Have you ever wondered about the legs in the Bleacher Nation banner? Did you assume they were mine?
Well, I have wondered for a couple years, and, no, the legs aren’t mine.
But we’ll get to that.
Our little site has actually gone through a number of banners over the years, with the most recent version being in service for the last two. Before that, there were some truly, truly awful Photoshop mangles.
The first iteration looked like some kind of military solicitation:
If possible, the second iteration was worse. Much worse:
Straight from the Bleachers! Well golly!
The third iteration, which lasted the longest before the current banner, was a vast improvement, but its upbeat tone belied the frustration associated with loving the Cubs. We’re hopeful, but not necessarily this cheerful:
Then, a couple years ago, a reader sent me a picture he’d seen elsewhere online, which he thought was beautiful. I agreed:
The picture spoke to me. A solitary Cubs fan sits in the bleachers, crushed among the refuse. While it didn’t necessarily embody the hopeful spirit in all Cubs fans, it certainly did capture the moment – a zeitgeist of failure. I knew it had to be the banner.
So, I snipped out a small portion, did some (much better) Photoshopping, and voila – the BN banner, as it exists today, was born.
I had always wondered about that solitary fan – who was he? what was going through his head at the time? would he mind his legs becoming a part of the site? – but, after a couple months of the banner, those questions have a way of slipping from your mind. I suppose I assumed I’d never know the answers. After all, the banner is such a small portion of the larger picture, what are the odds that the man to whom those legs belonged would even recognize the banner?
And then Jim Muench emailed me. The legs, he said, were his.
I was blown away. Jim had seen the banner, recognized the photo from which it was transformed, and shot me an email. Small world? Yes. Small ego boost? You bet.
The diehard Cubs fan was apparently licking his wounds in the bleachers after the 2007 playoff loss at Wrigley Field to the Diamonbacks, which completed an embarrassing sweep, when a photographer snapped the photo. The original of the photo actually made its way into ESPN the Magazine, and has netted Jim a fair bit of positive attention (here’s hoping this gives him a little more). It turns out that the photo, of which there are a number of photoshopped versions – some including another fan, some excluding Jim, some a combination of the two – was the subject of an advertising campaign, and a couple of Sun-Times articles, one of which featured Jim’s story.
I imagine the reader who sent me the photo – a message that has long since wilted in the dust that is “infinite” Google storage – probably found it via one of those vehicles. It’s a pretty crazy series of events that led to Jim’s legs gracing our home, and I’m pretty glad it did. And I’m even more glad that Jim reached out to share the story.
Jim says he was pretty crushed about that loss (and the sweep that came the next year at the hands of the Dodgers), but remains a hopeful Cubs fan to this day. If that’s not the dichotomy living in the hearts of all Cubs fans, I don’t know what is. And, now knowing the story behind those legs, I’d say it makes for a pretty great symbol for this place.
Thanks, Jim. Go Cubs.