ARLINGTON, TX—The Dallas Cowboys reached a naming rights agreement with AT&T to rename their home venue to “AT&T Stadium.” It’s reported to be a deal worth $17 million and $19 million annually with the city of Arlington netting 5%.
It should be no secret how I feel about the crotchety redneck on the radio in the late afternoon, the one with his all-star cast of inadvertently comical doomsayers, that rivals the Legion of Doom in The Superfriends. But one thing that Turkey Neck, an affectionate nickname for this Diogenes legend, does on his radio show every Monday during the season, is have an “Overreaction Monday.” Whether the Cowboys do good or bad, Turkey Neck recognizes the fans are going to overreact and proceeds accordingly. I have to give the devil his due, it’s brilliant. He understands it’s the spirit of Cowboys fans to overreact.
That’s precisely what’s happening with this new naming rights deal. Just take a glance here, here, here, and there. Overreaction. These are probably the grandsons of the same people who panicked when they first heard Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast. If an Eagles fan is born booing, then a Cowboys fan is born overreacting.
Let’s talk facts, shall we?
First of all, the Dallas Cowboys are now in the majority of teams in, not only the NFL, but in America’s top three pro sports, that have a corporation sponsoring their venue. Seventy-five percent of NFL, MLB, and NBA venues have a corporate sponsor.
Put that on Twitter.
Remember Forbes’ most valuable NFL franchises list from last week? Well, remember this: none of the teams in the top 5 now play in venues without corporate sponsorship. In fact, only three teams in the top 15 — the Bears, 49ers, and Packers — play in venues without a corporate sponsor. However, you’ll be able to put the 49ers (who did whore Candlestick Park’s name to three corporate johns from 1995-2008) as one of the teams bowing down to Mammon when they play in the “Field of Jeans” in 2014.
You can blame Jerry Jones if you want to, (personally, I blame Nixon, the CIA, and fluoridated water), but the reality is even the owners of the majority of “serious football” franchises — you know, since the Dallas Cowboys are just a money-grubbing circus and not a football team — have sold their stadiums’ names. It pretty much comes down to the Falcons, Bears, and Packers as being the only “serious football” franchises that still play in stadiums without corporate names.
Not that I think it has to do with anything, but going back to 2000, only one of the Super Bowl winners do not play in a corporate-sponsored venue: the Green Bay Packers.
Today, the NFL partners with corporate America. In my opinion, it’s always been the NFL. You’re probably too big of a schmuck to realize, and the mediots are either insidious or negligent in their job to tell you, but the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ logo is one big product placement for the steel industry. In the early-1960s, Republic Steel approached the Rooneys about putting the Steelmark insignia on their helmets, in a product placement stunt. The ’62 design didn’t say “Steelers” either; it was the exact Steelmark insignia just plastered on one side of their helmets. In ’63, Republic Steel allowed the Steelers to put “Steelers” in the Steelmark logo. Here’s the real punchline: Republic Steel was based in Cleveland.
In the late ’60s, when Clint Murchison, the Cowboys’ founder, was thinking about in his new Texas Stadium — what today’s mediots would have irreverently called “Clint World” — he specifically wanted to build luxury suites for corporate sponsors. In 1971, in its inaugural season, Texas Stadium was the first venue in the NFL to have luxury suites. By the way, players like Mel Renfro and Duane Thomas hated it there initially, because of how civilized it was compared to the old Cotton Bowl crowd.
Now, you can continue to believe in your grid iron conspiracy theories that Jerry Jones did it, such to the point that Jerry Jones’ mistakes are anti-time and move backwards through the timeline to corrupt the past as we misremember it, or you can realize it is what it is. The NFL is an industry. Like every other industry, it will look for ways to maximize income for the businesses in its industry. Maybe someday, when our litigious society destroys the NFL over player safety, there won’t be any corporate sponsored stadiums or luxury suites, in non-profit football leagues that you won’t be able to see on TV.
Cowboys fans will look for anything to kvetch about. Don’t get me wrong, there are reasonable things to kvetch about. Quite honestly, the fact we’ve got three of our top guards, which is like being the most ladylike of the Kardashian sisters, hurt is a reason to belly-ache. The fact that we’ve got hamstring injuries across the roster is another reason to grouse, because it indicates strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik is failing the team, and probably pulling a Dave Campo and resting on his laurels. Those are more legitimate things to whine about, than the naming rights of our stadium in an age of corporate partnership.