banner idea. A friend of mine, when I saw his banner from last year hanging in his basement, helped me to realize that you can't over do it on the banner because you only have a few seconds to impress the judges, and what I had last year was really complex to look at. Even the first banner I designed for this year I thought would be too complex for a short display for judging, and this second idea would work a whole lot better.

So the banner was going to center around the lyrics "Let us root, root, root for the Mesties/If they don't win it's a shame!", with the Mets script logo expanded to say "Metsies". That element is in the final banner with one alteration that I'll get to in a bit. But the minimum space that I had to work with (22" x 28") was gigantic compared to what I was trying to do. And I started seeing possibilities after I started playing around with different large hand-printed words on the space that I could go all the way and include all of the lyrics to "Take me out to the Ballgame", complete with my "Metsies" alternate lyric.

I started spacing it out, and then it hit me. This year, Citi Field is hosting the All-Star Game. It wasn't formally announced as a theme, but I could see it in some of the online banner submissions (including the eventual winner) and thought it would earn me a lot more points if I included the All-Star Game in mine. And I got clever, replacing some more lyrics from the song with All-Star Game references. It's not the "ballgame", it's the "All-Star Game", with different All-Star Game logos used instead of just showing the words. And it's not a shame if the Metsies or home team doesn't "win". In the All-Star Game, it's a shame if they don't "play".

I really started to like where this was headed. I could see the different pieces coming together (literally, based on how I create everything hand-drawn or traced on printer paper and tape/glue it to the posterboard once I have the layout I want and can easily remove/replace any mistakes). But I still had some more space to fill. Then Matt Harvey was pitching this past Tuesday night. And he was dominant. Nearly perfect. I don't think it fits the definition of "imperfect", but darn near close to that. And I thought, I had to get Matt Harvey into my banner. But how? The brain clicked on again, and the last piece of the banner was born. The left side features what is meant to resemble a lineup card, but not for any single game. Rather, it shows the 18 different Mets who have started an All-Star Game, going from Ron Hunt in 1964 to David Wright in 2010. After seeing Matt Harvey pitch on TV Tuesday night, and seeing what he's accomplished already this year, I had no doubt in my mind that Matt Harvey should at least get consideration for starting the All-Star Game in his home ballpark. Hence, the final entry in that lineup card, in a different color so it stands out, and with question marks after the year "2013" since it's what he's working towards.

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Banner number 1

Banner Day 2013 is upon us. Thanks to the Mets for bringing it back. Last year was lots of fun watching about 300 banners marching around the Citi Field warning track and in front of the judges. I took part in it with a banner that I thought was going to win the entire contest, and I was blown away with the work that everyone else did. I am still very proud of my banner, but I can see how it wasn't as good as many many others out there.

And that brings us to Banner Day 2013. During the offseason, I had come up with another killer idea that I started sketching out with paper and pencil with the intent that this banner would march with me in the parade. The Mets hadn't even announced Banner Day 2013 yet. And then, during the winter, I had a second idea for a banner for 2013, and I spend some time sketching that one out as well, and trying to figure out which one to work on. Of course, we went through the whole exercise of Banner Day being announced, the game being moved to Sunday Night Baseball, and the fans voting on a new date. The plan for me was to start working for real once I got home from my Spring Training vacation for the last 10 days of March, moving towards a May 11 date. Still trying to figure out which design to execute, the Mets came out with an idea that there would be an online contest for Banner Day 2 weeks before the Banner Day parade. So I said, "good, now I can do both banners!", and the clock was ticking.

So this is a post about the first banner, which was the first idea I had, and the banner that I thought would be too busy to be judged properly in the parade. It actually came out better than I had expected.

The idea was simple. Take a parody of "Hollywood Squares", the old TV game show from the 1960s and revived again in the 1980s where 9 celebrities are aligned in a tic-tac-toe board, and the two contestants are playing a complex game of tic-tac-toe, where the celebrities are asked questions, and the contestant has to determine if the celebrity's answer is correct or not in order to win the square. The parody would be a Mets version, of course, called "Citi Field Squares", because "Citi Field Squares" has the same verbal rhythm as "Hollywood Squares" does, and it allowed me to bring out 9 of the greatest New York Mets.

The layout for the logo on top of course starts with the Citi Field logo, this one redrawn from a picture of the logo on top of the CF scoreboard, and continues with the word "Squares", redrawn from the logo of the 1980s version of the show, but changed from gold to blue to match the Mets color scheme, contrasting with the orange in the word "Field". The gameboard is designed like the gameboard from the TV show, where a gold/orange border is lit up around each square, which I replicated here, and each celebrity would sit at a little desk which has a name plate lit up on the bottom and a display for either "X" or "O" in front. I tried to replicate that, but in the TV show, those were white or gold-looking colors on a black background and that was a little too hard to draw, so it became black text on a white background. And the desk was represented poorly (I'm not afraid to criticize my own work) as just a square outline on top of it, but with an orange "X" or blue "O", as to represent Mets colors again.

The real part that should stand out is how each Mets "celebrity" was represented. Instead of trying to draw/copy their likeness to the game board, I decided to go with their respective retired numbers as the background. Of course, only 3 of them are actually retired by the Mets, but I took that design and adapted what 6 other retired numbers would look like. If you look real hard, you should notice that the black dropshadow is missing from the numbers (it's still there in the numbers on the Citi Field wall today, which the Mets should fix) to be more correct, except in the case of Mike Piazza, the only one of those Mets who spent their entire Mets career (or even close to it) wearing the drop shadow jersey. In hindsight, I might have been able to doctor up something for the players from the 1986 team with the larger blue/orange piping that went down the side of their jerseys.

And of course, let the debates begin about which 9 Mets I chose. But that isn't necessarily the point. Now look at the placement of the "X"s and "O"s on the game board. It's set up with "Tom Seaver for the win" (or "Tom Seaver for the block"), as they might say in the TV version.

In the online contest, I was hopeful that it would do well with the judges. I really really liked how it came out. And the whole thing was the different players and borders and logos taped on to a piece of standard size printer paper (8 1/2" x 11"). Since it was an online contest, with a maximum file size of only 2MB, I didn't need to go large with it. There were only 21 entrys in the online contest, including mine. 5 of them were just people uploading pictures of themselves with their banner at last year's parade. I consider them invalid entrys. So I was one out of only 16, with 4 being selected as finalists. A 1 in 4 chance of moving on, and it didn't happen. I don't disagree with any of the banners that were chosen.

What you see pictured is an enlarged version of the scanned image which I am marching with in the parade.

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