End of innocence   

Updated: February 16, 2007, 3:31 PM ET

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It's a sad day in sports. Tragic, almost. The Chicago Cubs have announced plans to place Under Armour ads on the outfield doors at Wrigley Field, thereby despoiling the hallowed ground and sacred ivy of so many midsummer baseball dreams.

Weep with us.

Weep for the loss of innocence. Weep for the slow, steady march of crass commercialism across the once-pure sports landscape. Weep for Ted DiBiase's now-realized lament: every man has his price.

Weep for what's to come.

Imagine a world where filthy corporate advertising lucre forces fans to watch sports for free on major broadcast networks, instead of viewing honest, unsullied, commerical-free events on pay-per-view.

Imagine a world where universities fund their athletic programs by selling tainted stadium naming rights and befouled in-arena billboards, instead of simply -- and righteously -- asking state taxpayers for more money.

Imagine a world where grubby, mercantile companies shamelessly sponsor every aspect of sports -- from team uniforms to halftime giveaways -- instead of keeping the dough, watching their stock go up a quarter of a point and giving their executives even fluffier golden parachutes.

Imagine a world where athletes and teams actually serve as marketing vehicles for larger entities, like colleges, municipalities, sneaker companies and even Chico's Bail Bonds. The horror. The horror.

Such a world is fictional, of course. But someday, perhaps, it will come to pass -- and those of us still alive, those of us who remember the way things were, will look back with anger and regret upon the grasping Cubs and the fallen world they made. So weep with us.

And make sure to use a Kleenex-brand tissue. They already sponsor figure skating.


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