The announcement by Major League Baseball that they’ve essentially sold the sponsorship of the bases and other parts of the field for a weekend to the movie studio promoting “Spider-Man 2” should outrage anyone who’s ever set foot in a ballpark.
Ballparks already have tons of advertising (they’ve even sold the names!), and you can’t get a moment of silence between innings because some sponsor promotion is being blasted off the scoreboard screen. In what may have been one of the earliest product placements, even “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” has a mention of Cracker Jacks!
But until now, the playing field itself hasn’t been touched, probably because no one dangled a big enough check in front of Bud Selig, for whom the national pastime is chasing the almighty dollar.
This is yet another example of the owners’ greed, and another step closer to seeing uniforms covered with sponsor logos, a la Nascar (as some jockeys were allowed to do for last weekend’s Kentucky Derby).
This is the beginning of a slippery slope. Once Spider-Man has taken over the on-deck circles and the bases, it won’t be long before the naming rights for each base are sold to individual sponsors. Soon a batter can hit a long ball and get all the way to third base, renamed Viagra Base, where a stand-up triple really means something! The outfield grass could be cut into the logo of Toro lawnmowers, the foul line chalk replaced by Gold Bond Medicated Powder, and the pitcher’s rubber brought to you by Trojan. Go ahead, put Pepsi on the ump’s chest protector, have the foul ball girls wear Hooters outfits. Print Nike in the first- and third-base coaches’ boxes. Anything for a buck, right?
MLB tried to soften the impact of its announcement by playing up a little public service. It seems they’re planning to adorn the bases for two other upcoming events. On Mother’s Day, they’ll have pink ribbons, to promote breast cancer awareness (Patrick Hayes e-mails that if it’s breast related, “shouldn’t that only be on second base?”) and on Father’s Day, they’ll have blue ribbons, to promote prostate cancer awareness.
I had no idea those ribbons were for those causes, or which ribbon goes with any cause at this point, except for the yellow ribbons ’round the old oak tree for hostages, of course. I guess that’s why they can’t use yellow for the prostate thing, even though it’s a more appropriate color than blue. When I think “blue ribbon,” I don’t think “prostate cancer.” I think “Pabst.”
By the way, if you click that link to Pabst, as with most other beer companies, you’re taken to an “age verification screen.” That’s because the brewers don’t want to be accused of doing anything online that might attract underage drinkers. But once you’re there, all you have to do is type in a date, any date, not even your own birth date, to proceed to the rest of their site. Surely, no 17-year-old could get past that! Just as, certainly, no one would have known about the Spider-Man sequel if baseball hadn’t whored itself out.
Don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against advertising. It pays my radio salary, and it supports this website. But you get those services for free, in return for being exposed to the ads.
To the contrary, in the new MLB model, you’ll pay to go to the stadium to see a baseball game, but have to sit through a commercial for a movie. Then you’ll pay to see the movie, and have to sit through commercials for other products. Then you’ll buy those products, and see cross-promotions for other products, including the DVD version of that movie, which will contain even more commercials!
Hey kids, see how you’re helping the economy grow? Now, remember to pay Mr. Bonds $50 for his autograph, which he’ll give you on the back of a poster for “The Hulk,” brought to you by Balco, the company whose steroids can pump you up, too!