The most foreboding image of the football season is devastating in its simplicity. A single helmet, either raised by an unidentified hand or placed artistically on the ground to show the logo clearly, now elicits a Pavlovian response from media consumers. It's always been bad news when a single helmet shows up. We've only recently begun to give voice to this. To accept it as true and time-tested.
At this point, the single helmet is essentially the first public symptom of either one or multiple positive COVID tests. Or something else dark.
You get the picture. The single helmet can also denote NCAA infractions. Or NFL scandals. Anything less-than-ideal.
Whatever the situation, it's serious. And it's not new.
It's probably plainly obvious why such a phenomenon exists. Art choices are limited due to licensing. Pictures denoting COVID scares or scandal or controversy tend to be best and most responsibly illustrated and accompanied without the help of specific players. Even putting a picture of the Wisconsin offensive line in a story about the outbreak isn't ideal because one doesn't want to even hint that they have personally tested positive. It's not really fair to show a picture of a single college football player to highlight the news of a cancellation either. Not all his fault!
Ergo, the single helmet is oftentimes the only choice.
It's not just Twitter. This is how news organizations have covered issues from Baylor's to WFT's to everything in-between. But once you notice the connection, you'll never look at your timeline or preferred website the same way. The Single Helmet is a thing your brain recognizes now. You can't go back.
Through the years, an empty field or flag has been the cousin of the single helmet. Football season fuels a predictably uptick. It'll be interesting to see what the college basketball version of the single helmet is — perhaps the midcourt logo.
This all raises the question of who noticed the trend first? Which genius accelerated this knowledge across the zeitgeist? A deep dive into Twitter keywords leaves us in a somewhat complicated place. No "single helmet" result was germane before about a month ago, though it's possible the sentiment was expressed with different wording previously.
Oddly enough the first relevant mention this year is from September 30 and directed to Trill Withers, a former Barstool Sports personality. He is a very funny guy and I certainly hope the credit is being properly given here. However, if you know more about this issue, please reach out to me.
Less murky than the origins of the single helmet is its record. It's undefeated! So rare these days. It never, ever takes an L. If Single Helmet rolls into town, well, it essentially means the best-case scenario for your team is a postponement, because a forfeit is very much in play.