By: Bob George/BosSports.net
August 07, 2002

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FOXBOROUGH -- It's not Reebok, but it's better.

Look sharp. Feel sharp. Be sharp. The Patriots need to get on the right "Trac" this year. Defenses will hopefully look real "foamy" against the Patriots. From "World Shaving Headquarters" to "World Championship Headquarters". You can feel the good vibes if you allow yourself to.

The Patriots made a huge cosmetic change on Monday, one that was done with their image in mind. And where the Patriots are involved, image maintenance should always be paramount. Whereas the Sullivan family and Victor Kiam did their level best to look like buffoons while at the helm of the Patriot franchise, Bob Kraft and son(s) seem to be interested in just the opposite.

Gone is the name CMGi, a company virtually nobody outside of Andover, Mass. had ever heard of, and that includes after they acquired the original naming rights for the new Patriots stadium. CMGi became the poster child for an old Steve Martin (the comedian, as opposed to the Patriot defensive lineman) book title, How I Turned A Million Dollars In Real Estate Into Twenty-Five Dollars Cash. CMGi became another dot.com casualty, and its stock dropped from $140 a share to a mere forty cents per share.

Kraft made the move to rename his new facility Gillette Stadium on Monday. The motivation wasn't so much about "Can CMGi make good on its promise to pay?" It was more about "What does it say about our organization if this new palace's namesake is a company with less existence security than the Montreal Expos?" It isn't clear who contacted who (Kraft versus Gillette), but our money is on Kraft initiating this whole process.

Gillette Stadium. We still prefer Reebok, in that Norton is closer than Boston, and this sneaker company nearly bought the Patriots in 1988. Some fans might prefer another previous stadium name suitor, Monster.com. But the name Gillette is strong, solid, and with a great legacy of supporting sports and sporting events.

Older folks might remember The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. On the popular baseball show This Week In Baseball, the great veteran sportscaster Mel Allen would close each show with the week's top player, named the Gillette Special. And on those old Gillette Platinum-Plus (ah, the old double-edge razor blade) commercials which featured baseball players of the early 1970s, who can forget umpire Tom Gorman (with then-Cubs manager Leo Durocher at his side) telling the narrator "You are gahne! (gone)". Classic stuff, folks.

Once upon a time, Gillette sponsored the ballots for Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. They looked like Massachusetts Turnpike tickets, and the voter punched out their choices for the starting lineups (these ballots were perhaps not used in Florida). This was about when the Trac II came out.

Poor Schick. It may no longer have a market in these parts.

Like it or not, Gillette Stadium is the new name of the new Patriot palace. It really matters not what the name is. Shakespeare's timeless "What's in a name?" soliloquy from Romeo And Juliet comes to mind. Tedi Bruschi said "Just gimme 100 yards of an open green field, that's all I need!". That pretty much sums up what's really important here.

But if you think about it, the name is something to give strong consideration to. It won't necessarily affect wins and losses, but the appeal of the organization is worth thinking about. You think about the Houston Astros trying to build (or rebuild) a fan base, and they go and build this kooky new ball park, name it Enron Field, then watch the company go up in flames. The kooky new ball park is now called Minute Maid Park. If Houston were in Florida, maybe then the new name would make sense.

An oddity is that Fenway Park remains the only major sports venue in this region still on its original name. The FleetCenter used to be the Shawmut Center until that bank was swallowed up by FleetBank. As for the two deceased venues, Foxborough Stadium was the third name for that facility, and Boston Garden used to be called "Boston Madison Square Garden". Tell the nutcases at Save Fenway Park! this item, and watch the fun.

Already, Patriot Nation is busy at work coming up with appropriate stadium clichés.

Our favorite one is simple. Look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp, and play sharp. The Patriots will need to do exactly that in 2002. They are both christening a new stadium and defending an NFL championship. The former is merely ceremonial. The latter is the real tough part.

The name Gillette should make everyone feel even better about the new place. Even though the players care more about the state of the art facilities than the name of the place, the spirits of all the players should be elevated a little bit more now that the place has the name of a more respected and time-honored company versus a flash-in-the-pan Internet holding company. With CMGi going the way of PSINet (presumably), the namesake of the Baltimore Ravens' stadium, it hopefully signals the end of teams who build new stadiums to entrust the naming rights to companies with such precipitous long term prospects.

All things aside, the new name simply sounds better. You've all heard of Gillette, and not CMGi. What with all the anticipation of the new place opening up this fall, it just didn't seem right to name it after a company nobody ever heard of. Gillette is a Boston institution, plain and simple. Without coming out and endorsing this company over Schick or any other competitor (anyone out there remember Personna?), Gillette is a high-profile corporate name, which will give the stadium a nice aura of legitimacy.

In this day and age of naming stadiums after major corporations, you should at least pick a name that identifies with both the local community and the nation as well. Heinz Field works great in Pittsburgh. Pacific Bell Park is nice for San Francisco. Ford Field is real sweet in the Motor City.

But not all stadiums submit to the corporate seductions. You have Cleveland Browns Stadium and Paul Brown Stadium, Jacobs Field and Turner Field. What could the Patriots use if they wanted to name it after a person or a place? "Sullivan" and "Foxborough" have been used once before. How about Bob Kraft Stadium? Try and find one person who'd object to that. After all, Kraft is footing the bill for the place. It's his crib, after all.

But Kraft is a shrewd businessman, and an image-conscious one at that. In doing this new deal, he kills two birds with one stone. He had to do the deal with someone, as the cash was needed. Gillette merely sounds better than CMGi. Money and image taken care of with one fell swoop. Done.

So, Patriot Nation needs to get used to a new name once again. This is something that this great group of people is plenty used to. Schaefer, Sullivan, Foxborough, CMGi, and now Gillette. In the 1960s, venues changed, not names of venues. Patriot Nation has a nomadic mentality about itself. This new stadium, on its second name even before her maiden voyage, should faze no Patriot fan.

What is hoped is that this new place will last a long, long time. Foxborough Stadium lasted thirty years. Fenway is in year number ninety (not counting renovations). If Gillette Stadium can approach ninety, Kraft's legacy will be a lot more than just a statue someone is likely to build someday. The place simply oozes magnificence, and this is coming from a common guy who isn't privileged to see the luxury suites up close and personal. The Revolution have played a few soccer games there already, and there has been a rock concert as well. What we have seen thus far has been all that was promised.

The Patriots will get tested right away as to how sharp they are. Their opening night opponent are the Steelers. One can only hope the Steelers don't treat the Patriots like the Patriots treated the Steelers at their first visit to the new Pittsburgh crib.

If nothing else, if the name means anything, the Patriots have a winner with Gillette.

For Kraft, he might hope for an old Gillette slogan to refer to him and his new stadium (and his team, for that matter): The best a man can get.


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