What a crummy name for a football stadium

January 26, 1999|By MICHAEL OLESKER

ROLLS RIGHT OFF the tongue, doesn't it: PSINet Stadium.

Is it pronounced as one word, with the "p" running directly into the "s," as though you're about to whisper a secret to somebody? ("Pss, Artie, wanta hear a really bad name for a stadium? It's a psser, ain't it?")

Is it intended that each letter be pronounced separately? (Careful if you're printing: It's a short stroke of the pen from PSI to PSL, and we don't want to go there, do we, Artie? Personal Seat License Stadium! Now there's a name with significance!)

But I don't know how the name's pronounced, because I never heard of this PSINet company until now, when we all learn it's paid a bundle to put its name on our new football stadium and identify itself with another corporation plunked into town, whose name is the Baltimore Ravens.

PSINet Stadium, indeed.

The last football stadium around here, we named in honor of our war dead. The last baseball stadium, we named for an actual team. This one, Art Modell sells to the highest bidder, which is the way of all business attached to professional sports these days: Cash in now, wait out the storm, and hope people still love you in the morning.

Except for this: These Ravens weren't loved last night, and the new name won't bring them love during this lifetime. They're still a sneer on a lot of people's lips who will never accept the way they were stolen from some other city. And every time some network TV announcer intones, "We're at Baltimore's PSINet Stadium . . .," it'll remind the whole country, "Oh, yeah, one more sellout by a classless organization in a city that sold its soul for football."

The new name should have honored something meaningful. Just as Memorial Stadium honored those who died in the world wars, this one could have paid permanent tribute to the fallen in Korea and Vietnam.

On 33rd Street, we knew we were entering Memorial Stadium as a field of play, but anyone who saw that huge plaque out front ("Time will not dim the glory of their deeds . . .") knew it was also a place with some soul, with some sense of history beyond those who now sit in corporate boardrooms and calculatedly cross-fertilize their financial assets.

They could have shown some sensitivity with the new ballpark, a place financed with huge public money, a place built to erase memories of a stolen Baltimore team that once seemed a permanent part of the town.

They could have picked a name that honored that past, honored someone whose football history means something around here and deserves some permanence. They could have named it for Unitas.

Or they could have named it for Schaefer, who not only served as mayor of this city for four terms, and governor for two terms, and fought to keep funding in place for construction of the new park against legislators who wanted to put the money elsewhere, but also struggled more than anyone to bring football back after the pilfering of the Colts.

But, no: PSINet, it's to be.

Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?

In Washington, Abe Pollin opens a new basketball arena and sells the name. It's called MCI Center. Same kind of deal: MCI pays a fortune, and gets its name on the marquee. The difference from Baltimore? Pollin put up $200 million of his money to build the facility, which is about $190 million more than Modell put up. At those prices, Pollin's entitled to call it whatever he wants.

Even though the sentiment's all wrong.

A ballpark's a gathering place, and a binding place, for a community. We're supposed to gain not only a few hours respite from reality, but a sense of who we are: not only neighbors, but parents passing along a legacy to children. ("I saw ballgames here when I was your age. It's our home park. That's why it's called . . .")

PSINet Stadium?

In Landover, they named the new football stadium for the late Jack Kent Cooke, who owned the Redskins (a team name far more vulgar, in its own way, than PSINet Park) through their glory years and spent $144 million of his money for the park.

Say what you will about Cooke, he wasn't one of these modern owners who view enormous government subsidies as an entitlement, as welfare for the rich. You want examples? Try Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and, at last count, America's third wealthiest man, with a fortune of $17 billion.

Allen agreed to buy the Seattle Seahawks -- only if the state financed 75 percent of a $425 million stadium.

Or take Art Modell. Somebody, please. Take him aside and explain: Artie, Artie, we bought you the ballpark. We're letting you keep most of its bountiful profits. Did you have to take its very name and turn it into such a psser?

Pub Date: 1/26/99

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