Wednesday, April 13, 2005

National Guard Field at RFK Stadium? Not so fast

There are a couple of items related to the Washington Nationals baseball team that have gotten me fired up. First, I always thought it was a travesty that the nation's capital did not have a baseball team. We've got football, basketball, soccer, hockey (when they are actually playing), women's basketball, dozens of local minor league baseball clubs, but no major league baseball team--a major omission.

Now that we have a team, we are having to live through the amusing side story of naming rights to the field at the stadium. First, I am sick of naming fields. RFK stadium is named for Robert F. Kennedy, a fitting memorial. Why do we as a nation feel the need to to name our athletic fields after companies who spend millions on the "naming rights." I remember watching baseball on TV as a kid and seeing the Pittsburgh Pirates play at Three Rivers Stadium. The L.A. Dodgers played at, yep Dodger Stadium. At least, so far, George Steinbrenner has resisted renaming Yankee Stadium and Red Sox fans would probably destroy Boston before allowing Fenway Park's name to be changed.

I have nothing against advertising and sponsorships, but do we have to sell the names to stadiums? My beloved University of Maryland Terrapins basketball team no longer plays at Cole Field House, a depressing thought in and of itself, but now they play at Comcast arena--which is where may cable bill money went for so long.

It has gotten excessive. Now with the Washington Nationals, we have a new problem. It seems that no matter what happens in Washington, someone in Congress has to get a burr in their saddle about it. Now Senator John Warner (R-VA) has expressed dismay that the National Guard is considering buying the naming rights to the baseball field at RFK--which would be called the National Guard Field at RFK Stadium. The deal would cost the Guard $2 million a year. The head of the National Guard says that they shouldn't have to pay money for the naming rights, because they have paid the bill in blood.

Now I agree that the National Guard has done much for this country and is doing much now. I also know that the Guard is suffering from recruiting problems (problems related to the issue of guard units being deployed oversees for months, even over a year--but that is another rant). The Naitonal Guard has a recruiting and advertising budget and certainly $2 million a year is a relatively small portion of the recruitment and advertising budgter. I fail to see the harm in this relatively small expenditure.

"I was genuinely concerned about the precedent of the National Guard, a tax-supported entity, paying to put the name on a facility," [Lt. Gen.] Blum said. "I had a problem with that."
The Army sponsors NASCAR and rodeo events....

So the Army can support a sports team or venue, but the National Guard can't. It seems as though the Pentagon needs to come to some sort of policy.

One final note, what the $%^&* does Senator Warner have to do with this, you may ask. Officially, he is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee which oversees the Defense Department and the National Guard to a certain extent and he is exercising his oversight authority. In reality--he is just giving another example of Congress getting too involved in local affairs and he may run for re-election next year and needed his name in the papers.

Guard Discusses Altered RFK Deal (

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