It was bad enough when, a number of years ago, Disney started butting in on one of the few pure things left in sports — the seconds immediately following the end of the big game, the moments when grown men, multimillionaire players, dog-piled on one another, acting like a bunch of 12-year-old kids again, celebrating the competitive joy of being champions, of loving their sport, not loving the business of their sport. Disney was permitted to stick a camera and a microphone in the face of the game-winning quarterback and ask, "Hey, Joe Montana or John Elway … you just won the Super Bowl. What are you gonna do now?" And then, Montana or Elway would say what he was instructed — and paid — to say: "I'm going to Disneyland!"
Monson: Jazz sully their uniform, Utah’s sports flag, not at all with this new pitch
Do not intrude on that.
But intrude they did.
They intruded on what was scarce and sacred.
We've all grown accustomed to having the edges of games intruded upon. The commercial timeouts during stoppages of play, selling everything from perfume to dog food. The pregame and halftime and postgame shows brought to us by Bud Light or Goodyear Tire or Shamrock Meats. The starting lineups sponsored by Gillette or RC Willey or Mountain America Credit Union. We've accepted having rolling signage field-side, or diamond-side, or court-side, images advertising financial services, airlines, hamburgers, shaving gel.
Commercials and commercialism are about as American as anything can be.
Here's what isn't American, what we haven't become accustomed to: Ads on the uniforms of our sports teams.
That's to be left to soccer squads or pro basketball teams playing in the Italian League. It's not to be stitched onto the front of what fans of teams in America consider the equivalent of their communities' unadulterated sports flags. Uniforms are not to be besmirched by patches pitching deodorant or Cialis or roast beef sandwiches. That's OK for the fenders, hoods and bumpers of NASCAR, but not the hallowed perspiration-resistant cloth of the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball.
A discreet swoosh or triple-stripe of a shoemaker we can handle. The unabashed logo for the latest pill from Big Pharma, we cannot. It simply does not belong. In leagues already making millions and billions of dollars, making a few more with corporate patches on uniforms seems downright greedy. I said that when the NBA announced it was considering the idea of putting advertisements on uniforms five years ago, and I, along with a whole lot of other people, say it now.
That's the reason Monday's news from the Utah Jazz and a Utah company called Qualtrics was heartening. Qualtrics, a data and analytics research firm, agreed to buy a patch to be put on the Jazz's jerseys, but instead of touting itself, the company, at least in the first year of a three-year deal, will sponsor the words "5 For The Fight," which is a charitable organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer via $5 donations with the goal of raising $50 million.
How can anyone complain about that?
Not me, that's for sure.
And not you.
There are all kinds of diseases out there, all sorts of maladies that need attention and money. But cancer is the monster of our time. It is a beast that must be eliminated. It affects, breaks the hearts of, almost everyone in one way or another, either by way of a friend, a family member, a loved one.
So credit to the Jazz, credit to Qualtrics. The former diminishes themselves not one iota with the patch while the latter does a solid not just for the community, not just for the state, but for humankind. Out of its altruism, it might even generate business for itself by participating in the process this way. A move that might have been seen as nothing short of greed now is seen as good will.
That's just smart. But it's also a service. A win-win.
Four other NBA teams previously announced corporate sponsors of their uniform patches: The Boston Celtics (General Electric), Brooklyn Nets (Infor), Sacramento Kings (Blue Diamond Almonds) and Philadelphia 76ers (StubHub). Others will come forward soon.
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