Saturday, October 04, 2008
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Ban over; show skills

We've all been there.

Sitting on the couch, enjoying a football game on television, when the camera crew zooms in on a fan holding a sign. Suddenly, magically, we're boarding a one-way flight to hilarity.

Sign: "Ticket: $50."

Us: Wow, that appears to be a lot of money for a ticket. I wonder why he chose to put that on a sign, though. Better read on.

Sign: "Hotel room: $100."

Us: Sounds like a Fairfield Inn, perhaps. But again, I am at a loss as to where the fan is going with this.

Sign: "Hot dogs: $10."

Us: This trip sure is adding up. I sense the big payoff coming soon ... wait for it ...

Sign: "Seeing the Packers win a game: PRICELESS!"

Us: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Ouch, my sides! Honey, come look at this! I get it now! The credit card commercial! Three cheers for the clever sign guy!

Please, Virginia fans, don't be THAT sign guy today.

The school's administrators, in a desperate move to regain your loyalty, have entrusted you with an awesome power. They have lifted the ban on signs for tonight's game against Maryland. This is the moment many of you have said you wanted.

Please do not blow it.

I am not going to tell you what to write on your sign. I am hardly an expert. I've written one sporting-event sign in my life, when I was about 12 years old, and it was lamer than a David Hasselhoff album.

This was back when Home Team Sports (HTS) televised the Washington Bullets games. In a frantic attempt to get on TV -- and to pay tribute to our favorite player, the 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan -- my friends and I bought some poster board and some multicolored markers, brainstormed for hours and came up with the following acronym:

"Big Gheorghe Has The Skillz."

Yes. With the "Z" at the end. And to be sure the HTS guys knew we were pandering to them, we made those three letters so big that you could hardly see the others.

I honestly don't know if we made it on TV that night, but I sure hope not. Like the "Boom goes the dynamite" guy on YouTube will tell you, video evidence of our youthful mistakes can be painful.

So I am something of an authority on what NOT to put on a sign. Hence, the following tips for today's game:

n The "priceless" gag is done. It's bad enough that the commercials keep coming. Please do not encourage those uninspired ad reps by implying the nation loves them.

n Careful with the Groh puns. We all know Al's last name is a sweet homonym. So while, "My frustration is Groh-ing," "This is Groh-ing tiresome," or "Groh-ing, Groh-ing, Gone!" might work, stick with close approximations like that and don't try to stretch it too far.

n "Marry me [anybody]" is out. Unless you're really attractive and scantily clad. Then pretty much anything goes.

n Font size is key. Don't make the viewer squint.

n Proofread, proofread, proofread. Carrying a "MARYLAND IS A SCHOOL FOR MORANS" sign kind of defeats the purpose and is bound to land you on the Internet for the wrong reasons.

n A manageable length is a must. Remember that viewers at home will have a limited amount of time to read your sign. "I'VE HAD IT UP TO HERE WITH THE ADMINISTRATION VIEWING FOOTBALL AS JOCULAR AND AM CONSIDERING NOT RENEWING MY SEASON TICKETS IN 2009" is not TV-friendly. Unless you're really attractive and scantily clad.

n Acronyms work best when you don't cop out and put letters in front of the bolded type. Granted, ESPN is a tough one. But if you can't pull it off, go in another direction. Right: "Everything Seems Putrid Now." Wrong: "tErps aStound me with their PutridNess."

Your move, Cavalier Nation. Let's see who Has The Skillz.

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