|Students at Harvard Business School recently asked Ted Turner about the possibility that AOL Time-Warner would sell the naming rights to Turner Field. Turner said he didn't mind. "Hell, I think they should put a banner on my headstone. 'Here lies Ted Turner, sponsored by Coca-Cola.' "
Don't rule it out. Everything is for sale in sports, from single innings (the Snapper Mow' Em Down Inning) to whole games (the Nokia Sugar Bowl) to entire seasons ("Padres 2001 presented by Sycuan").
And, of course, stadiums. Especially stadiums.
Quick, which of the following is not the real name of a stadium? Pringles Park, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Dunn Tire Park, Houlihan's Stadium or Candlestick Park?
The answer, of course, is the former home of Willie Mays and Joe Montana, which sold its name several years ago to a computer company.
Scripps Howard recently ran a list of more than 100 stadiums that had sold their names to companies for prices ranging from $200,000 to $300 million. They are named for everything: software firms, electric companies, banks, airlines, auto manufacturers, oil companies, investment firms, medical providers, overnight deliverers, breweries, restaurants -- even potato chips and mountain spring water.
If there isn't a stadium named for some product, either you don't need it or Ron Popeil sells it (usually both).
While my expertise in economics is pretty much limited to knowing that Boardwalk and Park Place are worth more than Baltic and Vermont Avenues, I don't quite understand the financial sense of all this. Frankly, when an electric company pays millions for the naming rights to a stadium, I take that as an indication their rates are too damn high, not that it's a great company.
|Nothing's stopping us from calling the Pirates' new park Clemente Field or Stargell Diamond.|
Still, if a team or community can con some company with a huge advertising budget into buying a stadium's name, I don't mind. I even support the idea if it lowers the taxpayer's share of the stadium construction costs.
Just don't expect me to call the stadium by the new name.
That's what bothers me, the expectation that we're all supposed to go along with this as if those naming rights paychecks were made out to us. The companies aren't paying us to call a stadium by their clumsy corporate names, so why should we indulge them by doing so?
There was a time when people at least questioned this sort of thing, when sports editors would at least attempt to avoid giving a corporation free advertising within the newspaper's pages. No longer. We wear so many corporate logos that we resemble stock cars, so we don't even hesitate to accept another corporate presence in our lives. If a bank pays the Pirates to put its name on a new stadium, then by God, that's how we'll refer to it, too.
We shouldn't. Just because a major corporation asks us to call something by a certain name doesn't mean we have to obey. If an old stadium sells its name to a corporation that pays its CEO 400 times more than its average worker, we don't have to give that company additional free publicity.
If we want to call the Cincinnati ballpark Riverfront Stadium, we can. If we want to call the '49ers stadium Candlestick Park, we should.
And if it's a new stadium that has only had a corporate name, simply think up something different to call it. Nothing prevents us from calling Pittsburgh's new stadium Three Rivers Park or Clemente Field or Stargell Diamond or whatever we want.
Remember: We are no more required to cave in on a corporate name than we were a couple years ago with Prince and his unpronouncable symbol.
Jim Caple*, a senior writer at ESPN.com, is brought to you through an exclusive sponsorship with Dobler Varitek, a multinational corporation dedicated to the buying, selling and processing of products that need to be bought, sold or processed. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
|If we want to call the Cincinnati ballpark Riverfront Stadium, we can.||