Saturday, January 12, 2008

In Defense of Progressive Field

Recently, the powers-that-be in Cleveland's corner of the baseball world announced a new deal that would change the name of Jacob's Field to Progressive Field. As is the case with any sort of announcement, the name change was greeted with much criticism and gnashing of teeth.

I'm usually just as happy to get down with the anti-corporate sports crowd, but this particular instance doesn't bother me. In fact, I rather like the name Progressive Field, and here is why you should too.

Progressive Field seems to have a nice blend of futurism and antiquity to it, it both reminds me we live in the relative dawn of the 21st Century but also harkens back to an earlier era of baseball, say about 100 years or so ago.

As a word, progressive is one of the better choices in the English language. Whether it makes you think of modernity, early 20th century muckraking and trust-busting, or more contemporary connotations of human rights, social justice, and environmental security, only the most stubborn right-wing lunatic would have an intellectual objection to the new name.

The new stadium name is simple and graceful, unlike the ridiculous corporate monikers (e.g., Minute Maid Park in Houston or, ahem, Quicken Loans Arena here in Cleveland), yet still pays tribute to the company that paid for it, Progressive Auto Insurance.

I'm no shill for the insurance lobby - that much is for damn sure - but Progressive is a recent Cleveland business success story, and I don't need to tell anyone whose visited or lived in NEO the last quarter-century how rare that is.

Would it be better if we could have something like Cleveland Browns Stadium or Yankee Stadium in New York, a building name that purely and specifically paid homage to the entertainment housed within? Sure. But the realities of the professional sports macro-economy being what they are, not only are corporate stadium names the overwhelming norm, the deals that come from them can help fund the small difference between making the playoffs or not, or even between winning the series in 6 or losing in 7. The 3.6ish million a year that Progressive is plunking down for the next 16 years goes into the Indians coffers. For that price, the Indians can add another utility infielder or journeyman backup outfielder with decent off-the-bench hitting, maybe one more under-rated member for the bullpen, or 1/3 of a season for a non-blue chip starting pitcher free agent acquisition.

Ok, so making this deal isn't going to make the Indians, but my broader point in all this is that we could do a whole lot worse for a new stadium name than Progressive Field. Now all we gotta worry about is the non-creative sportswriters and super-fans out there settling of some stupid nickname for the stadium, some decidedly not clever variant of The Pro or the Prog. Let's take a cue from other MLB cities, where fans say they are about to head over to Wrigley or Fenway or Shea or Busch. Forget the shortened nickname, and instead, let's embrace progress.

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