In 1991, William Oscar Johnson wrote a lengthy piece for Sports Illustrated, enjoyable and fascinating at the time, amazing to look back on now, about sports in the year 2001. It’s very much worth checking out if you could use a little trip to an alternate universe for a few minutes.
One thing that sticks out today is Johnson creating a world of college sports in which the NCAA had to figure out how to pay athletes after a 1997 Supreme Court decision, leading to the rebranding of such teams as the Notre Dame General Electrics. In the alternate 2001, the GEs played the USC Toshibas in the Budweiser/Preparation H No. 1 Bowl, the championship game of an eight-team college football playoff.
While we’ve gotten to a four-team playoff now, it’s funny that Johnson picked GE as Notre Dame’s sponsor, because it turns out he nailed it, at least as far as light bulbs and shamrocks. Starting next season, the Boston Celtics will wear a General Electric logo on their jerseys.
The announcement was typical business gobbledygook about how the relationship between the Celtics and GE would be mutually beneficial, and also good on a civic level. No, really.
“GE and the Boston Celtics both have rich histories of tradition and innovation and we’re thrilled to bring these two iconic brands together in a way that will drive further success for the team and pride in the City of Boston,” said Linda Boff, GE’s chief marketing officer. “The Celtics will become another key ally in GE’s mission to help make Boston an epicenter of tech innovation.”
So, if you work at a startup in the Hub, be on the lookout for Al Horford coming by to start a game of HORSE, while Avery Bradley writes some code.
Obviously, it’s about GE maintaining public prominence in a world where it’s easy to forget that they do more than make lightbulbs. Putting a logo on the Celtics’ jerseys and getting exposure in the arena and on digital platforms, for somewhere around $7 million a year, is a decent investment that way, probably better than throwing that money at TV ads that air while fans are lighting up the bulbs in their refrigerators.
For the Celtics, well, leading scorer Isaiah Thomas has a $6,261,395 salary next season. That’s taken care of now, so good for them! The only problem is that GE’s logo, with its grand, swooping letters, stands in too stark of a contrast to the Celtics’ classic, streamlined, sans serif jersey font. It’s too late to complain about the commercialization of the sports uniform. After all, going by Johnson’s timeline, we’re way behind schedule on just how advertorial sports can be.
If you watch the Australian Open between ESPN, you’re treated between matches to occasional talk about how popular the event is there, with canards about how when the U.S. Open is in New York, it’s popular but just another thing happening, while the major at Melbourne Park is special in more far-reaching ways.
Tennis surely is a bigger deal Down Under than it is here, but we’re not getting the full story. Last week on Australian television, Big Bash League cricket outperformed tennis, the first time that has happened.
“If someone said a few years ago that you’d be producing cricket matches that knock off the tennis, everyone would’ve laughed out loud,” David Barham, the head of sport for Australia’s Ten network, told the Herald Sun.
Let’s still not get it twisted. Tennis and cricket are about equally popular in Australia, but both lag behind soccer, golf, Australian football, and netball. And it’s not all happy times in the cricket world, with the sport’s governing body in Australia seeming to fret about the launch of a women’s league for Australian football. Opening day for AFL Women’s is next Friday, and they seem to be pulling players from all manner of other sports, so maybe the Williams sisters could stick around after their Australian Open final and really make things interesting, because it’s pretty clear now that even in their mid-30s, tennis just isn’t enough of a challenge.
Congratulations are in order for the University of Central Florida on its bright future in football blooper reels.
As part of the school’s “Rise + Conquer Initiative,” which despite sounding like a more comprehensive plan for resistance than the Democratic Party has come up with, is actually about football, “For the 2017 season, the Home of the Knights will introduce field cabanas – a first in college football – located at each end of the field. Shaded seating for 12 will include a TV monitor, resort-style furnishings and a cooler filled with your favorite beverages (including beer and wine) available for purchase.”
Great idea, sure to be a big money-maker for the program, but… why is this something that hasn’t been done before? How is Central Florida, of all places, the first school to think of putting up luxury seating right at field level?
Maybe it’s because other schools are familiar with the fact that football players sometimes run so fast, their momentum takes them right out the back of the end zone, and having football players crashing at full speed into cabanas full of people and resort furniture is a bad idea... Maybe it’s that.