By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Remember when Comiskey Park became U.S. Cellular Field and everyone lost their minds over the creeping spectre of some Aldous Huxley/David Foster Wallace mashup dystopia of corporate stadium names finally reaching our backyard? And then we just called it “The Cell” and everything was fine besides most of the baseball played there? And how South Side meatheads like Robin Ventura and me still conversationally referred to it as Comiskey or Sox Park anyway?
I get the feeling the same will happen with this latest wave of outrage over Guaranteed Rate Field, which U.S. Cellular Field will officially become Nov. 1, a date safely picked to make sure it the shift doesn’t occur during any White Sox postseason games. Gradually our ears will just become numb to hearing media metallically call it “Guaranteed Rate Field” as they did hearing “U.S. Cellular.” This will occur while so many of us largely ignore the reality that these terrible stadium names provide money that goes toward the on-field product, which is what matters most. (If my favorite team had to win a championship in “Viagra Stadium presented by Papa John’s,” so be it.)
Still, we the filthy proletariat won’t be calling the home of the White Sox by its corporate name. (Flash forward to the year 2026.)
“Hello, fellow human, where are you spending your three hours not working as a cog in materialistic machine?”
“To the Guaranteed Rate Field, my acquaintance Citizen 6502, to take in the game of balled base. The first 20,000 attendees receive vouchers for unleaded water sponsored by Trump Energy Syrup.”
Almost immediately on social media the hashtag #BetterSoxStadiumNames sprang up in retaliation. And besides the sleeper cell of morons who think renaming it “Comiskey Park” would bring fans back (or that Jerry Reinsdorf even owns the stadium, which he doesn’t), sarcastic alternatives were aplenty by many immature people.
What really annoys me is the Sox went for the money when they could have taken the noble, caring route with Harambe Field.
Write Sox (@WriteSox) August 24, 2016
What really annoys me is the Sox went for the money when they could have taken the noble, caring route with Harambe Field.—
But the new name ain’t changing, painfully tinny as it is. So what of a nickname then? Any proposals by those signing or cashing the freshly printed checks?
“We talked about it,” Guaranteed Rate president/CEO/future Lethal Weapon TV show villain Victor Ciardelli said Wednesday via conference call. “We feel the fans should decide and the fans should make the decision.”
“Ultimately, those things grow organically and the fans will ultimately determine that,” Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer said.
Now a fan base collectively doesn’t want its favorite team playing in a joke, hence the immediate outrage at the new name, which sounds awful and is thus a reflection on rooting interests. But much of the ire right now over the name, combined with the nausea that comes after getting hit in the gonads that White Sox fans have endured for months this vomitous season, can be harnessed into something important: humor.
The best way to fight something as linguistically brutal as Guaranteed Rate Field is to do what we who don’t have the power have done with language throughout history — turn it on those who have the power. Mock the hell out of the name. Thankfully this has already begun.
“On the conference call, the Chicago Tribune‘s Paul Sullivan asked what Boyer, Sanchez and Ciardelli thought the nickname would be and Boyer volleyed the question back and asked Sullivan what his favorite suggestion, via Twitter or elsewhere, was so far.
“‘Uh, the G-Spot sounds good to me,’ Sullivan said.”
This is very good. It has the key nickname ingredients of conciseness, double entendre and definitely pissing off the conservative suits.
“I haven’t spent a lot of time on Twitter,” Boyer said/lied. “I’ve seen a couple of the really good ones we’ve noticed and I’ve got a chuckle out of them. It’s interesting because obviously U.S. Cellular Field got shortened to the Cell. Is it G-Rate Field? Or The Rate?”
Neither. The charm of using “The Cell” was that it was synonymous with prison and took a White Sox fan stereotype and embraced it. A new nickname requires the same self-deprecation.
Maybe it needs to go beyond the new wording itself. In true 2016 White Sox veterinary hospital fire fashion, the new partnership with Guaranteed Rate is as much visual as textual.
The mortgage company’s logo includes a massive red arrow pointing downward (full disclosure: I’m a customer of theirs and get that red arrow in the mail monthly even though I thought I signed up for paperless billing). I’m a stupid English major, but for a team like the White Sox that normally does one thing consistently very well — marketing — this seems counter to Visual Presentation 101.
“For our branding partnership,” Boyer said. “We hope that over the next 13 years that we’re partners in this ballpark that that arrow becomes something that symbolizes greatness in your mortgage experience and hopefully we’ll have the ERAs that follows that arrow and we’ll have the winning percentage that goes the other way.”
Noble effort, Brooks, but there was no good way to spin that. Boyer also said a new logo is in the works that won’t include that arrow, so then neither will the nickname that sticks.
What about the ballpark and team themselves applies to the new corporate branding?
Wait a second.
That’s it. I’ve got it. His face is going to be plastered all over the park inevitably, so how about “THE TY”?
Or, wait wait wait — in keeping with the insensitive jail theme and making the transition from “The Cell” smoother, how about “THE PEN”?
Yep. There it is. Let’s go see a game at The Pen. (And tell everyone it was Baffoe’s idea.)
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.