Dukes of Awesome

The rules for banner raising, and the most ridiculous banners in sports by buckybrooks

So we’re getting a new banner for HSBC Arena.

If you missed the other 20 plugs I gave the game, earlier this month our Buffalo Bandits dispatched the Portland Lumberjacks to claim the title of the National Lacrosse League. If you weren’t one of the 18,690 in the sellout crowd, you missed out on a raucous atmosphere and a thrilling finish. I strongly believe there aren’t many things better then watching your team win a title in front of the home crowd.

Sadly though, most titles aren’t won at home. That leaves the sole home celebration for the banner raising ceremony the following season. And even if you were lucky enough to witness a title won it at home, everyone still loves a good banner raising. I know I cant wait till our 2008 banner joins its three brothers:

I love banners and what they represent, and dorkishly take them very seriously. I think as a sports society we are getting far too carried away raising banners. I suppose that teams know that raising a banner (no matter how silly it is) will make us feel like winners; plus raising a banner always seems to draw a good crowd.

But we need to reign in this epidemic of frivolous banners, and so I’m proposing some rules on banner raising. And in this time of controversial wars, economic downturn, and disagreements on the definition of marriage, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican I think that this platform can be a uniting factor for America. As an added incentive, the first presidential candidate to adopt these rules as a part of their platform will get me to endorse their campaign and all the political clout that comes with it. Let the political pandering begin!

So I’ll present to you my rules for hanging a banner. And as an added bonus: the most pointless banners in all of sports.

Anyhow, first the rules:

  • To raise a banner you have to win a championship, be it a division, conference, or league title. No banners can be raised to celebrate simply a “good” season where you advanced far but won nothing. Exceptions can be made for College Basketball (see Rule 7).
  • A team can only raise 2 banners for a season. Pick them any way you like. There will be no hanging of 10 different banners for every championship you win.
  • “Minor” major sports (Arena Football, Box Lacrosse, etc.) can only raise League Championship banner if they share their arena with a NBA or NHL team. If you are in an arena or city where there are no “Big-4” sports you can raise banners for division, conference, or league titles.
  • Banners cannot be raised commemorating arena events. It’s nice that your arena hosted the 1996 John Deere Bull Riding Championship or the first round of the Big Sky Conference women’s ice hockey tournament, but lets find some other way to memorialize those special moments.
  • For teams that have been relocated, no banners from the previous cities should be hung.
  • Banners can be put up for reborn franchises celebrating players and championships from the prior team (though the leagues frequently outlaw it).
  • Mid-major college basketball teams can raise a banner for NCAA/NIT tourney invites. Major conference teams cannot – regardless if you aren’t traditionally a basketball school. Your banners can only come out for the making the Sweet 16.
  • No cross banner raising. Pick one place for the banner to be. Your college basketball team may play 2 games a year downtown in the big professional arena, but they don’t get a banner there if you win the conference. Exceptions can be made for teams like UConn, who split a full season evenly over the Gampel Pavilion and the Hartford Civic Center.
  • No re-raising banners. Once their up, they are up until you move (or space considerations force a rearrange).
  • No retroactively awarding banners for past seasons. Wish you raised a division banner too that year you also won the conference? Oh well, should have done it then, not 12 years later.
  • No changing banners. The Sabres were guilty of this earlier this year when they reconfigured their ’97 Division and ’99 Conference banners to match the look of their other banners. Banner uniformity is nice, but changing banners deprives fans of looking at the rafters and having their “I was there when that banner was raised” nostalgia.

With these rules in mind, I set out to find the 3 worst banners hung currently in arenas and stadiums around America. The only banners considered were banners currently hanging. I ignored stupid banners no longer hanging, like that banner that Duke hung at the end of the regular season in 1999, proclaiming them the #1 team in the AP Poll. Stupid banners that will no doubt be hung in the future, like Tulsa’s inevitable CBI Champions banner, will have to be saved for a part 2. And if I missed any bad banners (which I’m sure I did), just let me know.

Honorable Mention: Montreal’s “Expos Banner”

OK Montreal, you can’t show a team absolutely zero fan support for an entire decade and run them out of town, and then pretend you care enough to hang a banner up in the Bell “Centre” next to all the Stanley Cup ones. If the Expos meant that much to you, you’d still have the team.

Honorable Mention: Grinnell College’s “Points Banner”

Note: Sadly these are the only banners I couldn’t find a picture of, though I vividly recall them from their moment in the sun game on ESPN a few years back. If you miraculously have a picture, please send it in.

If you’ve never heard of D-III Grinnell, it’s time to get acquainted. The Pioneers rely on a unique system, which utilizes a constant full-court press, a focus on shooting at least 100 shots a game (with the majority of them three-pointers), and substitutions of five players at a time every 35 to 40 seconds hockey style. I’ll admit, their system is fun to watch, and it nets Grinnell averages of over 120 ppgs (although they do also give up nearly that many points as well). What’s stupidis that Grinnell memorializes the seasons that they lead the NCAA in scoring with a banner. This type of banner is generally pretty silly, but even more so when it’s not the result of skill, but rather circumstance. It’s inevitable that you’ll always lead the NCAA in scoring because of the system, so until your ready to hang the “Most Points Given Up in the NCAA” banners next to the other banners, it’s time to take them down. Besides, your other accomplishments are actually more impressive.

Honorable Mention: North Carolina’s “Imagery Champions Banner”

I think that no school or team has a bigger love of hanging banners then the Tarheels. Banners to document every tournament appearance?

Check. Banners to document ACC Titles (even regular season ones)?

Check. Banners to honor every player ever?

Check. Banners that are redundant and say basically the same thing as other banners?

Check. A banner to honor to honor a National Championship that doesn’t exist?

Checkmate. It’s that 1924 National Champions banner that angers me the most. There are no 1924 National Champions – it doesn’t exist. What does exist is a couple of guys getting together in the 1930s, naming themselves the “Helms Foundation” and declaring UNC the 1924 National Champions. Their title isn’t recognized by the NCAA (or anyone else for that matter), just UNC. It especially isn’t recognized by Butler, who also considers themselves to be national champs (and at least they won a tourney at year’s end).

All kidding aside, I do worry about the safety of the Tarheel faithful. I’m concerned that there is so much canvas hanging from that roof that if there ever was a fire in the rafters the entire arena would burn down in under 4 minutes.

Honorable Mention: Mets “Winners” Banners

Note: click the photo to enlarge and then check out 1999

If there’s one word a banner can’t say, its “winners.” Winning a single playoff series does not merit a banner, especially in New York – a city where supposedly all that matters are league titles.

3rd Place: Indianapolis Colts’ “Finalist Banner”

Ok, if there’s a second word that a banner shouldn’t say, its “Finalists”. The NFL playoffs are a beauty contest or a season of “American Idol” – there are no finalists, just champions and losers. And guess which one the Colts were in 1995.

2nd Place: Duke Football’s “Graduation Banner”

I know Duke doesn’t have a lot to be proud of when it comes to football, but really guys? I mean, the reason why your graduation rate is so high is because your teams are so awful that no one declares for the draft early. Plus this begs the question – whats your excuse for sucking during the non-banner years? Clearly not academics.

First Place: Washington Mystic’s “Attendance Banner”

Most WNBA banners are generally pretty useless, but these take the cake. At one time, Washington hung 6 of these “Attendance Champions” banners at the Verizon Center. It has since been pared down 3, as they had to make room for a Georgetown Final Four banner (slightly more prestigious). Thats not to say I don’t see the Mystics rationale for celebrating their Attendance Title, I do: it is a major accomplishment getting anyone to come to a WNBA game, even when most of your tickets were given away for free. Still though, if any banners cheapen an arena, these would be them.

Those are the best I came across. Again, if you think I missed one, let me know. If my future sports travels showcase any other bad ones, I’ll have my trusty Polaroid camera ready to document the moment and you’ll see it here first.

Update: Thanks to everyone who informed me about additionally awful banners I overlooked in this article.  I’m going to be hunting for some images of them and posting about them next week, so come back and check them out then.


28 Comments so far
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Your rule #1 – “To raise a banner you have to win a championship, be it a division, conference, or league title. No banners can be raised to celebrate simply a “good” season where you advanced far but won nothing.” and Rule #7 “…Your banners can only come out for the making the Sweet 16.” seem to be in direct conflict with eachother since the Sweet 16 isn’t really a championship, but rather a good season.

Comment by Steve Sanders

Good point Steve. I think that College basketball is pretty much the only sport where a banner for a good season is appropriate (and making the sweet 16 is a legitimate accomplishment). I’m going to reword that a bit

Comment by buckybrooks

Seriously, no mention of the banners at the Wachovia Center in Philly commemorating Billy Joel’s 56 sold out concerts? easily the most pathetic banner of all time, let alone in a four sport city.

Comment by Wayne

Still bitter about the ’06 Eastern Conference Finals, are we? Where, in the article that you link to as proof of your claim, does it say anything about raising four (that’s 1,2,3,4) banners after winning the ’06 Stanley Cup? The article does mention something about four (that’s 1,2,3,4) trophies on display that the team or members of the team won that year. On the other hand, I loathe the Tarheels, so a few more banners to bring down the roof on those obnoxious fans might not be a bad thing.

Comment by Darrell Ensley

Darrell has a point about the article mentioning 4 trophies, but only one banner.

As a Sabres and Hurricanes fan (grew up in Buffalo, have lived in Raleigh for 11 years), that Eastern Conference Final was a killer. Don’t worry, Sabres fans – I was wearing my Buffalo jersey during Game 1 (my pic was on the Canes website for a while).

One thing, though, Darrell – the NC State Wolfpack play at the RBC, not the Tarheels.

Comment by Tom Woolf

Perhaps that link wasn’t the best Darrell. But they did drop 4 different banners during the home opener… I remember having to watch the 30 minute pregame ceremony as they droppped a banner for the division title, regular season conference title, playoff conference champs, and the Stanley Cup. And I remember as a Sabres fan dying a little on the inside

Comment by buckybrooks

There are only three banners for the Hurricanes – division champion, conference champion, and cup champion. There is no “regular season conference title” banner because they didn’t win that. They were the #2 seed the year they won the cup.

The canes are guilty of other frivolous temporary banners – they hang a banner for the remainder of the season any time a player or coach makes the all-star or olympic teams, and they may well have put up selke and conn smythe banners temporarily at some point too. There is only one retired number – Ron Francis. Perhaps that is the “4th banner” everyone is thinking of.

Comment by wiseowl

Wiseowl, you are correct… they were the 2 seed. Perhaps my Buffalo bitterness clouded my judgement. i’m going to edit that. thanks for correction

Comment by buckybrooks

I’m with Wayne on this one the Billy Joel sellouts banner in Philly was the first thing I thought of, they also have a Springsteen one.

Comment by Ken

1) I was afraid that you’d refute my comment with some facts I wasn’t aware of. I myself don’t usually watch any banner raisings, even when my team wins the championship…which doesn’t happen very often at all.

2) Tom, my alma mater does have two NCAA Championship banners hanging at the RBC Center…hence my hatred for that team in Chapel Hill. I wasn’t referring to the same arena, just two different parts of the post. Unfortunately, I don’t think the number of NCAA Title banners at the RBC will be increasing any time soon.

Comment by Darrell Ensley

You are missing one very important banner:

Saint Joseph’s (PA)’s 30-2 “PERFECT SEASON” which resulted in no conference championship or even a trip to the Final 4.

Please dedicate an entire article to this banner:


Comment by Headpainter

St. Joseph’s(PA) mens basketball went 30-2 in 2004 and raised a banner touting a “Perfect Season”

Comment by Headjob

Head, you couldn’t be more right. Thanks for giving me that link. that definately deserves attention, and is worthy of its own article

Comment by buckybrooks

Love the article. What’s your rule about a banner for a former hed coach or G.M.? The Chicago Bulls have a banner for Phil Jackson and former GM Jerry Krause.

Comment by Crazy Loco

Marquette is notorious for this as well. They recently hung a banner for an “in-season” tournament championship … the prestigious CBE Classic a few years ago. Put all their scores from the event on a banner including the 59-56 OT win over Idaho State. That alone should have been enough to re-think it. But of course, they beat Duke in the title game so they didn’t want anyone to forget it. I can’t find a photo but will take one next time I’m at the Bradley Center.

Comment by bfish

What about the St. Joseph’s “Perfect Season” banner. If you have a perfect season, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t include 2 losses and should also include a national championship.

Comment by anonymous

Atlanta trumps Philly in the useless banner department, because while Billy Joel and the Boss are criticaly acclaimed… who the hell is Widespread Panic?

Comment by tarheelmike82

“I think that this platform can be a uniting factor for America”

After opening your post by talking about Lacrosse?

I don’t think so…

Comment by pohlse

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a banner for highest attended game (from back at the Thunder Dome era) and for making the 2nd round of the playoffs when I caught a game down there in 1997.

Comment by KSU_Butters

Florida Panthers have a banner for “best record by an expansion team”

Minnesota Wild has one for “The Fan”

Those useless Lightning banners mentioned above went down when the Stanley Cup banner went up.

Nice blog guys! great topic!

Comment by pjf-usrt

good read

ps are banners hung at the beginning of the next season?

Comment by LIN

Good job slagging the Canadiens for the Expos banner. I thought it was a classy attempt to honour players who had their numbers retired by the ballclub. So make fun if you wish but consider… In the Bell Centre there are NO division championship banners, NO conference championship banners, NO first-place-for-whatever-regular-season-nonsense. ONLY Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers. Who else does that? Other organizations and fans from other cities can mock us for the Expos banner, whatever. Have fun with your stupid Division Titles.

Comment by DAJP

KU has got 2 (1922 and 1923) Helms Foundation banners hanging from the rafters in AFH–and they are labeled exactly the same way as the NCAA title banners. The banners from 1922, 1923, 1952, 1988, and 2008 all simply say “National Champions”. Yet you take the time to criticize UNC’s one Helms banner from 1924. Hater much?

Comment by tarheelmotu

Madison Square Garden has or had a retired “jersey” for Martina Navratilova. Now *that’s* ridiculous. Presumably she played in some minor indoor tournament there at some point.. As I said, ridiculous.

The St. Joe’s banner is particularly crazy in that the Hawks had a legitimately fine season which could be honored with sensible Elite Eight and A10 East banners.

While honoring baseball players at an ice hockey arena is definitely stupid, you’re off-base in slamming Montreal. Montreal treated MLB far better than MLB treated Montreal. It’s a great city, and they supported the team perfectly well until the utterly f_cked-up Bud Selig Era.

I also disagree also with the slamming of Helms Foundation championships. They didn’t hand those out willy-nilly. Yes, you could undoubtedly argue Team A versus Team B for a given year, but each champion was an undeniably strong team if you look at their records.

Tarheelmotu, I think UNC is getting cited here because, while its Helms Foundation banners may or may not be legit, it is guilty of egregious over-bannering in general. KU is not. And don’t tell me that UNC has the greatest hoops tradition and that it justifies the over-bannering. There’s no single-greatest hoops program. Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA (and maybe Duke) are all on roughly the same plane. None of those other programs have gone ape-sh_t with banners like Carolina has.

Comment by Open Sights

Banners are important for business who want to promote certain products or events. Banner is one way to attract more customers.

Comment by Anthony

Re: Minnesota Wild “The Fans” banner: Meh, there are plenty of pro and college teams that do variations on that same theme. The Seattle Seahawks and Texas A&M’s “12th Man” tributes come to mind. (IIRC the ‘Hawks use a banner, while the Aggies erected a sign inside the stadium instead.)

In any case, you’re all missing the lamest banner of them all: “New England Patriots – 16-0 Regular Season Record, 2007”.

Comment by Joshua

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Comment by Banners

Thank you very much Great post…thanks for share this

Comment by chord

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