A Good Name

Do you remember what your favourite team’s home arena/stadium is called this week? If you live in Boston, you might not; according to the World Watch Institute – “independent research for an environmentally sustainable and socially just society” – the former Boston Garden has, since ’93, been renamed for a fee 34 times. (Mind you, some of it was for fun and maybe even charity: somewhere in there, it was briefly called the “Yankees Suck Centre”.)

If you’re under 30, you might not remember a time when the boards in an NHL rink were white, when you didn’t read an ad for doughnuts or dick-stiffeners every time there was a scuffle in the corner. And is it just me, or has NASCAR reached the point of parody? Check out the blizzard of sponsor names on every car and every set of coveralls. I laugh every time I see a picture of a driver. (Which, mercifully, isn’t often.) Anyway, thanks to the thousands of shiny new graduates every year with a higher education in Marketing — the Apocalypse is surely upon us — there are ever fewer places to bask in the absence of advertising.

World Watch just posted a few facts about stadium naming rights, which you may view here. A sample: Coca-Cola pays $6 mil annually to call Houston’s stadium Minute Maid Park; the current naming rights deals in the U.S. are estimated to be worth $4.3 billion a year. Presumably, the Big Corps have proven to themselves that this kind of outlay helps us all to spend as we are instructed to do.

The Institute ends with an ironic citation from Shakespeare, in which “a good name” refers to a person’s character and (deservedly) good reputation, and the speaker laments that such a thing cannot be bought. In our time, many smart people seem to believe that it can, though it requires a really short public memory. (Not much of a problem, it would seem.) Minute Maid Park began its life as Enron Field, for goodness’ sake. Kenneth Lay threw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day. Lay and Enron: now there are some good names for you.

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