Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Corporate sponsorships and the end of days

"Dad, I need some black socks to go with these shoes."
"Okay, we'll get you some at Target," I replied.
"Do they have mid-calf, black Nike socks at Target?"
"No. Why do you need Nike socks? Can't you just get some black athletic socks?"
"No way. They have to be, midcalf, with the logo showing."

I suppose I didn't mind spending $100 for her shoes; each member of her high school basketball team decided to purchase Nike "Hyperizes." Kind of expensive, but, whatever. I understand the need for kids to accessorize themselves into anonymity.

What drove my attitude off a cliff faster than both Thelma and Louise, however, was my prolonged pursuit of those damned socks. It only consumed one lunch hour and three stores, but during that time, I obsessed over the true saturation of corporate America in our culture, especially visa vie sports.

It hasn't always been like this. Corporate sponsorships used to be confined to maybe some signage along the outfield wall of a baseball field, or the Goodyear Blimp circling high above the Superbowl. Player uniforms sported only the team logo, and only if those bikini-sized basketball shorts allowed for it. The stadiums were namesakes of either the teams who occupied them, such as Yankee, Tiger and Dodger stadiums, or a late, great, local icons, like Fenway Park, Jacobs Field or Shea Stadium.

Suddenly, as if directly ripping off the Book of Revelation, the branding beast swooped (or swooshed) in, marking everything in its destructive path. A fan sitting in the nosebleed section could easily spot the "Amway" logo across the chests of the San Jose Earthquakes of the Major Soccer League (Hopefully, fans aren't required to attend "meetings" after the games.). There's the "Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year", the "FedEx Orange Bowl", and the "Chevrolet Player of the Game." And, after the Astro franchise in Houston experienced a slight, multi-million-dollar public relations snafu, "Enron Field" reincarnated as "Minute Maid Park."

It's only going to get worse. Soon we'll see sluggers belt out "Home Depot Runs," or "Wendy's Triples." NFL playoff games in January will become "DQ Blizzards." I can already hear the play-by-play announcers:
"That linebacker knocked the snot out of that tight end, but not as effectively as Musinex does."
"Kobe threw that one down like a delicious Dunkin' Donut."
"Don't miss our half-time show. In fact, if you were wearing Depends right now, you'd catch every minute of it."

I realize I'm barking at the moon here, but let's just hope things don't deteriorate further. None of us need to hear that the massive skyscraper in Dubai has secured a corporate benefactor, and is now the "Viagra Tower."

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