If you've been watching the World Baseball Classic, they've been hard to miss. Ads for corporations are located on players' sleeves and helmets and they're hawking everything from cellular phone service to a big-box electronics retailer. They're relatively small, but still noticeable and every time I see one, the same question pops into my head.
Should we be taking offense?
Advertising on WBC uniforms is nothing new. Four teams wore them in the 2006 and national teams from other countries routinely wear the endorsements on their threads. At least six countries (though not the United States) are pitching a product in the '09 edition and it's often been said that future advertising on MLB uniforms is not a matter of if, but when.
I have no problem with the advertising on the WBC uniforms as it currently looks. For some reason, the little patches give the tournament a little international flavor, like I'm watching an English Premier League soccer game. As strange as it sounds, their presence adds to the thought I'm watching a game on a global scale. I suppose the participating corporations would be glad to hear I'm making those associations.
At the same time, if MLB thinks the WBC can be a greasing of the skids and that they'll be able to do away with their current law forbidding jerseys and caps sold to the highest bidder without a big public outcry, well, then I'm going to raise my voice.
To channel the great Walter Sobchak, "we're talking about drawing a line in the sand here, across this line you DO NOT ..." If the MLB wants to knock itself out with uniform advertising during the WBC and overseas trips like the Red Sox-A's voyage in '08, fine.
But once the advertising world starts whispering about "enhanced revenue streams" into MLB's ear while attempting to conquer some of the world's most valuable virgin real estate? Once they tread on one of the only areas of the sport that have been kept pristine and clean?
Well, that's where I end my limited condoning of this whole issue. Over my dead body will the Cubs uniforms ever look like the clownish jerseys worn by the soccer team in this town.