Our tour through the brilliantly awful pro sports posters of the ’80s and ’90s takes us to the NFL.
The primary purveyors of surreal sports posters in the ’80s and ’90s were the Costacos Bros. I don’t know their back story, so let’s say they were two Portuguese immigrants who really enjoyed costumes, puns, and hearing pro athletes say, “I guess I’ll do that, but damn, I need to fire my agent.”
The Costacos Bros. produced tons of sports posters during their glory years — where their odd taste intersected with the popular aesthetic — not only featuring superstars, but also benchwarmers, journeymen and unsung hog molly types. Here are 11 of the best NFL posters they ever produced.
1 | Kansas City Chiefs: The Tribe
Yeah, it’s hard to imagine they’d sell a poster like this today. Or manufacture this poster. Or even suggest this poster in a brainstorming session where “there are no wrong answers.”
2 | John Rienstra: The Raging Rhino
When you’re an offensive lineman and someone says, “Hey, we want to make a poster of you,” you say, “Absolutely” — even if that means you have to put on humiliating rhinoceros-style shoulder pads and leg warmers. Creative control is for the pretty boys in the glory positions.
3 | Christian Okoye: Nigerian Nightmare
Somehow, I’m betting this poster haunts Christian Okoye’s dreams more than his running ability ever haunted anyone defensive player’s dreams.
4 | Dan Marino: Armed & Dangerous
It’s a fine line between Dan Marino: Armed & Dangerous and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous — and the high-waisted Zubaz pants and bright blue Corvette are completely blurring that line for me.
5 | Dan Majkowski: Magik Man
Yes, his best magic trick was disappearing after Brett Favre got to town… but clearly his second-best magic trick is this ball levitation move. How is it floating in the air like that!?! HOW?!?
6 | Jim Everett and O-Line: General Blade and the 11th Commando Battalion
I don’t like to play the “well that looks like the cover of 1,500 different gay pornos” card that often, but in a case this blatant, it would almost be condescending NOT to mention it.
7 | Curt Warner: The Blade Runner
Curt Warner has that look on his face that says, “This costume is horrible, but things could be worse. At least there’s not some guy with the same name as me who’s bagging groceries right now but will one day go on to become an NFL legend.”
8 | Jim McMahon and Walter Payton: Chicago Vice
I had to include this because these are two pretty famous athletes willing to fully commit to the bit. Plus it’s nice looking at a poster from the era where no one thought it would cause an image problem for the players to be holding guns.
9 | Brian Bosworth: The Land of Boz
I know why they wanted to make the Wizard of Oz pun here, but I think they’re a little confused. Boz’s character beats up the Tin Man, de-limbs the Scarecrow, crushes the Witch, seduces Dorothy and has a munchkin take his blended last name. Is he supposed to be the Wizard? The Cowardly Lion gone rogue? How does a shirt that says “Monster D.B.” play into this? I think I just gave this poster more thought than the people who designed it.
10 | Chicago Bears linebackers: Bermuda Triangle
Mike Singletary deserved better than this — unflattering Bermuda shorts, ugly tank top, sacked quarterback with corny googly eyes. I mean — Otis Wilson and Wilber Marshall deserved better than this. Everyone in Chicago Bears history deserved better than this. Cade McNown deserved better than this.
11 | Mark Lee: General Lee
I think you’d have to say a poster featuring a black NFL player dressed up as a confederate Civil War general is THE most offensive poster they ever made. Can you imagine if this happened today? People on Twitter would set a record for the amount of time they were outraged before they moved on to be outraged by something else — 16 minutes!