i still laugh when i think of "And now...Bank One proudly presents...Chicago Football!!!" lmao
NFL heading down the wrong path BEARS' DEAL SMELLS OF RAMPANT GREED By Mike Bruton KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
PHILADELPHIA - What the Chicago Bears did by signing Bank One as their "presenting partner" pushes the NFL a step closer to being guilty of putting the proverbial golden goose's neck on the chopping block.
While the league is enjoying unparalleled popularity, it and its member teams don't seem capable of resisting the urge to exploit it financially to the fullest.
It's hard enough to explain sucking up taxpayers' money for new stadiums while franchise owners take in the profits and schools and other public entities suffer.
Securing naming rights for tens of millions of dollars is more of a victimless endeavor, but it smacks of greed on both the teams' and corporations' parts.
Then there are the Bears. Public resistance prevented them from getting $100 million or so for naming rights for renovated Soldier Field because the stadium is a war memorial. So they signed a deal with Bank One to use the company's name on signs throughout the stadium, on radio broadcasts, and on non-game television programs. On those broadcasts, announcers will be talking about "Bears football presented by Bank One" instead of just "da Bears."
Fans may be wild and crazy -- just check their makeup and how they dress when they attend games -- but they aren't stupid.
The NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL, to varying degrees, are experiencing either shrinking fan bases or sluggish growth. For the recent NBA Finals, the television ratings were down more than one-third from last year, the worst they had been in more than 20 years.
If deals like this Bank One thing start to break out like a rash, could the NFL be far behind the other major sports leagues?
Richard Lapchick, the director of the sports business management program at the University of Central Florida, sees what the Bears are doing as a continuation of a dangerously unchecked capitalistic surge in sports. He sees an atmosphere similar to that which preceded scandals at such companies as Enron, WorldCom and Tyco.
Here we are, with increasing unemployment and an uncertain Wall Street, and just last week, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates even though they were already the lowest they had been in 50 years. Those are not indicators of confidence.
"There's an uncertainty out there that, in some ways, mirrors the world of sports," Lapchick said. "The average sports fan not that many years ago, in the early '90s, could have counted on his favorite player being on the team the next year, could have counted on the coach staying with the team the next eight or 10 years, could have counted on the team being in the same stadium rather than leaving town over stadium issues."
At a time when corporate executives are doing perp walks and corporate diva Martha Stewart is facing a judge, fans can see that professional sports franchises are behaving in a similar fashion by snatching up money because they can, even when it doesn't pass the smell test.
Add to that such things as Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman facing assault charges, Arizona Cardinals fullback Dennis McKinley being accused of being part of an international drug-smuggling ring, and the college football coaches who have recently made headlines for moral and ethical lapses and things start to reach a critical mass.
In other leagues, this atmosphere has resulted "in a diminished fan base attending games and a diminished fan base watching games," Lapchick said. "Really, the NFL is the only league where that has not happened yet."
The operative word there is "yet."
The Bears' deal with Bank One is unprecedented in the NFL, but if the recent past is an indicator, it will be copied by several other teams. The slope will become more and more slippery.
"I think sports is out of hand," said Joe Nathan, senior fellow and director for the Center of School Change at the University of Minnesota. "It's past extreme and past ridiculous and bordering on absurd. Some of the central values of the country and the central value of sports are being lost in the push for the buck."
Nathan, a longtime education activist and critic of the NCAA, said that he thinks sports in general have enormous value, that they entertain, build camaraderie and character, and are a positive outlet for youth.
As a former college athlete, I can attest to the worthiness of sports, but like Nathan, I believe that something in the games are lost or tarnished when corporate concerns gain too much influence.
"I've spent a lot of time in Cincinnati," Nathan said, "and one of the ironies of Cincinnati is that they have beautiful new stadiums right next to the river at a time when the school buildings in the city are crumbling. The priorities (nationwide) are so far out of whack that we don't even know where 'whack' is anymore."
Teams will point to $100 million contracts, such as those of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, and tell fans that they need extra revenue streams in order to pay for them. They will say that in order to win, they must have new stadiums, and then they will ask fans to purchase personal seat licenses for thousands of dollars just to have the right to buy tickets.
"Any time sports franchises have the opportunity to increase their bottom line, they seize that opportunity," Lapchick said. "It's very typical for owners to blame the players for economic woes, but in the economy of sports, what happens when a team changes hands?"
Even if the team is just barely breaking even financially when the owner sells it, he or she reaps a windfall.
"Owners singing the blues in professional sports," Lapchick said, "have to be looked at with some skepticism."
Instead of always looking at the bottom line, the NFL would be well-advised to monitor the health of the proverbial goose.