by Matthew Ross
THE TOP REASON NORTH AMERICAN SPORTS ARE BETTER
The British Invasion in the 1960’s by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and other rock bands, saw the average North American lap it up and admire these celebrities from over the pond. Fast forward to 2007, when star soccer player (that’s right, I call it soccer, not football) David Beckham, and his high maintenance wife (heck, Beckham himself looks like he requires daily moisturizers and other oils and creams to keep him happy) moved to L.A. to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.
The move was thought to be so monumental that the MLS actually helped to pay for the contract. In the end, the move was deemed a success because of the attendance figures that derived as a result. But here we are in 2013, enjoying sports life without Beckham, and I don’t think anyone misses him all that much.
As someone who respects the game of soccer immensely, but simply doesn’t enjoy it as a spectator, I am relieved to know that native North American pro sports still dominate our recreational landscape.
But, my relief is also tied to another aspect of European sports – the practice of physically spamming pro team jerseys with an ugly amount of advertising.
Whether it’s an insurance company, a betting website, a bank, or a popular alcoholic beverage, it’s obscene how much real estate on overseas apparel is devoted to advertisers.
It’s hideous, it’s corporate and it’s insulting.
Professional sports fandom is supposed to be about passion and undying support of a spectator’s club of choice. It shouldn’t be about promoting 8 sponsors – some of which are clearly inappropriate for kids to be donning.
How is this acceptable? Is the almighty dollar that important, that a sports league or club is willing to sacrifice identity? Apparently so.
It’s appalling just how much sponsorship is present on a supposed team’s proud colors. It raises a ton of questions.
If a team changes sponsors, does it have to then completely re-design its uniform? Does the sponsor get input into how the uniform looks? If a billionaire wanted to put a crude phrase on a shirt just because he had the money to do so, would he be allowed to do it? They’re all unsettling questions.
Fortunately, North American professional sports leagues haven’t gone this route as of yet. I mean honestly, can you imagine the Yankees with a Modell’s logo across the pinstripes? What about the word Texaco inside the famous Cowboys star? Better yet, what if the Bulls followed the New York MLS example and became the Red Bulls?
It’s enough to make your stomach turn.
I own quite a bit of sports apparel from my favorite teams, and none of it is littered with tacky corporate messaging. Yes, I am well aware that my teams of choice are all moneymaking entities. I get it. But it’s nice to know that some things, like the look of a uniform, still matter in today’s bottom line focused world.
So the next time you’re at an apparel store to pick up your favorite player’s jersey, try and picture a big, fat billboard advertisement on the front of it, and thank goodness that we have avoided another kind of British Invasion – well, so far, anyway.
Matthew Ross is a longtime sports freelancer and radio host.