by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Last week, the bosses of baseball said they were thinking about selling ad space on the players’ sleeves. This sent baseball lovers into a twitching, neurotic frenzy.

“Not the uniforms!” they protested. “Those uniforms are sacred!”

Personally, I don’t understand how the uniform is sacred when the player is paid by a corporation, the stadium is named after a bank and the scoreboard keeps flashing commercials.

Besides, why should a baseball player’s arm be different? Every other inch of the country is sponsored by somebody.

Take a typical American day.

You wake up in the morning to a clock radio. It is playing commercials.

You pull on your clothing, all of which has logos, from your underwear (Fruit of the Loom) to your pants (Dockers) to your top (Banana Republic) to your shoes (Florsheim).

Now comes breakfast. Look. The cereal box doesn’t just boast its name; it features ads on the back for Disney. Your orange juice glass has a picture of Luke Skywalker. When you throw your paper products away, you stuff them in a bag you saved from Bloomingdales. You know this, because the bag says
“Bloomingdales” on the side.

You get in your car — which, on the license plate, advertises the name of the dealer. Perhaps you are driving a Ford Explorer, in which case you might have the Eddie Bauer edition.

You reach for your radio — which boasts the Delco on the front — and you turn on your favorite station.

Which is in the middle of a commercial break.

Ads in our schools

Finally, your program comes on. You hear the traffic, which is sponsored by a coffee company, and the weather, sponsored by a mortgage company. You hear a chance to win concert tickets — courtesy of company something-or-another, which is the best something-or-another in the whole something-or-another business.

Hey, look, it’s your office.

Right under that big billboard.

Once at your desk, you turn on your computer — which boasts its brand name — and you log on to the Internet. The first thing you see is a giant Microsoft logo. Then comes your startup page, which is full of ads that keep flipping: one, two, three, four.

Oops. Time to make a phone call. When you dial, the recording says, “Thank you for using AT&T.”

Not that you asked.

And while you’re on hold, the phone plays a music radio station. And you get to hear …more commercials!

You pick up your children at school. You notice that bulletin boards in their classroom are sponsored by fast food companies. Their football team wears the Nike swoosh. Your teenage son, wearing a MTV cap, a T-shirt that says Reebok and jeans that say Guess, asks if you and Mom are going to see that old rock group, the Rolling Stones.

“The Rolling Stones are coming?” you ask.

“Yeah,” your son says, “their whole tour is sponsored by Budweiser.”

Ads in our ballparks

Distressed by the commercialization of your life, you decide to go away. You take your family in your Chevy truck — “like a rock,” as Bob Seger endorses
— and drive to the airport. Every gate boasts an airline logo. And in between gates are TV sets locked on CNN.

These TV sets go all day and night. One of the things they blast is a commercial about how wonderfully CNN is covering Kosovo. You wonder if a war can be sponsored.

On the plane, they show a movie — after an infomercial on golf equipment. In the movie, you notice the actors keep chugging a certain soft drink.

“The companies pay for that,” your teenage daughter says.

“They do?” you say.

“Duhhh,” she says, putting her Sony headphones into her ears.

When you land, you get a rental car, which has a bonus points tie-in with Hyatt Hotels and Delta Airlines, and you decide you’ll get away from it all by taking your family to a baseball game.

You enter the stadium, which is named after a car company. You cheer the anthem singer — who is sponsored by a radio station. You grab a scorecard, which is surrounded by ads for everything from a brake job to a pizza.

And in the middle of all this, your teenage son, now wearing a WWF cap, a Batman T-shirt and Quicksilver shorts, says, “Hey, I heard baseball players have ads on their sleeves.”

And being the concerned fan that you are, you lean forward, furrow your brow and say, “Really? I can’t see a thing from up here.”

That’s because the box seats go to advertising executives to entertain clients.

Now. About this sacred thing …


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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