With my finals schedule never requiring me to report to school earlier than 10 (and now that I’m off for the summer since yesterday, hooray!), I’ve been watching a lot of Wimbledon. Wimbledon, for those of you not familiar with professional tennis, is the grandest and most hallowed tournament on the tennis circuit. One of the few tournaments played on grass courts, players are required to wear white outfits, play is suspended on the second Sunday, and men and women are referred to as ‘gentlemen’ and ‘ladies’. I love seeing all of these traditional customs observed, but one of Wimbledon’s greatest allures, in my opinion is the one thing you don’t see.
In the professional sports world, as we baseball fans know all too well, everything is commercialized. Comiskey was erased long ago in favor of U.S. Cellular Field, the Mets erected their new stadium and immediately blazoned ‘Citi Field’ across the top. It’s not just stadium names that have been bought. Whenever the Yankees make a pitching change, the switch is brought to you by AT&T. Whenever a Giants’ pitcher strikes out an opposing batter, the K is sponsored by Johnsonville Sausage. (I’m sorry, but Johnsonville Sausage did not strike out that player, Tim Lincecum just did.) Assorted companies display their logos along the deck railings, restaurants and bars greet you with a logo of a food brand at their entrance.
You don’t see any of that at Wimbledon.
The stadium walls, rather than be covered with names of everything ranging from soda to toilet paper, are covered in ivy. The umpires and linesmen have no logos on their uniforms, other than that of the tournament. Oh, wait, what’s that behind Roger Federer’s head?
A Sports Authority logo, a Volvo sign, a W.B. Mason panel, and an F.W. Webb ad, whatever that is. And this is only one side of the stadium. Even a beautiful, old park like Fenway has succumbed to corporate pressure over the years.
Sometimes, it’s not what you see, but what you don’t see that makes a place special.
After reading a very funny entry over at “This is a Very Simple Game…” regarding promotions and giveaways at games, I decided to see what my east coast counterparts have to offer me at their games. Turns out, the old East Coast Establishment does not have a very great sense of humor. There are no Chia Pets or Troll Dolls for us. No, we get the boring, standard fare. Posters, T-shirts, and hats. The Red Sox are so uptight, they don’t even have ANY sort of giveaway! When I pointed this out to my father, he said, “Going to Fenway is enough of souvenir. You don’t need a bobblehead.” Well, maybe he doesn’t need a bobblehead. I would like a bobblehead.
(Okay, maybe not that bobblehead. That one is a wee bit frightening.)
Fed up with the boring giveaways that I actually have a chance of receiving (catching games at Yankee, Fenway, CitiField and maybe even Camden Yards are all possibilities), I turned to good ol’ Chitown, which always has something up its sleeve. Let me say this. The White Sox are masters at giving away specially priced tickets. During the 2011 season, Latino business owners, Cardinal Fitness members, church ministers, high school marching band conductors, Kiwanis members, Kinley Park residents, and many other groups of people that I don’t feel like typing have the opportunity to get discounted tickets at certain games. Even when everyone has to pay full price, the Sox do not skimp on promotions. There are fireworks displays set to Elvis, Motown tunes, and “Mullet Style” music (the latter will occur on “Mullet Day”, whatever that is).
But of course, I like tangible objects, things I can hold. You can get those for free at the Cell too. Bobbleheads seem to be the preferred giveaway. A Mark Buehrle bobblehead will be given away at some point, and so will one of a beer vendor (I guess it’s time unsung heroes got the limelight). But my favorite bobblehead that will be given away is the one of Roger Bossard .
Except I don’t know who Roger Bossard is.
So I went to the ever-reputable source that is Wikipedia to find out who this kind man is. Turns out that Roger Bossard is the head groundskeeper at the Cell. He is known as “The Sodfather” and developed a “revolutionary” irrigation and drainage system for ballparks. This is a picture of him. I found it in an article about him in Smithsonian magazine. Pretty schmancy (the fact that he had an article written about him in the Smithsonian, I mean).
Who woulda thunk? The manager, the All-Star first baseman, the slugging DH, they don’t get bobbleheads this season, but the Sodfather does.
P.S. Anyone who goes to that game (June 12 against the A’s) and thinks “Who the heck is this guy and why does he get a bobblehead?” can gladly mail the rejected plastic to me. In case you couldn’t tell by this entire entry, I’m a sucker for kitsch like that.