Once upon a time, the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Browns both shared Municipal Stadium down by the lakefront. It was an awful, rank, dirty bus station of a place. It wreaked of exhaust fumes and dripping urinals. For some baffling reason, it had been designed with one small open wedge that faced towards the lake, creating a bottleneck for the air currents. Even on the best of days, the wind cut right through you. There were cheap seats under the scoreboard that the football fans called "The Dawg Pound" throughout the winter season, although I'm sure the Humane Society would have probably gotten involved if real dogs were being subjected to such conditions. For decades this stadium stood like a huge rotten testament to the huge rotten shithole that is the city of Cleveland.
Ah, but then, in the early nineties, the Indians were moved to Jacob's Field and a new era began. Sure they made us all pay for the place in blood, cigarettes, and tears, but even I was impressed with the new park. It was newer, fresher, more open to allow actual sunlight in. It was right in the middle of downtown. It was quite a bit smaller, but it felt much more intimate. The game was right there! The city was right there, the tall buildings looming over the the scoreboard. I had grown up with Municipal Stadium, and I had taken it for granted that that was how stadiums were, so Jacob's Field was a revelation. "You mean it doesn't have to smell like a homeless man died in the restroom!" A few years later, they built the imaginatively named Cleveland Browns Stadium for the... Cleveland Browns. They even built something called the "Gund Arena" for the Cavs, a name which helpfully suggested its own obvious joke. Even the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame finally became a reality - and a bad imitation of The Louvre. Things were starting to look good for the Mistake on the Lake.
But then another era came along, as eras tend to do. A few years back, Jacob's Field was renamed "Progressive Field", not because anyone noticed anything particularly progressive about the place - in fact it's practically a ghost town these days - but rather because Progressive Insurance bought the park and decided that they couldn't resist sticking a nice, dirty, corporate thumb in everyone's pie. "You're a huge fan and you named your son Jacob in honor of the new park? Isn't that cute? *splurk* You were saying?" Not that this was anything new. It's been happening all over the country, corporations hanging their mastheads and logos over the local sports arena. Yep, a little to left. That's it. There you go. Perfect. That'll stop people from bitching that sports have become a soulless money machine!
Which brings us to yesterday. First Energy bought the Cleveland Browns Stadium and they immediately renamed it Toby Elliot Stadium in honor of a courageous orphan who... No, I'm kidding; the renamed it "First Energy Stadium", of course. Typical of that perpetually brain-damaged approach of the news media, reporters went around asking people how they "thought the new name sounded." One lady at a local bar slurred into the camera, "Uhh, ya..well, I guess it's alright. I think." This is such an obtuse way of posing the question. It's not a matter of how the name "sounds"; it's not about whether "Progressive Field" or "First Energy Stadium" rolls of the tongue. One could quite convincingly argue that "Quicken Loans Arena" sounds a good deal more melodious that "Gund Arena" strictly as syllables go, but that isn't the point. It's about whether you want to think of your basketball games as just another product cranked out by the fine folks at Quicken Loans.
As I've said before, I'm not much of a sports fan. But I can appreciate nostalgia for its own sake. I can think of someone reminiscing about going to Fenway Park to see a ball game with their father when they were young, the smell of the roasted peanuts, the cut grass, the light of an early summer morning. Somehow, it just isn't the same when you have someone talking about how their father took them to "Nokia Phone Stadium." The whole story is immediately deflated, the sentiment stabbed painfully in the gut. Maybe that sounds like a small thing, but it still makes me sad.
But hey, it's up to you guys who actually watch these games and actually care about this shit. I almost can't blame these companies for hanging their names over the door after they've bought the place. It's extra publicity and advertising. So it comes down to your reaction. As long as you look up and see "Progressive" on the side of the building and think, "Yeah, I know those guys. They sell insurance, don't they? I gotta renew my policy.", then the whole thing works to their benefit. So until you start looking up and saying, "Nokia!? Man, fuck those people.", then these corporate stadium names are here to stay.