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Burns: What’s in a name?

The greens are perfectly manicured, the golfers tuned up, the kegs on ice. The PGA Tour is back and golf has our full attention. So now is a perfect time to address the elephant in the room.

No, not Tiger. He’s the snake in the room.

I’m talking about the name. The Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The name has yielded more snickers than a break room vending machine. Based off people’s reaction you would think they’re playing the tournament on a landfill. The Decision-Maker (code name for my wife) can’t say it with a straight face – as if she can smell the dumpster from here. Maybe she is worried the shuttle buses have been replaced by garbage trucks.

And here I thought we had all just accepted the notion that corporate naming rights in sports is a permanent fixture of our landscape. An accepted fact. Ashton Kutcher can’t act. George Clooney is better looking than you. And corporate sponsors will pay millions of dollars to get their name in front of your face at a sporting venue. That’s life baby.

I’ll admit there is some up-front, knee-jerk shock value in naming a golf tournament after a company that takes out the trash. It’s got a long way to go in terms of aesthetic value. But I bet half of you can’t even correctly recall what the “F” or the “B” or the “R” stood for in FBR Open. (Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc, an investment company that lost $1.3 billion in the last four years according to the Arizona Republic)

Waste Management is a very successful company that provides a very valuable service and makes a very large profit (they reported over $1 billion in income last year according to the Arizona Republic). Mock it all you want; in uncertain economic times like these you’d probably love to work for a company like that.

Corporate sponsors to me are like a shot of Novocain at the dentist. Once I’ve had the first one, it’s hard to feel anything else after that. First time I heard “Wells Fargo Arena” I hated it. Now, it just rolls off the tongue. “University of Phoenix Stadium” was met with a healthy dose of irony (It’s in Glendale, but they put Phoenix in the name……they used to play at a college facility now they play in a building named after a college…who are you people). Now, who cares? It hosts Super Bowls and national championship Fiesta Bowls and a pretty good NFL team. Call it whatever you want; I’m just glad it’s there.

And that is ultimately my Shakespearean point about the Waste Management Phoenix Open. What’s in a name? It’s still the same golf tournament party. The golf is just as good, the beer is just as cold, the weather is just as nice and the tight jeans and high heels are just as tight and just as high.

Call it whatever you want. I’m just glad it’s there.