Monday, June 26, 2006

I Live for This, or: 60 Feet, 6 Inches Under

It is now clear that everything is for sale, and that here in America in the early 21st century, none of us has a spare moment when we are not either being sold something or selling something. Marx prophesized that under capitalism, human beings would become commodities. What he left unstated was that we also have become salesman, even if -- or should I say especially? -- the only product we're pedding is ourselves. Our "brand."

Even entertainment venues during which we've come to expect a certain degree of commercial sponsorship, such as televised and broadcast sporting events, have become avenues for hysterical, hyper-marketing.

The other night, I tried tuning in to the Yankees game on WCBS radio, to get the score. Beyond the problems I had getting a strong, consistent signal on my Walkman radio -- it's 2006, guys, isn't it about time you improved on Marconi? -- I had to endure a half-inning of nearly uninterrupted commercials uber-sycophantic announcer John Sterling desperately tried to shoehorn into his play-by-play call. In five minutes, this guy threw more pitches than Randy Johnson.

"Up comes Jason Giambi, trying to get the Yanks a big insurance run. You can be sure that Jason won't need to get a free quote from Geico...Hold on: Terry Francona is bringing in a left-hander to face Giambi. Which means it's time for the Cingular call to the bullpen..." And so on, ad nauseum. And every game event --every pitch, every jockstrap-grab and toss of the resin bag -- is now an object of corporate sponsorship.

"This pitchout is brought to you by Burger King -- Have it your way at Burger King."

"Here's the pitch -- there goes Carl Crawford -- this attempted stolen base is brought to you by the Slomin Shield -- Protect your home from theft with the Slomin Shield, call 1-800-ALARMME -- and here's the throw by Posada -- this attempt to prevent a stolen base is brought to you by LoJack -- and he slides and he's safe! And you should be safe from worry in case you are injured or laid off and don't have supplementary insurance, so get Aflac. And Crawford breaks for third -- I can't see what happened, the Aflac duck walked across my monitor -- oh, the ball got by Jeter and into centerfield. Crawford's rounding third and he's going to try to score the tying run. Here's the throw and the play at the plate,, if you're having erectile dysfunction, why not ask your doctor for Cialis?"

Was the runner out or safe? Who's winning? Who cares? Sterling, a master at unctuous, pompous toadyism -- if he'd been in Germany in 1938, he'd have been hosting "Naziography" -- has done his job: Making the sponsors happy.

I wouldn't be surprised if his life off-mike was just as branded. He goes home, has sex with Mrs. Sterling and: "This fuck (huff, huff) is brought to you by Meineke. (Huff, huff)-- Meineke Car Care -- Our new name says it all."

I can't listen to the games anymore, which is sad. What may be even sadder is that the grand wizards of baseball are moving in a macabre direction by targeting what you might call the ultimate niche market.

According to a story in Sunday's New York Daily News, who picked it up from Bloomberg News, Major League Baseball has signed a licensing agreement with funeral product maker Eternal Image Inc., to have the company decorate its caskets and urns with the names and logos of MLB teams. They'll be available in time for the 2007 season: the caskets will go for $3,000-$3,500 and urns for $600-$1,000.

So even beyond the grave, we're not safe from hucksters. I'm not sure what they think the market is for this. I mean, how much purchasing power do the deceased actually have?

I suppose this service is meant to appeal to the true hardcore fan -- like the lifelong Chicago Cubs zealot who on his deathbed was asked by his son if he had any last words and replied, "They gotta trade Kingman." This kind of obsessional fellow, plus the eccentric immortality-seekers who cryogenically freeze themselves.

I wonder which team's logo fans will most often choose to take with them to the afterlife? The Yankees (God's chosen)? Angels (believers)? Devil Rays (atheists)? Royals (suicides)?

And while they're at it, why don't they throw a mini-TV into the fan's casket, so they can hear John Sterling for the rest of eternity...No, not even Dante could conceive of a punishment that onerous.

Yankees fans could have Bob Sheppard read their eulogy over the Stadium's p.a. system. "Bruce from Flushing...Flushing...shing...was a real people person...person...son..."

And to think: The current slogan of Major League Baseball is "I live for this."

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