Saturday, March 01, 2008

Chew On This

One of the more amusing dichotomies in modern American sports fandom is our ability, nay, our predilection to get highly indignant on the behalf of billionaires. Witness the dumptruck full of money that Miami just dumped in Jeffrey Loria's lap; witness the idiotic vitriol Johann Santana took for sensibly wanting to maximize his earnings potential in a short career and thus being mean to poor old Carl Pohlad. We constantly lambaste the guy who won't give "the hometown discount" or take less money under the mistaken impression that by doing so, the athlete is A)rejecting us and B)somehow preventing the team from winning, even though the extra cash he's holding out for is otherwise going straight into the gazillionaire owner's pockets.

And now, we have the latest source of outrage: Sam Zell, the guy who bought the Tribune, and with it, the Cubs, and with them, Wrigley Field, has made hearts go a-flutter by announcing that he may sell naming rights to the stadium. No more Wrigley Field! No advertising for a gum company!

Of course, it's bigger than that. "Wrigley Field" means something a lot more than gum at this point, and anyone who was dumb enough to buy those rights would probably get a consumer backlash like nobody's business. This isn't like when they renamed Comiskey Park "US Cellular Field", in large part because A)nobody cared about the Comiskey name and B)Charles Comiskey was a legendary jackass. Nobody's going to want to be the guy who took down the Wrigley sign, not now that it's such an intrinsic part of baseball lore and culture. That being said, the only entity really tweaked by a name change is, of course, Wrigley, and they'll do just fine without my outrage.

And if someone wanted to be really smart, they'd buy the naming rights and then announce they were keeping it "Wrigley Field". Now that's a PR win for the ages.
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