While driving south along the Blue Star Highway (aka Aurora Avenue North, State Route 99, Pacific Highway 1, R.F. Morrow Road) and over the George Washington Memorial (Aurora) Bridge, I contemplated Qwest Field, lately rechristened CenturyLink Field or, inevitably, The Clink.
The latter moniker, an obvious, er, clunker, may nonetheless be destined to become an unintended consequence of corporate America's trying to mine revenue streams via trading on name familiarity with grand displays of "product placement."
Stadiums once were named for places (Fenway Park, Boston) or teams (Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles) or persons (Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City). Our own Safeco, dubbed for a company lost three years ago in the corporate black hole of the Liberty Mutual Group, could benefit someday from becoming Dave Niehaus Field — perhaps it would if only there were a corporation named Dave Niehaus.
Modern facilities sport the names and logos of enterprises ranging from banks (Chase Field, nee Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix) to beverages (Minute Maid Park, Houston; Miller Park, Milwaukee; Coors Field, Denver) to supplies for Fido and Fluffy (Petco Park, San Diego). Tropicana Field, the St. Petersburg home of the Tampa Bay Rays (formerly Devil Rays, Double-A’s, etc.), went by “Florida Suncoast Dome” and “Thunderdome” before getting a juicy deal with a citrus-product titan in 1996. Fourteen years later The Trop would host a post-season college-football game dubbed the Beef O’Brady’s (formerly St. Petersburg) Bowl, not to be confused with the Chick-fil-A (nee Peach) Bowl.
“Qwest” as a one-syllable way to reference “Seahawks” and “Sounders” had survived since 2004. Those of us who persist in referring to Seattle’s downtown Macy’s as “The Bon” no doubt will remain slow to the challenge of adapting to the stadium’s new name. Meanwhile Seattle Times editors, noting that “CenturyLink Field doesn’t really roll off the tongue,” are soliciting reader suggestions for alternative ways to refer to the facility.
Such initiative has me harking back to stories about the space-race years of the late 1950s, a time when the United States wasn’t competing particularly well with the Soviet Union’s successes in rocketry. Seizing upon this, hosts of the NBC “Today” program featured a sampling of suggestions that members of the American public had offered as ways of referring to the repeated spectacular U.S. rocket-launch failures in the wake of the 1957 Russian Sputnik launch.
A frequent contribution was “Kaputnik.” But the favorite for many was the suggestion that America’s dud rockets be called “government employees because you can’t fire them and they won’t work.”
The recollection amused me yet again as my car proceeded south along what someday presumably will be merely remembered as the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Pretty soon I could see The Clink right there in SoDo (formerly Hooverville).