Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and because I am an honest man and a man with strong convictions, I will not blaspheme this day by writing about baseball cards. Yes, it was only 11 years ago that my beloved Green Bay Packers were playing in their second Super Bowl in a row, and perhaps I still have some sentiment in my heart from that day, and it's crushing defeat at the hands of John Elway, the Denver Broncos, and the 5 or 6 officials that the NFL assigned to the game to ensure John Elway could retire with at least 1 Super Bowl ring on his finger. But I'm not bitter.
Instead, today I'm going to write about something that should be recieving more coverage than it currently is. I refer to the new stadium that the New York Mets will be moving to this April, which has the current name of "Citi Field".
In case you've been in a nuclear fallout shelter for the past year, you are fully aware that we are in the middle of an economic recession. People everywhere are losing their jobs, forclosing on their home mortgages, and falling further and further into debt. My father lost his job just over a week ago, and I myself may be staring the neverland of unemployment square in the face in a month or two. Time will tell.
I did not major in business or economics in college, nor was I ever forced to take a class in either of those disciplines, so I don't claim to be an expert. I do know, however, that if banks stop giving people money in the form of loans, they cannot buy houses or fund their businesses at affordable rates. If this happens, people have to close their small businesses, or not buy a house, or perhaps be forces to get a loan with an interest rate that will force them into certain financial hardship. Again, I don't understand the world of finance too well but I do understand cause and effect.
When this happens, the world of credit "freezes": nobody will lend money, nobody can borrow money, and so people stop spending money. When people no longer spend money on things like new clothes, gourmet coffee, or baseball cards, vendors of these items no longer have the same profit margin as before. Because of this, they are forced to cut overhead costs in an attempt to maintain some semblance of a "positive" or "black" profit margin. The easiest way to cut overhead cost is to reduce your workforce, and so people like my father (who just lost his job w/ Wells Fargo) are given a pink piece of paper and a severence package. Now this unemployed person must pay his rising mortgage and auto loan costs with the paycheck he no longer recieves.
In an ettempt to reverse this trend, and "unfreeze" the credit world, major banks and lenders such as JP Morgan - Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, etc. have asked the federal governent for assistance, federal funds, tax dollars, in order to right the ship and reverse this process. The federal bailout package that was passed at the end of President Bush's presidency gave money to a number or large financial institutions, one of them being Citigroup. In fact, Citi recieved nearly $45 Billion worth of federal funds as part of the bailout plan.
As you may know, the New York Mets have closed the doors to historic Shea Stadium (which, had you not had the opportunity to visit while it was open for business, you hadn't missed much. I will say however, that while I was in college I had the opportunity to attend a game at Shea between the Mets and Yankees, the "subway series", and saw a Yankees fan wearing a pink dress, adorned on the back with the number "31" and the name "PIAZZA". Classic.) This season the Mets will move into their new home, "Citi Field", built in the shadows of Shea Stadium (i.e. the parking lot that used to be the outfield view, classy).
Let us connect these two subjects then, the Mets new stadium and current state of the American economy. As we know, naming rights for major stadiums and ballparks can get pretty expensive, and three years ago Citigroup paid a reported $400 Million for naming rights to the Mets new facility for 20 years. Three years ago, when unemployment was around 5% (as opposed to the 7.2% we have today) this went unnoticed, and it wasn't a problem. Perhaps a little absurd, but not anything that a random guy from Wisconsin should be worried about.
Today, however, this is something that I take issue with. Many companies have applied to the government for some aid, and rightly so. As long as their executives aren't throwing $400,000 bailout parties, I don't have a problem with it. Ford Motor Company hasn't taken a penny from the government, so I have no problem with them or the fine folks in Detroit. But if a company has taken federal funds to help right their ships, and they turn around to spend $400 Million on essentially what amounts to nothing but major advertising, I believe this is entirely wrong. Citigroup should take action and cancel their deal with the New York Mets.
They have not, however. In fact, neither have the New York Mets taken any action whatsoever to address this situation. This deal has caught the attention of our legislature, however, and a few members of Congress are currently pushing for the Obama administration to either force Citigroup out of their deal with the Mets, or end and take away any and all federal funds Citi has received as part of the bailout.
Shame on you, New York Mets organization. Perhaps its the big city, empirical mentality that has changed the way they look at the world, and blurred their concept of reality. Maybe it's easy for me to take issue here because it's not my team. I assure you, however, should Miller Brewing Co. take any money from the goverment I would be the first to speak up if the Milwaukee Brewers at all hesitated in dropping Miller as their naming sponsor. In todays world of professional sports, I understand that it's all about the almighty dollar and putting butts in seats. But at some point, a man's conscience has to speak louder than his wallet. And if his doesn't, someone else does. Apparently the Mets fans all still have their jobs, and are current on all of their bills, because they haven't made enough of an uproar over this situation. If they had, we've have heard about it already, and there would be a different name on the front of their new stadium.