Sunday, September 18, 2011

Name It, You Can Have It

[My father's] opinion, in this matter, was, That there was a strange kind of magick bias, which good or bad names, as he called them, irresistibly impressed upon our characters and conduct. . . . How many Caesars and Pompeys, he would say, by mere inspiration of the names, have been rendered worthy of them? And how many. . .who might have done exceeding well in the world, had not their characters and spirits been totally depressed and Nicodemus’d into nothing?

   - Laurence Sterne, "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent." (Bk.I, ch. XIX)

The sports section in yesterday's New York Times features a reflection on Ted Williams's 70-year-old record .406 batting average, a neat tribute to Williams's prowess as "baseball’s greatest hitter." 

The Swing

What caught my attention, however, was this: "His batting average stood at .39955 with a season-finale doubleheader to be played the next day [Sept. 28, 1941] at Shibe Park, home of Connie Mack’s Athletics." That particular sentence stood out because, driving home through Denver a day or so earlier, I passed by Sports Authority Field, formerly Invesco Field, the home stadium of the Denver Broncos. (Sports Authority, since there's no way for most people to know this bit of trivia, is a Denver-based chain of sporting goods stores which purchased the naming rights to the stadium last month in a 25-year deal at $6 million per annum. Obviously, Invesco needed the dough in these troubled economic times.)

Where is this?

Anyway, reading this sentence, the name "Shibe Park" came back through the mists of a half-century, a nerdy kid glued to the radio listening to Yankees or Dodgers or Giants baseball games. Everyone in those palmier days knew where Ebbetts Field or the Polo Grounds were, and which teams played where. Comiskey Park and Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Forbes Field, Briggs Stadium - the names of the venues went with the names of the teams. Some were obvious - the Indians played in Cleveland Stadium. 

But who on earth plays at Progressive Field? Or MetLife Stadium? The Packers still play at Lambeau Field in Green Bay - but who plays at M&T Bank Stadium? The 49ers play in Candlestick Park. Who plays in Qualcomm Stadium? Even a casual fan can probably tell you who plays at Soldier Field ("da Bears") or Coors Field. But Safeco Field? PETCO Park?

 Soldier Field (with classical neo-fascist facade) 

Admittedly, corporate sponsorship is nothing new. . .

"It's your coliseum, Boss . . . "

But - and not wishing to belabor the point - on the time-honored premise that sport is a metaphor for life, I've come up with a few of my own ideas for naming opportunities. I suspect these have already occurred to someone, but try them on and roll them around on your tongue.

 . . . the Frito Lay/Toys-R-Us 112th Legislative Session of the State of Texas

. . . the Nabisco/Hellman's Real Mayonnaise Presidential Bodyguards

. . . the Budget Rent-a-Car/QuickLube Presidential Motorcade

The high-stakes sponsorships, of course, are already taken.

The Koch Industries/Time-Warner-Disney Supreme Court of the U.S.

 The Cargill/ADM Senate of the United States

The Goldman Sachs Chair of the Federal Reserve

No, I'm not even going to think about it. Could never happen . . . .

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