The grand old names—the ones we gave to places before somebody invented “naming rights” for sports venues—can still stir the American spirit with their roughhewn poetry: Camden Yards, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Candlestick Park, Three Rivers Stadium, the Coliseum.
The new names do not grow organically from the communities that built them as gleaming repositories of tribalism and shrines to local character. Now they bear the logos of soulless companies, and regardless of what Mitt Romney said about corporations being people, too, there’s an emotional connection missing between the fans and the physical vessel that houses their team.
To make matters worse, when the contract period runs out, the locals may have to acclimate themselves to an entirely new name for their stadium. Appropriately, this happens a lot down here in South Florida, where few of us are born, live our entire lives, and die. It’s hard to develop a bond to a place whose label keeps changing.
Corporate names for stadiums are just another small invasion, an incremental coarsening of our quality of life when we’re already bombarded by advertising and promotion at every turn. You can’t even find peace and quiet in a doctor’s waiting room anymore to contemplate your mortality—some flat screen is running an endless, cheery loop promoting pharmaceuticals.
Considering this new reality, it’s not inappropriate that Florida Atlantic University jumped at the first outfit to wave six million bucks in its face: a private prison corporation that has been in the news of late for the way it treats some of its “clients.” Maybe we should simply be glad it wasn’t a call-girl operation, or Hugo Chavez, or Hezbollah that managed to cough up the fee.
In today’s world where roots, history and decorum no longer carry any value, there’s only one standard: Did the check clear?Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times