Sign Fail Watch, Part I


Literacy flows as freely as the booze in the stands at Fenway. (Credit:

I haven’t brought a sign to a sporting event since a preseason Giants-Jets football game in 1996. But they remain a popular form of communication, particularly at WWE events and on ESPN’s College Gameday. I often find myself scanning the literature, not only for clever puns, but for errors. Perhaps it’s because I was a journalism major in college, or perhaps it’s because I like to point out the mistakes of others, but boneheaded errors on signs stick with me for a long time.

Here are two notable examples:

  • After Johnny Damon signed with the New York Yankees before the 2006 season, his first return to Fenway Park was highly anticipated. Many wondered what response Red Sox Nation (TM) would don on Damon. On one hand, he left the Red Sox for their hated rivals. On the other hand, he helped the Sox win the 2004 World Series (or so I hear), and he left largely in part because the Boston brass did not come close to his salary demands. The actual reception Damon received is insignificant, however. This is because the cameras briefly shined upon a sign that read “TRADER.” Perhaps this was a pun regarding Damon crossing enemy lines to join the Bronx Bombers, coupled with the manner in which he arrived there? No. It was illiteracy. Damon signed as a free agent and was being described as a traitor. I have never forgotten this error. But fear not, terrible sign maker/speller, for you are not alone. A person once asked on Yahoo! Answers whether Damon or professional wrestler Kurt Angle was a “trader,” and several presumably different people responded while maintaining the spelling error!
  • The second example occurred a few weeks ago when College Gameday visited the University of Connecticut for its basketball game against Big East leader Syracuse. As if UConn’s reputation hasn’t been besmirched enough by its team’s NCAA infractions (which will prevent it from participating in next year’s NCAA Tournament), one student irreparably damaged perhaps the entire state of Connecticut. Shown front and center on cameras, his sign read “FAB MELO FAILED SPANISH.” Fab Melo, Syracuse’s standout center, missed a handful of games earlier this season due to academic issues, including the Orange’s lone regular season loss at Notre Dame. Melo is also Brazilian. This sign might have been a clever dig at Melo, had he been from just about any other South American country (since failing a foreign language course based in your native tongue is surely embarrassing). Instead, the sign is wholly inaccurate and palm-to-forehead stupefying. Portuguese is the native language of Brazil. Thus, the student is demonstrating a clear lack of basic geography for one of the world’s most populous nations. Surely others have made a similar mistake, but few have done so while representing their university on national television.

If you discover any other SIGN FAILS, please email Yi! News


Author: R. Byrnes

Ryan is the founder and editor-in-chief of Yi! News.

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