Watch sports, purchase products!

Published 12:26 am Sunday, October 12, 2008

Before I begin this column, let me just say that beginning this week, my column is sponsored by Bunn coffee makers and Coca-Cola.

Without those two fine products, I don’t know how I could make it through my work week.

Working odd hours, I have to get my caffeine fix, and those two products offer the finest in caffeinated goodness.

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Now, on to the column…

You might think that sponsoring a column is ridiculous, but it’s gotten about that bad in the world of sports.

Just about anything and everything can have a sponsor, and believe me, it does.

I had always thought that the football game between Texas and Oklahoma was called the Red River Shootout.

I was certain of it. But this year, I heard announcers and pundits calling it the Red River Rivalry.

I did an Internet search and found out that in 2005, AT&T began sponsoring the game and changed the name from the Red River Shootout, which is a cool nickname for a game between two Southwest schools, to the AT&T Red River Rivalry, which is, in a word, blah.

The Texas-Oklahoma game isn’t the first football game to be sponsored, not by a long shot.

College bowl games have long had the market cornered on that.

My personal favorite was the Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl in the mid-90s.

Even now, some people still refer to that bowl game as the Weedeater Bowl or the Weedwhacker Bowl.

But it’s not enough to just sponsor a bowl game. Now, if you’re a self-respecting company, you have to name the bowl game after your company.

That’s how the Outback Hall of Fame Bowl became the Outback Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl became simply the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Almost every new bowl game that springs up now doesn’t even bother with trying to find a real name. They just name it after the company that sponsors the game.

Hence the Bowl, the Papajohn’ Bowl, the GMAC Bowl and the Insight Bowl, etc.

But while college bowl games might be heavy into the sponsorships, one cannot discuss the subject without bringing up the grand poobah of marketing — NASCAR.

Ah, NASCAR. Where men drive billboards with wheels and a driver can’t begin an interview, whether he won the race or crashed out, without thanking STP, Champion spark plugs, Goodyear, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and whichever other company sponsors his car.

Then there’s the hat switching in victory lane. The race winner and his team switch baseball caps probably about 50 times to the each race and car sponsor their photo opportunity.

But cars and bowl games aren’t the only thing that can be sponsored. Just about everything can.

Raycom Sports had the first down line sponsored by Cialis while CBS’s trivia question is brought to you by the Aflac duck.

Even time is worthy of a sponsor.

A couple of years ago, the Chicago White Sox moved their home game times from 7 p.m. to 7:11 p.m. Three guesses on who the sponsor is there.

But really, what is the point? Am I going to buy insurance because I answered the trivia question correctly? Does a game starting at 7:11 p.m. make me want a nasty hot dog?

The whole situation is way over the top. I watch sports to enjoy the game, not to pick my grocery list or see which type of motor oil I want for my car.

All of the overcommercialism just makes me really thirsty. Well, I guess I’ll enjoy an ice cold Coca-Cola. And I encourage all readers of my column to do the same. Hey, gotta pay the bills somehow.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or