Squeezing the fountain: How General Motors became Admiral Motors

The history of fountain sponsorship at Comerica Park in Detroit is spotty, given the turbulence the auto industry has dealt with in the decade or so since it was built.

So sayeth Wikipedia:

A giant fountain behind center field is set off whenever the Tigers score, and also between innings, with bursts of water also referred to as Liquid Fireworks. The water show is also played pregame and postgame, and can be set to music. General Motors sponsored the fountain and held the naming rights from 2000-2008. Two GM vehicles were placed atop the fountain during that time. For the 2009 season, the fountain sponsorship was dropped by GM, due to their financial trouble. The Tigers decided to keep the General Motors logo on the fountain however, and also added the logos of Chrysler and Ford, with the statement “The Detroit Tigers Support Our Automakers”. In 2010, GM again sponsored the fountain, renaming it the Chevrolet Fountain.

Which is why, while watching copious amounts of baseball on MLB’s various iPad and web products I get a kick out of this every time:

The Admiral Motors fountain! MLB Advanced Media certainly doesn’t want to give General Motors any free branding on its apps. And GM probably didn’t want to do a deal. So, we reach an impasse, and Admiral Motors is born. Our national pasttime, putting an ad on every possible surface, meets our national automaker, not spending much money on marketing.

But what about all the other fields? Well, of the nine hosting games this afternoon, Wrigley Field, O.co Coliseum, Busch Stadium, Fenway Park, Tropicana Field, Minute Maid Park, Nationals Park, Kauffman Stadium and Sun Life Stadium, only Busch and Minute Maid have any branding for anything other than the generic team name or Major League Baseball, MLB.com products (like “MLB 11 The Show” videogame). Minute Maid has a nice big logo where it presumably appears at the stadium, and Busch has a big fat ‘Cola’ sign where a Budweiser billboard would be. Certainly a case for Gladys at Product Displacement.

I can’t really fault MLB.com for trying to monetize it all–I’d rather blame them for the crappy display inventory that’s rusting their brand like sea air, or the auto-renewal of the MLB.tv package, a $100-something charge that hits your bill every February, or the fact that even once you’ve bought MLB.tv you have to pay more to watch on your phone, or your iPad, or the lame-ass Saturday blackout rule that has me listening to the Tigers and missing my beloved Mario and Rod while Boston and Texas go at it in the national broadcast on Fox. But Admiral Motors, really? If I ever run into Bob Bowman again, and he’s back on the trail to become the governor of Michigan, there are going to be some questions.

The Case of the Snookered Grandmaster

In the hopes of one day proving competitive with an acquaintance who’s so far plastered me on the chessboard (D., give me another month), I’ve been playing quite a bit more chess than usual, and, as a corollary, reading books on strategy and following weekly chess columns in newspapers. Compare, if you will, two tellings of this week’s scandal, French grandmaster Vlad Tkachiev’s drunkenness during the Calcutta Open:

The first, from New York Post chess columnist (and grandmaster himself) Andy Soltis:

Snooze and You Lose: A Russian-born grandmaster scandalized an international tournament in India this month by passing out drunk during a game.

And this got the chess world arguing about a technical point:

Was it ethical to wake him up?

Vladislav Tkachiev, ranked 58th in the world, fell asleep during his third-round game at the Calcutta Open. His opponent, Praveen Kumar, didn’t want to win the game on forfeiture and asked tournament arbiter R. Anantharam to wake up Tkachiev.

But after more moves, the 35-year-old Tkachiev fell asleep again. Other players took turns waking him, but to no avail. After his allotted 90 minutes had expired, Tkachiev had played only 11 moves and was declared lost.

After photos of the sleeping grandmaster appeared in Indian newspapers, Anantharam came in for a torrent of Internet criticism for allowing the farce to get that far.

But he said he was just following world chess federation rules. “The scene of many players coming to his board and watching him sleeping was a disturbance to the nearby boards,” he wrote.

Nonsense, responded GM Nigel Short. Tkachiev should have been woken up only to remove him from the playing hall where he was “causing widespread public embarrassment.”

What an idiot, right?

However, take another look, from the Financial Times‘ Leonard Barden (no slouch himself):

The Kalkota (Calcutta) Open this week made news headlines when the French champion Vlad Tkachiev appeared comatosely drunk at the board and lost his third round game on time.

Attitudes have changed. In 1935 Alexander Alekhine was the worse for drink in some world title games, while in 1949 Sweden’s No 1 Gideon Stahlberg drank a cognac at the board before sacrificing a knight for a winning attack.

The shocked reaction to the Tkachiev episode was in line with a current zealous environment where a master can lose on time if a few seconds late for the start of play. Tkachiev soon recovered and the drunk game was his only loss in seven rounds.

(Emphasis mine.)

Quite the difference between the two, eh? One has a drunken player disrupting the entire tournament with his enduring shambolic behavior, the other noting arbiters can end a match if it’s a matter of “a few seconds” before the start. Nevertheless, knowing he went on to win the rest of his matches makes quite a difference in the quality of the story.

Further, Barden writes in the Guardian: “In Tkachiev’s case, jetlag was probably a factor as he flew to India with hardly a break after winning the French championship, and the drunk game was his only defeat in Kolkata.”

This isn’t the first time Tkachiev has made headlines, and certainly won’t be the last. It will probably be the only time I resort to a chess media compare and contrast here, though.

Sunday Money

Sports books generally aren’t very good. At least for the sort of people who prefer reading to sports. But Jeff MacGregor nailed the crossover in his most recent, Sunday Money. It was by far my favorite sports read last year, and if you’re looking for an introduction to NASCAR you’d be hard pressed to find a better primer.

For the uninitiated, NASCAR can seem a set of baffling unknowables — or just 300,000 rednecks in the grandstand, braying at death-frenzied hayseeds. Lacking the pastoral sophistication of baseball or the strategy of football, for as many adherents NASCAR claims (around 75 million) there are sports fans set against its inevitable rise.

Jeff MacGregor’s first book serves as a shot across the bow for those staunchly in the “stick-and-ball world;” Sunday Money is a primer on the history of stock car racing and a vivid portrait of the season MacGregor and the Beep (his “Beautiful, Brilliant Partner,” photographer Olya Evanitsky) spent crisscrossing America in a motorhome, clocking 47,649 miles on the Winston Cup tour.

But more than offering race descriptions, anecdotes, or driver hijinks, more than recounting life in the NASCAR tent cities or parking lots of Wal-Marts, MacGregor examines the sport’s commercial machine — the squadrons of flacks regulating image, the promotional juggernaut packing logos and endorsements into sports columns and TV highlights. Incorporating an analysis of consumerism into his book, MacGregor shows NASCAR as larger than the sport and its myth. It is the inexorable Tony Stewart, Orangeman of Home Depot; Mark Martin in the Viagra Ford; Jimmie Johnson in the Lowe’s Chevy. It is Will Ferrell as Official Spokesman of NASCAR Day. It is the scads of products bearing drivers and their cars, it is the cardboard cutout of Dale Jr. in the beer aisle with a pile of Bud. As MacGregor argues, in buying widgets, shopping at Home Depot, or seeing Will in his new movie (coming this fall with Sacha Baron Cohen), you’re anteing up, so you might as well learn how to enjoy it. To that end, short of attending a race, track down this primer. The depth of description and insight jacks it head and shoulders above the ordinary.
– Nick Parish

I rocked the Rocker

Please allow me to preface the following with an explanation of my baseball talent:

Previous to this “pseudo-professional” (Rocker’s words) at-bat, the most recently I’d picked up a bat was during a cameo appearance on “No Comment,” the Fordham student paper’s club softball team. I went 2-3 against the yearbook team in a pathetic effort by the Ram squad.

I played little league until I was twelve or so, mostly as catcher. I couldn’t engage the game long enough to play infield, as my coaches and parents learned one fateful day when I was stationed at third. I guess my attention wavered, and a liner that should have been an easy out hit me square in the forehead. Knocked out cold. The last thing I remember was hearing the bat and looking up at the ball flying toward my face. When I came to, with my dad and the coaches around, the first thing the coach said was “Well, that’s why they call it the hot corner.”

So my history makes this all the more improbable, exciting, and, well, awesome. I’d like to thank the inventors of Lasik, who allowed me to take the batter’s box without Rec Specs for the first time in my career, as well as Deadspin’s Will Leitch. Will took the photo, offered words of encouragement, and, well, a least common denominator. I mean, what would the world be coming to if print guys are outhit by bloggers?

Amare on the Rebound



Magnetic Resonance bounced around Amare Stoudamire‘s reconstructed left knee, tracing the results of last year’s microfracture surgery and showing things were on course in his recovery. If you cruise to the newsstand this month and want to hear the big man’s take on his recovery, pick up this month’s Slam, with Allen Iverson on the cover. In addition to the regular Bball goodness, I got Amare’s take on his injury and the patience required for recovery.
His return is still up in the air, and estimates vary wildly. One tidbit with little regard to dates or places relates to performance: due to increased resistance training during rehab, it’s rumored his vertical could increase by as many as four inches.
What does this mean for the Suns? Well, the timing of the announcement — Amare beginning light jogging in early February — suggests it’ll be at least March before he’s ready to suit up. Their schedule this month is light, with two homestands and the All-Star break. A series of winnable games to put distance between themselves and the Clippers. But faced with the option of easing Amare back into the lineup against mid-grade players in the conference or in March, when key matchups include two clashes with the Spurs and one with the Clips, I’m sure Mike D’Antoni would rather the former.

Why We Do

There’s no need to over-analyze why people love sports, or what sports bring to their lives. Here’s what I hope will be a long series of everyday incidents; good, human examples.

It was early evening on Seventh Avenue, older man wearing a Chad Pennington jersey overtaking a mother and boy on the sidewalk. The boy is wearing a Ty Law jersey.

“Ty Law, good game today,” the dude said, addressing the kid the way a teammate would address another.

It’s tough to describe the look on the kid’s face. It was a mix of pride and surprise. He was just beaming. His mother leaned down and asked what the man had said, and as he explained in a small voice his smile passed to her and they walked on.