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2.03.2006

Whatever Park 

Giants executive Larry Baer (who always makes me sing, "he was a scary baer, he was a larry baer") unpacked some adjectives this morning to let me, Esteemed Season Ticket Holder, in on some news before it even broke: SBC Park is now officially AT&T Park.

Thanks for the heads-up, Larry. Membership has its privileges.

Other than the bland corporate officiousness that permeates the e-mail letter "from the desk of Larry Baer," which is basically the cut-n-pasted press release ("Warm Regards," my ass, Larry) I can't get too upset about this. The Giants are, like every other major-league team, just another bland officious corporation. Why hold them to a higher standard? I don't expect ballplayers to be exemplary human beings off the field. It's nice if they can be, but it's not part of their job description. Same with teams -- I hope they can show an organizational sense of humor and tasteful aesthetic, but their job is to put winning teams on the field. The Giants have built a lovely ballpark and a run of good, sometimes great baseball, it cannot be denied. Anything else is very welcome gravy.

It's too bad the Giants couldn't convince AT&T to accept "Mays Field at AT&T Park," as a grassroots campaign has been advocating. It got the support of some local media types, but to no avail.

What's funny is that with the park on its third name in five-plus years, its official name from here on out becomes ever-more irrelevant. Quick, what's the official name of the park formerly known as Candlestick? You probably know it, but you probably had to pause for a second. These corporate names have as much credibility as the boy who cried wolf and as much glamor as, well, Larry Baer.

In those terms, the new name isn't so much a foot-stomping travesty as it is a pathetic little transfer ceremony from one minor colonial functionary to another. Think of it as the vice-governor of the Falkland Islands finishing his two-year tour of duty and handing the keys to the glorified quonset hut to his successor. Just another guy in an ill-fitting gray suit.

Still, $50 million is a lot of dough. That's what Pacific Bell -- remember them? -- paid for naming rights back in the old days. And a contract's a contract; the corporate follow-ons of Pac Bell get to do what they wish. I'm sure the Giants would prefer Mays Field -- hell, they'd probably prefer Atlee Hammaker Yard -- over this latest yawnfest of a name. It can't be good for anything but the cold hard cash of sponsorship to pay off the debt service. We know it, they know it, Larry Scary Hairy Baer probably knows but would never admit it, and when the AT&T marketing minions high-five each other under the glow of the new marquee lights above the ballpark entrance, most people will be snickering behind their backs.

Maybe one day good taste, humor and honor will win out over crass nomenclature and clumsy corporatism. Until then...

¡Viva El Campo de Willie Mays, compañeros!

***

Small print update:

On the verge of selling it back to Amoeba for a buck-fifty, I decided to give Rage Against the Machine's Battle of Los Angeles its first spin since the month it was released. What once sounded like the dying embers of a well-meaning band's brief tenure now sounds a little more interesting. A few songs in particular ("New Millennium Homes," "Maria," "Ashes in the Fall") have the same tightly-coiled-spring feel that I loved about the debut Rage album back in, good God, could it have been 1993? I still can't listen to it all the way through, and I still can't quite get over how Zack De La Rocha often sounds like Adam Sandler at an anarchist book fair. But it's a good reminder that rap-metal hasn't been a total waste of ear-space.

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