Culture of Life
BY Jim Fair
March 30-April 5, 2003 Issue | Posted 3/30/03 at 1:00 PM
Call me anything you like — for a price.
That's right, I'm offering naming rights on the man currently known as Jim Fair.
I should explain.
We've been having a bit of a controversy in my hometown, Chicago, over the renaming of Comiskey Park to “U.S. Cellular Field.”
For those of you who live in the rest of the world, this historic patch of green is home to the Chicago White Sox baseball team.
Anyway, the phone folks gave the Sox $68 million for the naming rights. The Sox say they will use the money to fix up the stadium, which is admittedly a good idea. But lots of local fans are annoyed by the crass commercialism of selling the name.
And I don't blame them. Public facilities once got names to honor people or achievements.
Chicago had Soldier Field. My university had Memorial Stadium. New York had the Empire State Building. There is the Johnson Space Center (named for a president, not a wax company). Schools by the dozen are named for Lincoln and Washington.
It used to be that, if you wanted your name on something large and public, you had to be a war hero, president, astronaut or poet.
Of course, to have a Catholic institution named in your honor, you pretty much have to be a saint, bishop or pope.
But it is looking more like all you need these days is a really big bag of money.
That is where the Jim Fair naming rights come in.
I know that I'm not much of a public figure, but my name — more precisely, the right to pick my name — ought to be worth something.
Let's say Acme Peddle Products pays $1 million to me and I legally change my name to Acme Peddle. Think of the free publicity they will receive.
Every time I buy a meal at the local diner or pick up a drill bit at the hardware store, I'll use my credit card and sign Acme Peddle on the dotted line.
I'll change my e-mail address to acme ped email@example.com.
When I write checks every month to the gas company, electric company, phone company and the mortgage company they'll be signed by Acme Peddle.
When you see this column in the Register, it will be authored by — that's right — Acme Peddle.
I can call in to radio talk shows and they'll have to identify me as Mr. Acme Peddle.
I could send out Christmas cards signed, The Acme Peddle Family.
I'm also willing to give Acme a discount for volume naming rights. In other words, if the rights to me are worth $1 million, I'll throw in my wife and kids for another $500,000. Then, for just $1.5 million, they will get Acme Peddle, Mrs. Peddle, Teen Peddle and Baby Peddle.
This should get my personal finances in good order. And I think the Catholic Church might want to consider something similar.
If a baseball stadium in Chi cago can get a phone company to give it $68 million, imagine what we could get for naming rights to Vatican City and St. Peter's. They must be worth at least a billion bucks each.
Come to think of it, since the Pope selects his own name, he might sell the naming rights to the highest bidder.
A company would be mentioned not only every time the Pope appears in public, but throughout history, should he achieve sainthood.
On the other hand, we might return to naming things for public servants rather than corporate profits.
Jim Fair writes from Chicago.
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