Slowly but surely, sponsorship continues to creep into every area of our lives. Chicago Stadium has been replaced by the United Center. U.S. Cellular Field wiped out Comiskey Park. Every replay, scoreboard and time out is littered with corporate logos. It seems every sports league is ready to toss class aside for a quick buck.
Now the NBA is ready to bring corporate sponsors closer to home. A 2"x2" patch will appear on the shoulder of your favorite player. And if you want to buy a jersey, you'll be wearing that, too.
Before long, jerseys will transform into the hideous nightmares we see in European soccer. "Do you root for the fighting Vodafones?" "No, my good man, I'm squarely in the corner of the scrappy 188BETS."
It's like that scene from "Blade Runner" exploded across someone's chest. What an eyesore.
It's only 2"x2", you say. That's just where it starts. Then it will be 4"x4". It will grow and grow until it squeezes the team's name down to that same 2"x2" square. Slowly, but surely, our athletes will become walking Times Squares.
Some might argue our athletes have already been poster children for corporations. After all, Michael Jordan revolutionized the shoe business. It wasn't long before every player had a shoe deal. Each would wear his signature kicks to drive sales.
But there's something sacred about a jersey. It's what goes to a Hall of Fame someday. Do we really want to see a giant Facebook logo splattered on Derrick Rose's jersey? What's more, it feels like half our sponsors today are companies that go under. Would Jordan's jersey look better with a BetaMax or Atari or Cabbage Patch Kids logo on it?
Look at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. That's a perfectly lovely name. Then it was 3Com Park - a name that has all the romance of a bouquet of lunch meats. And then it became Monster Park. And Monster.com ran out of money. Now it's Candlestick again.
Even if you get a good ol' American brand to sponsor your team, there's something gross about a logo where it shouldn't be. Should we brace for inflatable corporate logos bobbing around Lake Michigan? Should we count the days until giant neon zeppelins circle the city, assaulting our eyeballs with logos for Activia yogurt and Centrum Silver?
Of course, these teams and these leagues have every right to make an extra buck. But aren't sports teams already cash cows? Between the TV and merchandising and stadium sponsorship revenue, isn't it enough? Where do we draw the line?
It looks like it's too late, sports fans. The line is gone. And your grandchildren will never know a time when their sports heroes didn't walk around like sandwich board-wearing morons.