It’s all a bit of fun … isn’t it

Well this darn blew me right offa my feet. Advertising and sport have always had an un/healthy relationship. And people will tell me till the cows are blue in the face that without the money sport won’t survive. Or prosper. Or something like that. I’ve never really swallowed the hook. But I’ve never really been able to construct an alternative version of this reality.

My gut is telling me something. But I’m not paying it any mind. The money doesn’t talk, it screams at me through every other means.

Way back when, I was gobsmacked when a certain cooked food franchise wanted to display the letter M on the footy. The sacred ball. I couldn’t get my head around why they would invest in something so ridiculous. So meaningless. What I now understand they were doing was entering the field of play.

In 2011, Barcelona FC ended a 110 year old tradition when they sold advertising on their playing shirts. They were, as I understand it, the last of the big European clubs to do so. For years they proudly and defiantly, in the face of commercial sponsorship consuming every last square inch of a sporting club’s identity, held true to remaining sponsorshipless. At least on their game shirt. In signing away their shirt they immediately became the “undisputed brand leader in world football” with a world record deal for the commercial sponsorship of their game shirt. All for what? Money.

Enter, stage left, LA Dodgers and a plane company.

A long time ago Shakespeare gave Hamlet the words, “the play’s the thing”. The next line is actually the more instructive line: Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.

Today it would seem conscience be damned. The game isn’t the thing. And the righteous path is not necessarily the path most advocated. The game is part of something else, and I don’t know what that is. It doesn’t feel like reality. It feels like someone else’s play-pit. It feels like bread and circuses. It feels like I’m being conned. The echo of Johnny Rotten asking the audience in the last ever Pistols show, “ever get the feeling you’re been cheated?”

But surely Rick, this LA Dodgers thing is just a bit of fun. You know Rick, you’re sounding a lot like a sourpuss. Maybe I do and maybe I am. I was gobsmacked. Sure, it feels like I’m supposed to have a laugh and enjoy the wit of a light and breezy moment. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I recoiled. A little bit of bile rose. What I first noticed was how stark and brazen was the ad. That was bad enough. Then it dawned on me. Advertising has entered the game itself, in the gentlest, softest touch. Using the oldest sleight of hand in the world. Now you see it, now you settle for it.

And maybe that’s our lot. Maybe the game never was pure and unadulterated. Maybe that’s just something I tell myself to get to sleep at night. Maybe the game has always been more about the coin than the way the ball spills. Maybe. Sometimes. Maybe, most of the time. This feels like we’re moving to a place where it is the deal all of the time. Noooooooooooooooo!

About Rick Kane

Up in the mornin', out on the job Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do But roll around Heaven all day


  1. I’ll tell you what I think after the Coke Olympics and the Etihad Euros are finished.

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Rick, Timely and well-argued. I fear we lost the battle quite some time ago, but it’s quite appropriate to maintain our rage, tilt at windmills or continue whatever other feeble effort is available to us in a worthy lost cause.
    I am grateful to be reminded of Barcelona’s capitulation – a seminal moment in the shabby history of this sad business.
    I prefer Dylan’s take on your quote: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Hard to argue with you here, Slim. Actually didn’t know Barcelona held off until 2011. Pretty amazing effort put in context. I guess the Dodgers aren’t sexist at least.

  4. RK – I feel the same way about most things these days. I feel like the world has left me miles and miles and miles behind. And I wonder if I’m the stupid one or the lucky one. I went to Etihad last week and could hardly cope with all the announcers yelling at me all day. I watch the election coverage and feel like I need a shower all the time. I listen to people talking about what’s fair and just and I say to myself “no its not”.

    Leunig drew a cartoon years ago. There are two of his lunny characters looking up at the moon. One says to the other, “Apparently the moon is moving further away from the earth.” And the other replies “What a good idea.”

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