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GMAC. Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas. Sheraton Hawaii. MPC Computers. EV1.net Houston. MasterCard Alamo. Continental Tire. Pacific Life Holiday. Gaylord Hotels Music City. Vitalis Sun. AutoZone Liberty. Chick-fil-A Peach. Outback. SBC Cotton. Toyota Gator. Capital One. Tostitos Fiesta. Nokia Sugar. FedEx Orange ...
It's college bowl season and the sports landscape looks like a mega-mall. It seems quaint now, but I recall my sainted mother, who was never much of a football fan ("A bunch of behemoths running into each other") lamenting that there was nothing on TV for her to watch around New Year's because "the Toilet Bowl and the Salad Bowl" were on every channel she turned to.
Back then (the 1960s and '70s), bowl games had plain, slightly humorous names like the Sugar Bowl. And there was a time when there really was a Salad Bowl (1948-52), a Raisin Bowl (1946-49) and an Oil Bowl (1946-47). Now the schedule reads like the body of a Nextel Cup car: nothin' but brand names plastered on every square inch.
I realize this is hardly the most dire development facing mankind, and I suspect I'm just a ranting crank, but am I the only one who finds this naming rights madness highly annoying?
If companies are trying to alert me to the presence of their goods and services by plastering their names on every event and stadium in sight, they're doing a wicked job. I swear on my mother's sweater that I'll bury my life's savings in a tin can before I avail myself of any high-falutin' financial conglomerate that affixes its name to a game.
Maybe I'm just the crabbed relic of an earlier time when the commercial presence in sports wasn't so in your face. I fondly recall the Yankees hitting "Ballantine blasts" and Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner intoning, "We'll be right back after this message from Manufacturer's Hangover." Sports venues were called Memorial Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium and Metropolitan Stadium, with a handful named after civic giants, industrial potentates or the teams that played there. Now too many events feel like merchandise roulette played in monuments to unbridled consumerism.
It's unsightly enough that so many places now bear the moniker of a faceless corporate entity, but do the names have to change every 15 minutes? Where the hell did Pac Bell Park go? I need a scorecard to keep track of them all. Let's see how well you do on this little pop quiz brought to you by Big Ralph's Pork Bellies of Germantown, N.Y. Name the pro team that calls each of the following structures home (answers below):
1. General Motors Place 2. PNC Park 3. SBC Park 4. SBC Center 5. Ameriquest Field 6. FedEx Field 7. U.S. Cellular Field 8. American Airlines Arena 9. American Airlines Center 10. Citizens Bank Park
If you can correctly name more than five, you are very likely the darling of marketing mavens everywhere.
Have a question or opinion for John? He might answer or address it in his next blog.
I guess I just like a little tradition with my sports. And while I understand that teams gotta pay the bills, and that peddling a name can bring in a lovely load of coin, this insanity shows no sign of abating. Last April, we got a little foretaste of where it's going when the Yankees were set to place Spider-Man 2 movie ads on the bases at Yankee Stadium when a public outcry made them cease and desist. But give it time. If you really want Carlos Beltran playing center field at $20 million per, you're going to have to countenance a bank logo or three on your team's batting helmet or uniforms.
It seems to me that the quintessential modern sports event is not the Olympics, with its attendant blizzard of official sponsors, but the good ol' Bud Bowl. Surely you recall this Super Bowl halftime extravaganza that featured helmeted bottles of Bud and Bud Light doing gridiron battle. Bud Bowl I was held in 1988, and who can forget nose tackle The Freezer ("The Appliance of Defiance") pulling double duty and plowing into the end zone with a handoff in Bud's electrifying 20-17 win over Bud Light? As recently as 2002, Beery Sanders was carrying the mail in Bud's 21-10 triumph over its low-cal rival. Kind of gives you chills.
I have this nightmare vision of one day finding myself watching dueling products, or athletes dressed like them. We're already well on the way. We've seen boxers with the names of casinos and online gambling services tattooed on their chests. Tiger Woods has a Nike cap nailed on his noggin. There are countless walking billboards out there.
Now, pardon me, it's time to tune in to the American Standard Bowl.
Quiz answers: 1) Vancouver Canucks; 2) Pittsburgh Pirates; 3) San Francisco Giants; 4) San Antonio Spurs; 5) Texas Rangers; 6) Washington Redskins; 7) Chicago White Sox; 8) Miami Heat; 9) Dallas Mavericks; 10) Philadelphia Phillies.