I had a moment of heartbreak the other day. Some friends of mine attended a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Montreal Expos (go team!) at Candlestick Park. They made a video of the event, converted it to QuickTime and sent it to me on a CD-ROM. Oh, the technology! No futzing with NTSC or PAL, no wondering whether fragile media will make the trip OK. I was well pleased.
Until they arrived at Candlestick Park. You see, it isn't Candlestick Park anymore. It's now called 3Com Park, because a certain company (I won't say which) paid a great deal of money to have the place renamed.
Now, I have nothing at all against this particular company. I have much fun with the Palm III that bears the company's name, although I wonder whether it was such a great investment for them.
My problem here is with the disappearance of Candlestick Park. For those of you who don't know, The Beatles played their last performance before a paying audience at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, on 22 August 1966. Take a close look at the badges on my right lapel in the photo on this page, and you'll see: that matters to me.
Aside from that particular engraving on the stone tablets of history, I'm sure Candlestick Park has seen its fair share of sporting highlights - triumphs, tragedies, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, yada yada yada. There must be sporting enthusiasts for whom Candlestick Park represents the highest and lowest moments in their lives. Somehow, 3Com Park doesn't have that ring of history to it.
Perhaps in future, amazing things will happen at 3Com Park that will carve it on the stone tablets. Maybe not. Who can know? Always in motion is the future. I'm sure that's what 3Com is hoping for.
And fair enough, but why erase the history that came before? A future generation of Franciscans (residents of the city, not monks) might read about the spectacular final performance of the greatest band in the history of anything, and wonder where it happened. "Where's Candlestick Park, dad?" they might ask. "Don't know," will come the reply, "3Com Park's the only stadium around here."
I should have protested when great and historical sporting events started being swallowed up by the sponsors. The Ford Australian Open, The Fosters Melbourne Cup, the Bronte Gourmet Lamb Tongues Goanna Races - these events had dignity before corporate dollars subsumed them. And look what happens when the sponsors change: who feels the same way about the Optus Cup that they felt about the Winfield Cup (those things will kill you)? What about the James Hardie 1000, now sponsored by a brewery, of all things? Think about it - drinking and driving - what a pairing.
Now, my protest is so much bellyaching and futile complaint.
Had, say, Bay Networks paid to have a new auditorium for live performances and sporting events constructed in the San Francisco area, there wouldn't be a problem. Not because it's a different company, mind you - no favouritism here. Of course, if you pay to build something and it contributes to the cultural life of an area, you have a right to have your name attached to it. It's different if you buy something that already has a history, and wipe away those decades with a cheque.
I have forgotten my umbrella
What's next? People feel pretty fond of sporting superstars, and getting Michael Jordan or Mark Taylor to wear your shoes or use your tennis rackets is a proven wise investment. Why not sponsor historical sporting heroes? You attach your name to something that has already been sanctified by time, and vastly reduce your risk of being caught up in drugs or cheating scandals.
Who'll be the first? Will we have Intel Don Bradman, Compaq Phar Lap? IBM Richard Hadlee? Sure, in some cases there may be a problem with the estates of certain people who cling to the antiquated notion of respecting their departed loved ones, but they'll come around. It can only be a matter of time.
Or will the current crop of young sports stars, who seem happy to take money for just about anything these days, volunteer their own identities for the almighty dollar? As with building a new auditorium, getting in on the ground floor of a potentially great sporting career could be a great way to buy a place in history without erasing what went before. Step right up, 3Com Warnie.