King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Rename Wrigley Field? The horror! Ah, go ahead. Plus: Bob Knight, longtime admirer of TV analysts, becomes one.

Topics: Baseball, Celebrity, Paul Shirley, ESPN,

New Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell caused a little storm this week by saying he wouldn’t hesitate to sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field, part of his plan to sell off the team and stadium separately.

The rival Sun Times, of course, pounced upon the opportunity to stand up for the beleaguered fan in the face of corporate greed, and its readership pretty much followed the script. But USA Today reported a somewhat mixed reaction, quoting bleedcubbieblue.com founder Al Yellon saying, “Everybody I know will still call it Wrigley Field.”

It is a little hard to get too exercised over the corporate renaming of Wrigley Field, technically named after team and stadium owner William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate, though it wasn’t lost on the old man, a marketing titan, that the Wrigley name on the park wouldn’t hurt gum sales.

We can all ball up our fists and wonder aloud if there’s anything at all in the sporting world that’s not for sale. Or we can sort of live with it. The naming rights era has been going on for a while now. There’s even been time for a slump and recovery in the naming rights economy. As I noted happily last month as I celebrated the dawn of a new year in front of the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi®, the world has gone on.

It’s an overly commercialized place, that’s true, but there are bigger and more important battles to be waged in that war than whether some company’s name is going to get stuck in front of “Wrigley Field” for everyone to ignore, as Web proprietor Yellon notes. What do you call the Rose Bowl?

There are two stadiums and an arena where I live, the homes of the Oakland A’s, San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors, that I frankly do not know the name of anymore without looking them up, or at least sitting still for a few seconds and really wracking my brains about it. Monster Park? I have yet to hear a single person say those words without saying them into a microphone.

Within recent memory, haters of crass commercialism have beaten back advertising on the bases and, while the ramparts may be weakening, have more or less held firm against ads on uniforms in the major North American sports, sportswear logos and season-opening baseball series in Japan aside.



Let ‘em call Wrigley Field whatever they want and cash their checks. The rest of us can call it whatever we want. I’m through getting upset about ballpark names.

I mean until they try to rename the Staples® Center. Tradition has to mean something somewhere.

Bob Knight, always a fan of analysts, becomes one [PERMALINK]

Twenty-three days ago, in the letters thread of a column headlined “Good riddance, Bob Knight,” a reader using the name steplow asked, “Which network is going to be first to get him on their studio team or as a color man?”

Here was my reply:

My money’s on ESPN.

And wouldn’t that be the ultimate act of hypocrisy for Knight. First he spends 50 years dismissing the media — and not only because he found individual reporters lacking in intelligence but because he found the entire enterprise, the whole profession, to be beneath his dignity.

You’ll recall the quote about the profession being “about two steps above prostitution.” And then when he’s out of work, guess what he does. He hasn’t done it yet. I’ll wait to bury him for it until he actually does it. But let’s just say I don’t think I’ll be waiting long.

Twenty-three days.

“I think ESPN has been real good for college basketball and I look forward to working with some of their people who I have known a long time,” Knight said in a press release announcing he would join ESPN as a studio analyst for “championship week” and the NCAA Tournament.

This concludes today’s edition of Celebrity Hypocrisy About the Media. Join us again soon, real soon, when another one of them will invite you to ignore what he said yesterday, because yesterday doesn’t pay.

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Dusty Baker ponders mysteries of universe [PERMALINK]

In a blog item on the Dayton Daily News site, Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy interrupts new Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker’s musing over whether Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper will hit 1-2 or 2-1 at the top of the lineup to report, “Baker said he sometimes sits in his office staring into space, pondering and pontificating over things of this nature, ‘And sometime I just sit here and nothing comes.’”

That’s funny. That’s exactly what this column was doing just before typing up this item.

Also during.

By the way, the answer to the question “Should Ryan Freel and Norris Hopper bat 1-2 or 2-1 at the top of the Reds lineup?” is:

No.

Previous column: Statement game in Boston for the Cavaliers

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  • King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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