About a month ago I went to the Tooele High School auditorium to watch a production of The Crucible.
I found it to be a brilliant performance with a compelling plot. But the part that I enjoyed most was at the end.
John Proctor, played by Shane Ahlstrom, was given the opportunity to falsely confess to seeing spirits of the devil in his home – if he didn’t make the confession – he would be hanged to death. He decided to decline the offer by saying that it would disgrace his name, the name he could never change.
If only Major League Baseball had been around at the time, he wouldn’t have had to worry about that.
Early this January, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno announced that the franchise’s name will be changed to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Moreno said that he made this decision because he feels that the name change will help with revenue if their name is more correspondent with a major city much as Los Angeles. In other words, it’s a way to change their name in able to make a quick buck.
It seems today that franchises will go to all lengths to increase their income. Whether it’s disemboweling championship rosters (1997 Florida Marlins), or changing their own franchise name, it’s another excuse to make some more money.
This isn’t the first time a franchise has sold its own name. You may recall the summer of 2003 when Chicago Bears announced that they would be then on known as “The Chicago Bears, Presented by Bank One.”
The franchise did not want to change their coveted name of Soldier Field to the Bank One Corp., so they sold their name instead. It works the same even in college. Ever since bowl games were all given sponsors that must be included in their names. I believe that the NCAA sold themselves to the devil when you can’t call it the Rose Bowl without adding, “represented by CITI.”
And now, it’s gone from events to full fletched organizations. It was one thing when players would tattoo company name son their backs to give them airtime, but now athletes have to walk around with a giant trademark circle on their jerseys. It could be the death of Super Bowl commercials as we know it. I mean, why go to a commercial when you can see it in the play by play?
The Angels organization itself has been perplexed with their name in the last decade. In the last 10 years, this franchise has gone from the long-known California Angels, to the more community friendly Anaheim Angels, and now, to the strongly corporate and more difficultly pronounced Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Moreno says that the name change will get the franchise’s name more in the fold, and they will have more success as a team.
Tell that to the Carolina Panthers (2004 NFC Champions), or the Sacramento Kings. Or better yet, the Anaheim Angels. It was only a few years ago that they were the World Series Champions, and the AL Western Division Champions of last year. If the movie Remember the Titans has taught me anything, it’s that it’s not the players that make the team, but the team itself.
Owners, don’t tell me that you’re doing this for the good of your team’s success. You want to live a George Steinbrenner type life of being able to own and sell as you please. But of course that’s how the business is these days – prizes to the highest bidder.
So what’s next? Players themselves?
I wouldn’t be surprised to go to the Delta Center on a Spring evening to hear the starting five and the intercom saying, “At forward, presented by Jiffy Lube, Andre Kirilenko!”
But what would you expect from a business thoughtless enough to not even cherish their own name.
The words “And now, a word from our sponsor…” will never be the same.
Steve Schwartzman is the Buffalog Sports Editor.