The Chicago White Sox are already having a bad season. They came out of the spring looking like they could contend for the American League Central crown, but have gone on to have a sub-.500 season and are all but out of the wild card race as we start heading into September. For all the love the team's counterparts to the north tend to always get (that's the Cubs in case you don't know your Chicago geography), this year seems like an especially crappy one for the Sox. The summer looks out of reach, the Cubs are the best team in baseball and now there's the news that the team's stadium will be renamed from the already terrible U.S. Cellular Field to the even worse, Guaranteed Rate Field.
The 13-year deal was announced yesterday, and basically everybody, from Sox fans to the city's football team, took an opportunity to poke fun at the new name.
BREAKING: Still Soldier Field. pic.twitter.com/vGWA3PLNc3— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) August 24, 2016
Of course, over the past 30 years, the White Sox do have more championships than the Bears and Cubs combined, but that's another story completely, and naming stadiums after the businesses that own them is nothing new. Wrigley Field, for instance, is named after William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum king who owned the team. It's both a stamp that this place belonged to a very wealthy man, but also an advertisement. That's why United Airlines owns the rights to name the United Center, the Red Wings will start playing the in Little Caesars Arena this year, and let's not forgive the especially embarrassing KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. There are some horrendously bad names for arenas out there, some, aesthetically speaking, might be worse than the new name for the spot where the White Sox will play next year. The name is not only clunky, it just sounds terrible. Nobody wants to say, "Let's go catch a day game and drink some beers at Guaranteed Rate Field."
But a name is just a name. If the team is good, then it should be an afterthought. Yet there is reason to pause for a moment and ponder the fact that the company that took over the naming rights for a 115-year-old franchise's stadium was recently ordered to pay $25 million dollars for what the Chicago Tribune called, "an alleged corporate espionage scheme that seems straight out of the play Glengarry Glen Ross, with an employee diverting hundreds of loan applications from a rival mortgage company."
While there's no word whether or not Alec Baldwin saying "Always Be Closing" from the film version of David Mamet's play will come on over the speakers whenever the home team clinches a victory, the fact remains that a baseball team with a long, sometimes not-so-proud history (see: Black Sox scandal, Disco Demolition Night) now has to call Guaranteed Rate Field home for the next 13 years. Hell, even Quicken Loans Arena or Smoothie King Center rolls off the tongue a little easier.
But there is one other option, as Barry Petchesky at Deadspin points out: "So call it the Cell if you like. Call it Comiskey. Hell, call it White Sox Park. You’ll know what you mean. Your friends will know. Your cab driver will know. Google Maps already knows. This goes for everyone out there: Call your stadium or arena whatever the hell you want."
Sports are supposed to be for the fans. In an ideal world, the corporations that name the teams would maybe put it to some public vote of some sort and just plaster their hideous logos all over everything like they already do as a compromise. But that's not how things work. So if you don't like the name, we support your protest by not using it.