The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
Graduation season is upon us. During the month of May hundreds of thousands of degrees will be awarded by colleges and universities located in or near counties and towns where Schlafly Beer is available. I’m proud to salute the accomplishments of these recent graduates and am honored that our beer will be part of many of their celebrations.
Unfortunately, one group that is chronically underrepresented among college graduates is scholarship athletes in revenue-producing sports. This is also the same group that seems to be consistently overrepresented among students charged with criminal offenses. In addition to stories about student athletes’ being arrested for a variety of felonies and misdemeanors, there have been widespread media reports of recruiting irregularities, academic dishonesty, improper payments and other assorted forms of wrongdoing. Amidst this smorgasbord of misbehavior in the world of college sports (at least those that generate enormous streams of revenue) the NCAA has a curious priority: beer. That’s right, beer. The NCAA prohibits the sale of beer at its tournaments presumably because serving beer to spectators would somehow corrupt the quasi-professional athletes on the court, rink or field. Right. Prohibitionism in the stands has been so effective in curbing corruption in big time college sports that you don’t want to take a chance by allowing a spectator who has paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars to watch the game to enjoy a beer while doing so.
Another priority of the NCAA is denying professional status to these quasi-professionals who earn millions of dollars for the colleges and universities from which they’re often not likely to graduate. The gauntlet has been thrown down by members of the Northwestern University football team who are seeking to form a union. While athletes at Northwestern may in fact be more likely to earn degrees than some of their adversaries on the gridiron, college educations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (with diplomas sometimes included) apparently aren’t enough. They want the right to bargain for a bigger slice of the revenue pie.
Back in the 1960s I participated in intercollegiate sports and generated zero dollars in revenue for my alma mater. There was no admission charge to watch the tennis matches in which I played, and I can safely say there was never a time when there were as many spectators as there were players on the court…even for singles matches. I did, however, participate in one extra-curricular activity that usually had a pretty big audience. I hosted a show on WGTB-FM.
Alert readers (ARs) who lived in or around Washington, DC in the 60s or 70s may recall that WGTB, which broadcast at 90.1 on the FM dial, was the student-run radio station at Georgetown. After I graduated, its popularity increased dramatically, as did its friction with the FCC and university administrators over some of the broadcasting content. In 1979 Georgetown sold the signal to the University of the District of Columbia for one dollar. Eighteen years later UDC sold the signal to C-SPAN for $25 million. In other words, a student activity for which I was an unpaid volunteer eventually generated a profit of $24,999,999. I can therefore say to Northwestern football players, “I feel your pain.” I can also say that one of the nice things about writing for The Growler is that the owners of the publication (of which I’m one) haven’t threatened to censor my content, as was the case at Georgetown 45 years ago.
Just as the president of Georgetown rid himself of a troublesome radio station 35 years ago, it has now been 75 years since the president of the University of Chicago abolished intercollegiate football at the university. Robert Maynard Hutchins justified his decision by saying, “A college racing stable makes as much sense as college football. The jockey could carry the college colors; the students could cheer; the alumni could bet; and the horse wouldn’t have to pass a history test.” To which I would add, the horse also wouldn’t try to form a union and wouldn’t commit any felonies.
Until such time as colleges start awarding athletic scholarships to horses, the best places to watch the Sport of Kings will be at the tracks where the races of the Triple Crown are run. ARs may be interested to note that The Kentucky Derby (on May 3rd), The Preakness (on May 17th) and the Belmont Stakes (on June 7th) will all be run at tracks not too far from venues that sell Schlafly Beer. As we wait to see if 2014 will produce a Triple Crown winner for the first time since WGTB stopped broadcasting from the Georgetown campus, it’s worth recalling a legendary horse named Stewball, who was made famous by Leadbelly, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary:
His bridle was silver. His mane it was gold.
And the worth of his saddle has never been told.
The NCAA might have a problem with Stewball’s accepting bling from athletic boosters, but it could probably look the other way, as it often has in the past.
He never drank water. He always drank wine.
Given its zero tolerance approach to beer, the NCAA could never abide an athlete who admitted to drinking alcohol, especially before the age of 21, as Stewball undoubtedly would have been in his prime.