Debate: A new name for Nationals Park



Justin: Jason, earlier this week, I wrote a blog post on the name of the Nationals stadium. It’s brilliant prose. Do you like my suggestion: changing the name to National Park?

Jason: I agree with you whole heartedly.

You were very quick to blow off the chance of finding a Washington based company to buy the naming rights for the stadium. There are quite a few locally based companies that might still step up for the naming rights. The top contenders are some obvious defense related companies: Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman would all make a lot of sense. How about this 12 billion dollar locally headquartered company: Marriott International. I’m not done yet, FedEx is not a local company, but their partnership with the Redskins has been a very successful one. There is room for a national consumer brand to swoop down and provide a sponsor. I am leaving out the two best locally based companies because they are both privately owned. Geico is already a major sponsor for the Nats and seemingly has a large advertising budget. The other is the largest company based in the DC area: Mars. It could be M&M Field or Snickers Stadium. Now for my corporate dark horse choice. A few years ago when the Nats played at RFK they almost had a deal with the National Guard. National Guard Field would be just fine by me

Justin: I’m OK with M&M Field or Snickers Park, but only because I like candy. If that would lead to fried Snickers bars being sold at the stadium, then I’m 110% for it. Mars Field would be appropriate because the Nationals already play in Space Coast Stadium for spring training. Wouldn’t it be great if the Nationals went that route and completely adopted a space theme? Maybe teaming with the Air and Space Museum to put a space shuttle in center field? I mean, that’s cool, right?I’d be against Marriott Field because it would lead to a terrible nickname like “The Hotel”, kind of like people trying to call the MCI Center “The Phone Booth” back in the 1990’s. Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrup Grumman will all be bleeding cash in the next few years due to budget cuts. Mergers, buyouts and bankruptcies seem likely. Like I said before, I don’t want a name that’ll have to change in only a few years. Corporate names only work if they’re long term.Finally, National Guard Stadium will never happen. The RFK naming deal fell apart because taxpayers thought it was a huge waste of money. With our federal government drowning in debt, it’s hard to imagine any taxpayer entity buying the naming rights for a stadium.

You didn’t answer my original question. Do you like “National Park”? What about Capitol Park or South Capitol Park or any other non-corporate name?

Jason: I think Nationals Park needs to go. It doesn’t do anything. A corporate sponsor pays money. I really like the idea of South Cap Street Field or going the route of The National Baseball Fields. I like the plural form and the “The” at the the beginning. Stadiums with unnecessarily long names amuse me. See Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The other option which you didn’t address is naming the stadium in honor of something. The team played in Robert F. Kennedy Stadium after all. Maybe they are just waiting for the right celebrity/politician that everyone can agree on. The way to go, and this would be me recommendation, Walter Johnson Field. Johnson, because he played for a defunct franchise drifted in no mans land for decades. The Minnesota Twins don’t recognize him, even though he played for the franchise technically. When you rank pitcher by WAR, here is the all time list in order: Clemens, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Greg Maddox, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan. He was Washington Baseball from 1907-1927. 20 years as the tent pole for the entire franchise, 2.17 career ERA. A six arm statue is nice, but he is Honus Wagner, the Babe Ruth, the Ty Cobb of Washington Baseball. If not Walter Johnson maybe Roger Bernadina. Welcome to the Shark Tank.

Justin: Nobody cares about Walter Johnson because he played 100 years ago. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Nobody cares about Christy Matthewson, Honus Wagner, Cy Young, and Rogers Hornsby either. Their memories are best confined to statues and slow-motion images set to piano music in Ken Burns documentaries. And guess what? In 50 years, no one will care about Mickey Mantle either. The rule is, if you didn’t actually see him play, you don’t care about him.

This whole discussion is academic anyway, because according to the Washington Post, the Lerners are waiting for the perfect time to sell the naming rights. If there’s one thing we know about the Lerners, we know they don’t pass an opportunity to make money. The article mentions the same possibilities we discussed (Marriott, Lockheed), but seems to imply that Capital One is the most likely company to win naming rights. Capital One Field sounds OK, and is strangely appropriate because the Nationals play in the Nation’s capital, but it violates my No Banks Rule. Capital One Field would probably turn into Bank of America Field and then (insert name of bank that doesn’t even exist yet) Field. No thanks.

One wild card mentioned in the WP article: Under Armour. Under Armour is a rapidly growing company, is based locally, and has who as one of their biggest clients? That’s right. Bryce Harper.

Jason: Under Armor would be a great tie in with Harper. He attitude and image matches the image the brand in trying to present. You are incorrect about people not caring about players from the past. Past players are what makes Baseball different than every other major sport in America. You cannot compare football players with other football players in the same year, much less era to era. Basketball has changed so much, it is foolish to try to even compare older players to the current crop. Baseball stands alone as the only sport where you can compare players 100 years ago with players today. It is one of the reason why steroids matter in baseball and are virtually ignored in every other sport. Baseball is also unique, because players have longer careers than other sports. A baseball player can literally play for a team for an entire generation like Walter Johnson and Cal Ripken did.

Justin: So they should just call it Bryce Harper Field at Under Armour Stadium.

Jason: Don’t be a clown, bro.


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