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 user 2004-04-01 at 10:18:00 am Views: 148
  • #6839
    Baseball sinks to all-time low
    Mar. 31, 2004 12:00 AM
    Life as we know it has changed.

    IF you were up in the middle of the night to watch Major League Baseball’s bogus Opening Day game between the Yankees and the Devil Rays in Tokyo, you know what we’re talking about.


    Yep, there were the Yankees, desecrating the pinstripes with some red-lettered advertising for a copier company on their uniforms and batting helmets.

    “Chico’s Bail Bonds?” Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina joked to an Associated Press reporter when he saw the patches, a reference to the team sponsor in the kids flick The Bad News Bears.

    It’s supposed to be a one-time deal, a concession between the players union and baseball just for this series. The Devil Rays wore the tacky logos, too.

    The Mets wore am/pm mini mart patches when they played the Cubs in Tokyo four years ago.

    We think this is a lousy precedent, opening a door to a cluttered new world. We’re getting used to having this stuff shoved upon us.

    It’s not just signage anymore. “Virtual” ads mysteriously appear in the background during broadcasts. Product logos or promos for some television show pop up like those maddening computer ads while we try to watch our games. Seems like every scorer’s table has one of those rotating billboards that changes every 15 seconds.

    So far, MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA uniforms have remained an ad-free zone.

    “When I saw a picture of A-Rod, the first thing that came to mind was, ‘When did he change his name to Ricoh?’ ” said David M. Carter, a sports marketing consultant with the Sports Business Group.

    “The uniform seems to be the last bastion of sports marketing. It’s taboo in this country, but on a global basis you need look no further than European soccer to appreciate how these companies realize attaching their name to a franchise like the Yankees or to an individual like A-Rod has tremendous marketing appeal.

    “When you look at how saturated sports are by commercialization, how much longer can this blank canvas last?”

    Carter predicts that teams and leagues will eventually try to convince us that such clutter offers a revenue stream that will keep ticket prices down.

    “I don’t think they can make a compelling argument, because there is no real connection,” he said. “But that’s how they’ll try to position it.”

    Auto racing is already getting away with it, of course.

    We don’t know about everybody else, but we don’t want our baseball, football, hockey and basketball players covered head to toe with logos for laundry detergent, beer, wireless providers and male dysfunction medications.

    Unfortunately, we can see the day coming when baseball players will adopt NASCAR’s “hat dance.”

    You know how that works. The driver enters the winner’s circle, and as the microphones are thrust in his face, some goober stands next to him with a stack of hats 3-feet tall. As the driver describes the thrill of winning the Phentermine 500 and gushes over how well the TriQuint High Efficiency Semiconductor Chevrolet performed on those Goodyear tires, the goober exchanges the driver’s headwear with the speed and dexterity of a Vegas blackjack dealer shuffling his deck.

    The next step: Sammy Sosa changing caps between hacks. Brett Favre with a virtual ad appearing on the towel tucked into his waistband. Allen Iverson covered with ink.

    Oh, yeah – we’ve seen that already. And we’ve seen enough of Ricoh.