The pink industrial complex

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1961 is mostly remembered for his words about the “military-industrial complex.” He said,

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

While this threat has far from subsided, we now have an additional myriad of “industrial complexes” that could not have been imagined in the 1950s and 1960s. These are not new complexes; only ones that have grown geometrically in expense over the past half-century. Technically they may not be part of industrial complexes, but there really is little else to call them when you see the average costs involved for some of the events.


Wedding Industrial Complex: $25,000 (not including honeymoon)

Funeral Industrial Complex: $7,000 to $10,000

Bar/Bat Mitzvah Industrial Complex: $35,000

It’s interesting how many people moan and groan about what the government spends. How many times have we heard proposed spending cuts that include Head Start, school lunches, WIC, and even veterans’ benefits? They want us to be wise in the spending decisions that our government makes. But when it comes to personal or family financial decisions, we often throw caution to the wind and spend freely on activities that may not be as important as we’re led to believe and which last a far shorter period of time than many of our real needs.

The idea of an element of government teaming up with a particular industry in order to better serve the clients of the government and enhance the profits in the private sector is neither novel nor unusual. Nor is an interlocking relationship between two private industries such as Boeing, manufacturer of aircraft, and American Airlines, a major customer for Boeing. There are lots of sweetheart deals between the two as there often are for any two companies that ply their business in the same sector of the economy.

However, these kinds of relationships reached an all-time oddity recently when several major league baseball players wanted to use regulation-style pink baseball bats last Mother’s Day.

It has been a tradition since 2006 for some baseball players to demonstrably support the fight against breast cancer on Mother’s Day by using pink bats. Not all players do it; some are more committed to the cause than others; some have finicky attachments to their bats and would never use one different from their custom model.

But those big-leaguers who want to use a pink bat on Mother’s Day assume a responsibility when they decide to “go pink.” They need to arrange with the manufacturer of their bat style to make a game’s worth of pink bats (usually three or four bats). By all rights, this shouldn’t be a difficult assignment. The players don’t have to make the actual arrangements; they simply contact their personal agent or an equipment supplier who works for the club and ask them to order several more of their regular bats, with these being painted pink.

Well hold it; not so simple. Consider what happened to Baltimore Orioles’ outfield Nick Markakis and Minnesota Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe when their two teams squared off on Mother’s Day 2013. They were both told that they could not use their pink bats because the bats were manufactured by MaxBat, their personal supplier for all bats. When sluggers Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers and Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies tried to use their pink bats manufactured by Tucci Lumber, they too were told that it would be illegal.

According to the New York Times,

In each instance, the bats ran afoul of an edict issued by Roy Krasik, Major League Baseball’s senior director for baseball operations. According to a memorandum he sent out in April and then reiterated two weeks ago to all of the bat companies used by major league players, companies were free to produce all-pink bats for Mother’s Day but only Hillerich & Bradsby, the makers of Louisville Slugger, the most widely used bat in baseball, could display its logo on the bats.

The bottom line is that there were a number of major league baseball players who wanted to honor the fight against breast cancer by using pink bats on Mother’s Day. Everything about the bats that they chose conformed to the regulations of Major League Baseball, except on this one day they would have a logo other than baseball’s choice provider, Louisville Slugger. What once appeared to be a generous and spontaneous act of charity by baseball players quickly became corporatized with the creation of the pink industrial complex? Where will it stop?