Sunday, March 15, 2009

Company makes sound business decision, angers millions

I like Facebook. Google Reader is my go-to time-waster now, but I can still count on it to learn something new anytime I log on. Sometimes it's something innocuous like a new boyfriend or a change of jobs, but every once in awhile, it's a display of misguided indignation from a group of otherwise rational people.

Today I was alerted that no fewer than 20 of my friends have joined Facebook groups protesting the renaming of the Sears Tower. It's mystifying on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that the Sears Tower isn't going anywhere. There will be a new name, yes, but the building itself will remain. The drive into the city isn't going to be any less picturesque, and I imagine the sightseeing trips to the top will continue in earnest.

Instantly, comparisons are made to U.S. Cellular's purchase of Comiskey's naming rights and Macy's's (pretty sure that's grammatically correct) buyout of the old Marshall Field's. Neither affected me personally, but I understood. Generation after generation of Chicago families made their pilgrimages to these places an annual rite.

There's probably an unflattering societal commentary in there somewhere, but it's beside the point - as we make memories in these places, they become friends. We personify them; we grow protective.

In part, that's why any indignation over the Sears Tower change - feigned or otherwise - makes so little sense. Though it's been North America's tallest building since its construction in 1974, it's the three-legged man of Chicago attractions - you give him a look, but he's not exactly practicing alchemy or perfecting interstellar travel, so you move on. There's nothing inherently fascinating about the building, so once we've gone up and snapped a few photographs, what more is there? Come back next Sunday?

The other aspect of this that's so bothersome is the sector of the populace that really takes these things as a personal affront. If/when the Ricketts family decides it's time to put Wrigley's naming rights on the block, I won't greet the news with the self-righteous anger that comes all too easily to some in situations like this. All things being equal, the Wrigley name is preferable; at the same time, the Ricketts family is very, very wealthy, and they didn't get that way by leaving money on the table. The same holds true here as, contrary to what public outcry insinuates, those holding stake in the Tower don't run a charity.

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