On Friday afternoon, the Detroit Lions’ Director of Football Communications posed a fun challenge to the Lions media on Twitter. Using four example photos of gameday covers from the 1950s, Eamonn Reynolds wanted to know more about the artist behind the mischievous cartoon Lion depicted:
Which Detroit media member do I need to bribe to dig up a research story on the creative genius responsible for these 1950s Lions game program covers? pic.twitter.com/hdcpFnhDSe— Eamonn Reynolds (@Eamonn_Reynolds) February 18, 2022
The easiest way to identify who drew the covers is by looking for signatures on the work. In the Lions-Rams program cover from 1957, you can see a name near the butt of the rifle. The artist in question is animator Ted Petok, who was a Detroit native famous for winning the 1971 Academy Award for Animated Short Subject. “The Crunch Bird,” according to Phil Hall at Cinema Crazed, is the shortest animated feature to ever win the award, clocking in at just two minutes. The film is so short, you can watch it on YouTube right now and come back to us:
One Redditor had a pretty good description of the short - it’s “basically just a dad joke in animated form.” As someone who grew up on Rankin-Bass specials and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, I appreciated the humor. It is very much in line with the type of Jay Ward gags you might see in Aesop & Son or Fractured Fairy Tales. According to Steve Stanchfield, an Ann Arbor animator and assistant professor at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Petok was a really nice guy (see item 3 in this story from the Free Press). Stanchfield wrote a fine piece about Petok’s work at the Cartoon Research site.
According to an obituary credited to Joe Rossiter from the Detroit Free Press in 2010, Petok actively produced artwork and animation for many different outlets in Detroit in the middle decades of the 20th century (emphasis added):
After the war, he opened a studio in downtown Detroit doing commercial artwork. With the emergence of TV, the market for animated advertising took off. Mr. Petok’s clients included Faygo soft drinks, Speedway gasoline and General Motors.
“He was a creative guy who enjoyed entertaining people,” his son said.” But mostly he was just thrilled that someone would actually pay him for something he loved to do. Here’s a guy with no college, six months of art school and he was making a decent living, providing for his family and enjoying what he was doing.”
After his Oscar success, Mr. Petok formed a distribution company and went on to make dozens of animated shorts, including 1974’s “The Mad Baker.” It starred a mad scientist and his creation, a monstrous chocolate cake.
Mr. Petok’s animation also appeared on “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company,” and he did artwork for the Detroit Lions and the Detroit Pistons, his son said.
In addition, he also appeared to have done “Tom Swifty” play-on-words gag cartoons for the Detroit Free Press in the early 1960s. The best way to find more examples of Petok’s fine work for the Detroit Lions is on eBay: just search for Detroit Lions' vintage NFL programs. Most are really funny sight gags of the Lions character dominating a caricature of the opponent’s mascot, but there are some other things like the awesome Christmas cover for the 1960 game against the Bears in mid-December.
What a great find by Eamonn, who is also using his super powers for awesome:
We might have to look into some throwback content.— Ashley Strauss (@AshleyStrauss) February 18, 2022
More vintage stuff from the current Lions media team? Yes, please! Now, on to the rest of today’s Notes:
- Okay, this is pretty solid.
- Mark Gaughan at The Buffalo News looked at how many games were missed by starters due to injury by each NFL team. His tally has the Lions at the most games missed by starters out of the entire league at 134. That tracks with the general sense that the Lions sustained a lot of injuries in 2021.
- Very interesting data on the 2021 season. The Lions weren’t the only ones going for it on fourth down a lot:
Competition Committee meetings are this week and here's a fun plot (NYT inspired?) that we are sharing: per-game seasonal rankings— Michael Lopez (@StatsbyLopez) February 17, 2022
2021 ranked 1st in: Big Rush Plays (10+ yards), Fewest Lost Fumbles, and Fourth Down Attempts
(cc @DataWithBliss) pic.twitter.com/rXvoXHPxSi
- From The Athletic’s Nick Baumgartner and Chris Burke, there’s information on a different professional football draft coming up, in which the team from Michigan holds the first overall pick. Note that players drafted by USFL teams will come from a pool of players already signed to play for the league (just not which team specifically they will play for):
definitely interesting but just gonna make an early guess here and say the New Orleans Breakers will be running the damn ball https://t.co/LyOOCGNs5H— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 18, 2022
- Tim Twentyman at the official team site posted a Combine preview for quarterbacks that Lions fans should be aware of.
- Pro Football Focus’ Kevin Cole posted some interesting charts on Twitter trying to figure out whether sacks taken were more the fault of the quarterback or the protection. The Lions turn out to be pretty neutral, with neither Jared Goff nor the offensive line causing more sacks above what would be expected using PFF’s offensive line survival curves (essentially, a relationship showing how the protection is more likely to break down the longer the play drags on).
Quick note that the standard deviation for QB sack rate is 2.3x that of pass blocking sack rate. Which aligns with the idea that sacks are more of a QB stat than pass blocking stat— Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) February 17, 2022