The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer President Tom Schlafly
Alert readers (ARs) who are interested in the business of beer will enjoy reading Dethroning the King by Julie MacIntosh, the saga of InBev’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch. On page 26 of the book these same ARs will find a reference to yours truly, whom Ms. MacIntosh quotes with reference to Gussie Busch’s famed rides around Busch Stadium in a wagon pulled by Clydesdales:
“What was amazing was the reaction in the bleachers, where these guys making six or seven dollars an hour would rush to buy a beer to toast ‘Gussie’ the billionaire,” said Tom Schlafly, a rival St. Louis beer maker in an interview with a local paper. “If Diana was the People’s Princess, he was the People’s King.”
The dethroning that inspired the book was officially consummated on Tuesday, November 18, 2008. Two years later there was another dethroning in the world of sports. On Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Mark Schubert, who had coached U.S. swimming teams in eight Olympic games, was abruptly fired by Swimming USA. Although the reasons for Schubert’s dismissal were not publicly disclosed, there were reports that he habitually screamed at athletes and that his fiery and intense style of coaching is what did him in. While I cannot confirm the truth of these reports, I can provide a possible explanation for Schubert’s demeanor if they are in fact true.
The story begins on Thursday, February 12, 1970, when Mark and I both arrived at army basic training at Fort Jackson, SC. We were in the same platoon and his name immediately followed mine alphabetically. Because our drill sergeant invariably called me Shoo-fly, the first syllables of our respective surnames were consistently pronounced the same.
On that particular morning all the trainees in our group had received a series of shots in each arm. For some reason one of the shots in our right arms produced a particularly painful reaction. We were then transported in 2 ½ ton trucks from the reception center to the barracks where we would live during basic training. Upon arrival, we were ordered to hold our duffle bags on our right shoulders while jumping from the backs of the trucks to the ground a few feet below. Not surprisingly, lots of trainees couldn’t hold onto their duffle bags, thereby provoking the wrath of drill sergeants who ordered them to do push-ups as punishment. (“Boy, you don’t like Fort Jackson? Then push it away.”) The push-ups of course only aggravated the already sore right arms.
Upon arriving at our barracks, Schubert and I met Ronald Scanlon, the drill sergeant for our platoon. Sergeant Scanlon ordered all of us to grab our heads with our right arms and our rear ends with our left hands. He then told us to pull our heads out of our rear ends (not his exact language). Anyone who laughed was ordered to do more push-ups. After a few minutes of pulling and grunting on our part, Sergeant Scanlon told us that with our heads dislodged, we were now ready to start basic training.
We soon learned that we needed Sergeant Scanlon’s permission to answer a call of nature. This permission would only be granted in cases of emergency. In order to prove an emergency existed, trainees sometimes had to run around imitating the sound of a siren before being allowed to go to the latrine.
A few weeks later we underwent bayonet training. As we stood in a circle with bayonets affixed to our M16’s, the instructor called out, “Bayonet fighters on guard.” This was our cue to thrust our bayonets forward and growl. (Needless, to say, some people didn’t growl properly the first, second, third or tenth time we were told to do so, necessitating numerous repetitions.) After we mastered growling, the instructor would ask, “Men, what’s the spirit of the bayonet?” This was our cue to yell, “To kill. To kill without mercy.” This too had to be repeated quite a few times before we got it right.
Without burdening my ARs with endless tales of basic training, I think I’ve made my point. If Mark Schubert did in fact use insensitive techniques while training Olympic swimmers, he probably learned them at Fort Jackson in the winter of 1970.
I would add, meaning no disrespect to my old army buddy, that it’s possible to excel as a world class athlete while maintaining a kinder and gentler disposition. A case in point is Janet Ryan, a three time All-American field hockey player and the co-captain of the University of Connecticut team that won the national championship in 1985. Janet then played for the U.S. national team before leaving the world of hockey and later joining the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa. In this capacity she became involved with an organization called L’Arche, which operates homes whose residents include adults with intellectual disabilities and adults without such disabilities. She is in the process of establishing a L’Arche community not far from Schlafly Bottleworks and expects it to be up and running in the spring of 2011.
According to Janet, each L’Arche community functions as a team. In the same way that her national championship team depended on players with different skills, the L’Arche home in Maplewood will respect and depend on the talents of residents with different abilities. It will be a great addition to the team that already makes Maplewood such an interesting and vibrant community.
Speaking of team sports, ARs may be interested to learn that the University of Maryland has authorized a club team in the sport of competitive eating. I’ve never witnessed a collegiate competition in this particular sport and cannot report authoritatively on what is entailed. Nevertheless, I can state with confidence that Elvis Presley would have excelled.
Elvis, who would have turned 76 on January 8, 2011, had a gargantuan appetite. One of his favorite dishes was Fool’s Gold Loaf, which consisted of a hollowed out loaf of bread that was warmed and filled with a jar of creamy peanut butter, a jar of grape jelly and a pound of bacon. One such treat was said to contain as many as 42,000 calories, which would be less than half of his reported daily intake of 94,000 calories. An Indian elephant by contrast subsists on a daily diet of a mere 50,000 calories.
Elvis, who died in 1977, is still known as The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll more than 33 years later. Unlike the former King of Beer, he’s never been dethroned.