Name change may be for Byrds, but Terps laughing to the bank

Commentary

August 25, 2006|By Peter Schmuck

When I heard that the University of Maryland had sold the naming rights to the football field at Byrd Stadium, my initial reaction was probably the same as yours:

What did Admiral Byrd do to deserve this?

I mean, the guy risked his life to explore Antarctica and basically is the reason for America's long love affair with the penguin, but I guess the fact that there are no turtles at the South Pole allowed the Terrapins athletic department to rationalize its mercenary decision to name the field after Chevy Chase Bank for the tidy sum of $20 million.

Right now, I'm visualizing the great explorer, his toes probably falling off from the cold, wondering how the world would remember his tremendous sacrifice, and now you have the answer. Some so-so comedian starts his own bank and throws a bunch of money at Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow and, poof, an American hero is sacrificed on the altar of crass commercialism.

(Excuse me, but I've just been informed that Byrd Stadium actually is named after Harry C. "Curley" Byrd, who was the football coach at Maryland at the same time the admiral was flying his Ford monoplane over some of the last uncharted territory on the planet. And now somebody's telling me former Saturday Night Live star Chevy Chase has nothing whatsoever to do with the bank of the same name.)

Never mind.

No doubt, there are those who find the practice of selling naming rights to public facilities distasteful, and to them I can only say that it's no longer stylish to be a communist, especially when you're walking around with a $300 cell phone on your hip and your clothes cost more than the average Cuban heart surgeon earns in a year. Capitalism won the Cold War. Get over it.

I think they ought to sell the naming rights to anything with a wall big enough to handle the sign. It seems to work in Tokyo.

I'll admit that Chevy Chase Field at Byrd Stadium is a little bulky, but if that money allows the university to upgrade the stadium and install a beer tap in the press room, I don't think there'll be much debate in the media about it.

It becomes the third major Maryland sports facility to be named after a bank, which ought to tell you something about those checking fees that show up on your statement each month. M&T Bank jumped at the chance to assume the naming rights at our downtown football stadium and Ed Hale stamped the name of his 1st Mariner Bank on the side of the Baltimore Arena, leaving only Oriole Park without some kind of corporate name recognition.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos has resisted the temptation to auction the naming rights to the baseball park, though he is entitled to do so and they could be worth nine figures. I suppose he deserves some credit for that, but if exploiting the terrific national reputation of Oriole Park will put Carlos Lee and Roy Oswalt on the 2007 roster, I say Bank of America Park at Camden Yards has a nice ring to it.

There's a rumor floating around that The Sun tried to sell naming rights to Ray Frager's media column, but - for reasons no one can explain - Comedy Central wasn't interested.

The money from the Chevy Chase deal will help pay for the $51 million expansion of the football stadium, so I guess Yow deserves some credit. I know some of the bigger schools, including my favorite collegiate football program, would have used the money to buy free agents.

By the way, you can't spell SCHMUCK without U-S-C.

The whole corporate name issue is old news anyway. Ever since the Independence Bowl was renamed the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl, it has been pretty tough to shock anybody.

This week's funny headline from D.J. Gallo's SportsPickle.com, the sports humor site on the Web: Ravens receivers struggling to adjust to passes hitting them in the hands.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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