Destroy Your Liver Tour

By Ted Witulski | Dec. 04, 2001, 12 a.m. (ET)
Channel surfing is one way to get a glimpse into the popular culture of America. Disconcertingly, flipping from one program to another people begin to wonder about the messages that are being bought by youth today. Recently MTV, a bastion of information for today's youth, was helping Kid Rock ignite excitement for the upcoming release of his new album 'Cocky'. The album debuted at #7 on the top 200 Billboard chart. As Kid Rock raced about the stage striking tough guy poses, cameras from varying angles captured his attitude for America's youth culture to emulate. With sunglasses and fedora rounding out his look, Rock and his band-mates also donned old-style windbreakers. Emblazoned on the back of each jacket in bright and big letters was the peculiar message: "DESTROY YOUR LIVER TOUR". The throngs of fans cheered the music sensation, and MTV without hesitation broadcast the message to the teen dominated audience. Like it or not but often the message to youth from the famous is that alcohol use and abuse is cool. The growing trend is that kids at younger ages begin to experiment with beer and liquor. Even for athletes in high school sports the social thing to do is to occasionally cut loose and have a few----celebrate or sulk depending on the situation. The vast majority of kids who leave high school will have tried alcohol. Sixty-two percent of high school seniors report that they have been drunk; and 31% say they have had five or more drinks in a row in the last two weeks. Statistics like these poignantly display the use of alcohol by teenagers. Unfortunately, even high school athletes try to fit in with the social-drinking crowd. According to Terry Brands, two-time World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medallist, concern about popularity is always forefront in a teens mind. "Kids don't want to come to school on Monday and hear about the weekend, they want to be in the center telling about it", said Brands, "One thing I always tell athletes is so what if you missed the party---did you get better that day?" Terry and Tom Brands two of the best competitors ever to represent the United States in wrestling shared the common desire to be the best. When they evaluated what they needed to do to reach the top of the wrestling world, they both came to the same conclusion. Complete abstention from alcohol. To this day neither has drank alcohol. The decision for both seems to show their higher commitment to the sport that they centered their lives around. Both wrestlers readily admit that family history further influenced them into shying away from alcohol. Tom and Terry, without hesitation speak on the pain that their' father's abuse of alcohol had on their family. "I saw what alcohol did to my dad and his family growing, commented Tom Brands, it robs people of their commitments and dreams, and much worse the families and children they have." About 43% of U.S. adults -- 76 million people -- have been exposed to alcoholism in the family -- they grew up with or married an alcoholic or a problem drinker or had a blood relative who was an alcoholic or problem drinker. Terry Brands recently toured the northeast by visiting five states to promote membership in USA Wrestling. After showing the prowess and techniques that guided him on the mat, he would stop the clinic and sit the youth down to share the philosophy that guided him outside of competition. Through cajoling Brands would get the kids, some with parents present, to raise their hands and admit to partaking in using alcohol. Terry's response to the throngs of kids bordered on incredulous, "Why? It's poison!" With a strong and stern voice bent on influencing the kids he would say, "As far as I know my brother Tom never had a drink and I'm proud to say I have not either….we believe that booze is poison and if you consume it you are robbing yourself of that chance to win Gold, to become the best wrestler, husband, father, coach, and friend you can be." At every clinic stop on his travels his message beyond wrestling was to represent yourself in a positive light. Clearly, Terry Brands showed youth wrestlers that there are other options than drinking. Tom Brands holds an equally tough view for kids looking to gain acceptance by fitting in and drinking. "Success is about choices", stated Tom Brands, "Regardless of your level of success you are going to be 100% accountable for the choices you make---if you make the wrong choice then you own that decision 100%. No excuses!" At the turn of the century one of the most successful wrestlers nationally was Farmer Burns. As a coach and trainer of wrestlers, he produced a mail order training program for athletes to follow. His advice to wrestlers of the early 1900's seems cut from the same cloth as the Brands Brothers responses. "Leave all liquors alone. Why drink them when they do you no good, but positively harm you. Alcohol in any form taken internally acts as poison. If taken to excess it works rapid destruction and YOU MUST PAY FOR IT by poorer health and shorter life." Farmer Burns Book No. 3 Lesson 5 and 6 Olympic Champion, Tom Brands believes that athletes need to maintain an edge to achieve greatness. "Don't partake in anything that doesn't build up your body, said Brands, "For me alcohol was never a temptation, because I wanted to be the best wrestler I could be and nothing was going to keep me from that." Terry Brands, like Tom, always felt he would dominate the competition not just because he didn't drink but because he tried to do everything right and train harder than anyone. In 1996 the duo set out to reach the top of the Olympic world. According to Terry, "We ate right, drank right, slept right, trained right; we brainwashed ourselves to the point of invincibility. The training regimen the two embarked upon is mind-boggling. The wrestlers would wake at four in the morning to push cars or pull weighted sleds. Two-a-day workouts would have been a walk in the park, as the fierce-some duo went through as many as five hard workouts a day. In '96 Tom Brands achieved his goals by winning the Olympic Gold Medal. Terry, in historically one of the most exciting best of three series, lost to Kendall Cross, who went on to win the Gold. "The '96 season is still a mystery to me", said Terry Brands looking back, "Kids need to realize that it is lonely at the top. To be the only one at the gym running to make weight, or lifting weights, or doing whatever it takes is lonely. But it's worth being the best." From Tom's perspective, wrestlers can still feel acceptance from their peers without having to drink. "I use to go to bars and hang out with friends in college, said Tom, "Sure some guys would try to get me to drink-or they would say you will some day. But, eventually they learned my reasons for not drinking and then they accepted it." Flipping by channels again, Stone-Cold Steve Austin's t-shirt reads-'Alcohol Fueled', and the throngs of Pro Wrestling fans cheer his antics. But yearly statistics show alcohol contributes to 100,000 deaths annually, making it the third leading cause of preventable mortality in the United States after tobacco and diet/activity patterns. Wrestlers on the youth level and the coaches who guide them need to tune into the dedication that elite wrestlers have to ascend the top steps of the wrestling world. Tom and Terry Brands don't drink. To them, the choice was obvious-success or failure-drinking was the wrong path for them. Athletes across the nation who want to be great will have to make their own choice. Just remember that excuses aren't acceptable for these two, whatever choice you make your 100% accountable for you're actions. **************************************************************** This article was provided as a resource for wrestlers and caoches by the National Coaches Education Program. Coaches and wrestlers are encouraged to become members of USA Wrestling, the National Governing Body of amateur wrestling. To coach at USA Wrestling tournaments on the state, regio