Written by Val Dodge

I went to a Blue Jays baseball game at the SkyDome for the first time in a couple of years last week. I was looking forward to a lazy evening at the ballpark, sitting back in my seat, eating overpriced stadium food, heckling the visiting Oakland Athletics, cheering on the hometown Jays, and enjoying that undefinable ambiance that descends upon baseball crowds alone among all the major sports. Even though I've all but given up following professional sports leagues, I still look forward to watching a good baseball game.

Instead, I was struck immediately by how much the experience has changed in such a short time. I felt like I was sitting inside a giant commercial.

First off was "FedEx Delivers The Game," in which a FedEx van drove onto centre field and then off again, without actually delivering anything at all.

That was followed by the First Ball, brought to you by a Chevrolet Corvette which, again, drove onto centre field and then drove off, again, without actually dropping off the first ball.

The first pitch was thrown out by the star of an upcoming movie -- a commercial for which was shown later, one of two stadium-encompassing commercials shown during the game. It was just like watching the game on TV.

The "Game Host" was some guy from Rogers Television who spent the mid- and end-of-inning breaks strolling around the SkyDome running contests -- The Staples contest, the Keg contest, the Klondike Ice Cream Bar contest, the Rogers High-Speed Internet contest, the FedEx contest, the Murderball poster contest, and on it went.

There were at least two contests where you had to text message your answer to a special number in order to win. At one point, I realized that the only things not brought to me by some corporate sponsor were the national anthems and, strangely enough, the former JumboTron, which is not the Sony JumboTron or the Panasonic StadiumVision or somesuch, but just "the big screen."

At one point Ace, the Jays' mascot, ran through the stands with his little uniformed helpers and tossed empty (I assume) FedEx shipping boxes to the most boisterous fans. And believe me, the lucky recipients looked ecstatic to take possession of their new-found, uh, cardboard. It's possible that something was supposed to be inside, but I must have missed that part.

I'd also estimate that I saw the Rogers logo more times that night than I had in my entire lifetime before.

At the last game I went to not quite two years ago, I don't recall anything near the kind of corporate orgy that I witnessed last night. Back then, the highlight of the game was some guy with a grenade launcher shooting free hot dogs up into the crowd. Now *that* was fun, but I suppose nothing screams lawsuit like a weiner missile.

Oh yeah, the game wasn't bad, but it detracted a bit from the commercial message.