Sunday, October 24, 2010

What's in a Name?

It was Romeo who said, "What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by another name would smell just a sweet."  And while Shakespeare was certainly right about that, I think there's a little more to it.  A lot more, actually.


Growing up as a child I didn't realize that Wrigley's gum was named after the man whose company shared his name – how could I?  a.)  I was seven.  b.) I favored the less corporate-promoting variety, Juicy Fruit, and c.)  I was interested in the gum more for the wrappers – remember those super cool L-link chains you could make? 


So, it should be safe to assume that if I didn't realize the gum was named after the magnate, you can bet I didn't know Wrigley Field was named after the same guy.  Wrigley Field.  It just doesn't sound like an ego stroke.  It sounds like a ballpark.  Wrigley Field.


I feel the same way about Shea Stadium, which I just recently found out was actually named William A. Shea Municipal Stadium after – you guessed it – William A. Shea who is, as they say, the man responsible for bringing National League baseball back to New York.  With an accomplishment like that, it makes sense to dedicate a baseball stadium to him; but, again, it doesn't feel like an ego stroke when it's a bestowed honor; plus, it sounds like a ballpark.  Shea Stadium.


I touched on this topic in my book, The Ones That Got Away – A Dating Memoir, when I mentioned going to see a concert at The Spectrum.  The Spectrum.  Now that sounds like a stadium – especially if you say it with a deep reverberative tone:  The Spectrum.  It's not called that anymore.  I don't even know what it's called – or what it was called the last time I was there.  It was named after some bank, and with all the recent folds, mergers and acquisitions who knows what it might be called now.


I'm sure it's me, but I just don't care for those corporate named stadiums: Staples Center, Bank One Ballpark which, of course, has already been changed to Chase Field (which does sound a little better, but still) or University of Phoenix Stadium (that has a catchy ring to it, huh?) which has nothing to do with Phoenix, Arizona (and is actually located in Glendale).


I like a name that's rooted in history or tied to a specific area or team – think Candlestick Park, Fenway or The Astrodome.  Now those are stadium names.  So, what's in name?  Ego, that's what.


It's my understanding we have Anheuser-Busch to thank for the first corporate branded stadium.  See, that's what happens.  After the first one does it, everyone follows.  He did what?  I want to do that!  He has what?  I have to have that!  What worked for them?  Oh, let's do that!  I call it the "Me, too" syndrome. 


This doesn't just apply to ballparks, either.  Think back to old TV commercials.  Remember how, back in the day, struggling wanna-be actors used to portray normal everyday folks in an effort to hawk shampoos, beauty products and hair dyes, not to mention things like cereal and sneakers.  Now you'd be hard-pressed to see an ad for these types of products without an accomplished actor, model or athlete peddling these wares.  Why?  Because someone did it first and everyone else followed suit; and thanks to that person we'll probably never have another Mr. Wipple or Dunkin' Donuts guy.  These two no-names became icons – but those days are over.  It's all about the recognizable name now.


And the latest trend?  I read recently that Sheryl Crow – a breast cancer survivor – donated a large sum of money to an establishment which is now named The Sheryl Crow Imaging Center.  While I think it's great she made such a large donation, I can't help but wonder what this means for the future.  How many will now follow in these footsteps? It'd be different if the imaging center was named in memoriam – think Susan G. Komen – but it wasn't, and to me, there's something very ego-y about that.  She probably had nothing to do with it; it's likely the facility just wanted to publicly express their gratitude – hospital wings and the like are commonly named after their benefactors.  I just think it would have been a greater gesture had the donation been made anonymously.


But anonymity, my friends, has no name… and therein lies the rub!


~ M.