'GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium' is a Monument to Cynicism

The Chiefs are good now, so Arrowhead's name can be sold and you'll still show up.
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"GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium." It’s pronounced "G.E.H.A. Field." I didn't know that. I’ve been pronouncing it “GHEY-HA Field” for months and I feel dumb. No one told me it was "G.E.H.A." I’m not from Kansas City, so I’d never heard "GEHA," I’d only seen it. When I show my friends the new GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium logo, they all either say "GHEY-HA" or "G-HA." Either way, if you don’t live in KC, the natural reading of the new name of the Chiefs' field as it is currently presented is some combination of meaningless baby goo-goo-ga-ga gibberish talk.

Alternatively, the owner of the whole team — Clark Hunt — called it "G.E.H. Field" twice, which tracks with how much he seems to care or think about anything past the check clearing.

"GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium" is now the single clunkiest sounding stadium in the league. It has stolen the crown from Jacksonville's TIAA Bank Field. It also leaves the Packers, Bears, and Bengals as the only teams in the NFL with stadium names unsullied by outsider branding.

These branding deals aren't a necessary evil. They aren't something the Chiefs couldn't have lived without. You’ll see a lot of half-jokey talk on Twitter about GEHA Field: "Well, they had to offset that Mahomes contract somehow!"

The NFL has a cap. No branding deal for the stadium is going to help pay for players. It's just free money at the cost of sanitizing something for which a city and fanbase feels an intense loyalty.

The Packers have had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers for the last 30 years. Lambeau Field has remained Lambeau Field. The Packers have sold naming rights to all their entrance gates, their atrium, and their south end zone. But at no point in the future will the Sunday Night Football theme end and transition into Al Michaels saying, "A perfect night for football at venerable Lambeau's Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream Field at Miller High Life Stadium." You will, however, be hearing Al say "G.E.H.A. Field" over a primetime shot of Kansas City.

It doesn’t matter that GEHA is not-for-profit and provides the Chiefs' health insurance. They could have sold the naming rights to a group that saves puppies and kittens and it'd still be dumb. What matters is Arrowhead Stadium sat with names like Lambeau Field, Soldier Field, Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden. Now, not only does it have a gross name, it has among the grossest to say out loud.

It's a feeling that's difficult to articulate. No matter how many soda or beer or bank sponsors pepper the signage and walls and video boards of Arrowhead Stadium, you were going to Arrowhead Stadium. There's a certain purity and warmth to walking into a massive sports structure with a name that actually means something.

You lose that when a stadium name gets sold. It's like Blockbuster buying the local Bob & Jan's Video Palace. Bob and Jan are still in there smiling and renting you Night of the Living Dead, and there's even a sticker in the window that says "This Blockbuster is owned and operated by Bob & Jan's Video Palace." But now they’re wearing bright blue and yellow in a corporate-branded store and you have to carry a Blockbuster card. Pragmatically the exchange is the same, but something intangible is lost.

A professional team is a unifier for a community. The stadium they play in can be a huge part of that. Imagine if instead of walking into Yankee Stadium, the great cathedral of baseball, you walked into Sony Music Entertainment Field at Yankee Stadium. Kind of difficult to be poetic about a building's aura when its name was for sale.

The only reason the Chiefs sold the naming rights to the field at Arrowhead is because they could. The team is so successful and so great, they could have sold the field's name to Equifax and it wouldn’t have impacted ticket sales. It's free money, and no amount of fan passion is worth more than free money. What are you gonna do, not show up to watch Patrick Mahomes?

No matter how much the Chiefs say the Arrowhead Stadium name will remain integral to their branding, the redesigned signage on the back of the stadium's video board tells the truth.

The massive "ARROWHEAD" script on the back of the stadium's largest video board has remained mostly unchanged since it was constructed, and it's universally beloved. It was perhaps the single most recognizable detail of the entire building. The primary signifier of an architectural jewel that also happens to house probably the city's most beloved entity.

It would have been very easy for the Chiefs to construct signage on top of the video board for the new "GEHA FIELD AT" portion of the name. Better yet, they could have emblazoned "GEHA FIELD" all over the top and side of the luxury boxes and left the video board untouched. Even better-er, they could have just left the stadium's name alone.

Instead, what we now have in place of something that has sat untouched for decades is an awkward mess that pushes the Arrowhead name off to the side in a smaller font. The message is clear: this is GEHA Field. That is what you will hear from the front office during press conferences and it’s what you'll hear on TV from announcing teams. "Arrowhead Stadium' is dead, and the whole franchise feels a little bit colder because of it.

Nothing about this naming rights deal will improve the product on the field or the experience in the stands. It's a cynical, soulless plundering of one of the most soulful structures in American sports.

Read More: Chiefs Announce Naming Rights for 'GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium'