If You Believed The Altruism of That “Hero” Ad, You’re The Mark They’ve Been Waiting For

Rare is the moment when the great brain trust at GF3 dedicates itself to anything but the endless toil of bringing you the wisest college football news and opinions your $0 entry fee can buy you. This is one such moment.

Provided you do not live in Soviet Russia, you are no doubt familiar with the Budweiser ad which showed the surprised young LT receiving an unexpected hero’s welcome home. A ticker tape parade greeted this young warrior, who was picked from among many deserving entrants to ride triumphantly atop the Budweiser wagon.

Or was he?

Rage on, you crazy diamond.

Rage on, you crazy diamond.

Let’s talk about the guy at the center of all this for a moment. Now, now…before your hackles raise in righteous anger about anyone questioning this brave veteran, bear the following in mind. For one, he has served his nation in a time when many don’t, and that service is worthy of honest admiration and respect for the effort and difficulties inherent in military life. Secondly, know that everyone who contributes to this blog is a veteran of the post-9/11 conflicts. Every. Last. One. Deployments range from one to five among us. With that experience comes perspective, and with that perspective comes a torrent of rage that makes Brian Kelly’s sideline aneurysms look like a Hare Krishna tea party.

Chuck Nadd is a young lieutenant. A West Point graduate. A man luckily chosen from amongst the ranks to represent all that is right and good and heroic about selfless service. Right?

Perhaps we should take a closer look at how this commercial came to be…

Chuck Nadd has a website. In fact, he has several of them. The best of them is chucknadd.com, which is about as thinly veiled an attempt at personal brand-building a man could muster, short of making himself a Facebook “Public Figure” fan page. To be fair, the Naddblog is a close second in terms of quality.

Chuck Nadd does, in fact, have a Facebook Public Figure fan page, too. UPDATE: The public page was deleted.

Mr. Nadd has been posing for some interesting self-styled PR shots online for quite some time now. Among the best is him posing with an American flag and cadet saber (yeah, we know it’s actually a sword)–a shot which was prominently displayed on his fan page until yesterday. Our finely honed detecto-meter is slowly creeping toward “suspicious.”

When he’s not updating his webpage and fan page, he likes to pen Op-Eds about the importance of “setting an example” over his french toast. A for concept, F for execution.

That habit is probably just an extension of his first gig as the self-proclaimed Youngest Political Commentator  in America. Granted we’re no strangers to shameless promotion here at GF3, but even we don’t stoop to posting comments about ourselves in the third-person. Yet. UPDATE: That thread has been removed.

Of course, that came on the heels of his demand for a public apology from Senator Kerry in 2006 at the age of 17. Democrat or Republican, I don’t know a high school kid anywhere with the credentials to condemn a Vietnam veteran’s view on foreign wars and foreign policy. Then again, I went to public school. Yeah, we all do some dumb stuff as teenagers. I thought the game warden wouldn’t see me parking with my girlfriend on state land in my ’89 Caprice Estate wagon. Some people prefer to demand apologies from statesmen. Different strokes.

His trip through the hard-scrabble town of Winter Park (where the average household income is $8000 higher than the rest of Florida) was not LT Nadd’s first brush with TV glory. As a cadet, he made a rather embarrassing appearance on Wheel of Fortune. By rather embarrassing, I mean completely devoid of anything approaching the decorum one might expect out of young man representing West Point and the US Army. Detecto-meter into the red zone.

In the present, LT Nadd’s girlfriend Shannon Cantwell–who claimed responsibility for connecting the unpalatable megabrewery with her man–works for Sen. Shelby of Alabama as a correspondent and deputy press secretary. Both she and Budweiser say he was chosen after she entered him in a contest after hearing about it “through her VFW.”

After multiple queries, the VFW came clean about the “contest” they supposedly put on with Budweiser which begat the surprise parade:

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 20.21.16“Contrary to what you’ve read within the “associated press junkets,” there was no contest. Ms. Cantwell is referring to word of our outreach efforts that briefly appeared on one of our VFW Department websites.” -VFW 

So it was less a “contest” and more a “casting call.” That’s a bit less-heartwarming, so I can see why they might leave that part out. Sort of like how I tell people I look like David Beckham in that underwear ad, but I’m actually more like a sock full of oatmeal.

rock-or-something_zps3417be41So, the boyfriend of a Senator’s employee is chosen to be the spokesmodel for Budweiser’s commitment to honoring heroes. After his first deployment of eight months. In an Army that has been at war for a decade plus, where you can’t toss a rock-or-something without hitting three multi-deployment veterans and a wounded warrior, as the result of a “VFW contest” that wasn’t a contest. That sounds totally legit. Nothing to see here.

Who dressed the lieutenant?

Who dressed the lieutenant?

At least he did the Army proud by donning a flame-retardant Nomex outer garment that is intended for flight line wear and then didn’t even bother to put his rank on it. On national television. Solid work, LT. Your 1SG just threw a clot at the sight of you.

We could beat this guy up all day for his calculated antics–a behavior so blatantly self-interested that it makes the term “unbecoming” seem woefully inadequate. Those who’ve served their country with humility and pride are likely quite queasy by now. Those who’ve been on three, four, or more deployments (more than half of the contributors to this fine publication) and came home to a long hug and quiet dignity are projectile vomiting like golf course sprinklers.

That’s not the point. Chuck Nadd isn’t the point. He just illustrates the point. We could point out all the ways this “contest” stinks to high heaven and the fact that a guy whose name brings up 20 pictures on a quick image search found his way into the limelight again. He probably has taken enough grief about this for two lifetimes, and I’m sure if he finds himself alone in the maintenance hooch with some crew chiefs he’s going to get a lovely Super Bowl After-party, the effects of which will necessitate some nail polish remover and a trip to the PX barber shop to make right. (Don’t worry, every LT gets one, it’s a rite of passage).

The point of all this tilting at windmills is this: right now, we live in a society where two very alarming trends have intersected in a very bad way.

The first is the use of the military and its members, be they genuine humble servants or disgusting glory hounds, as props. Budweiser plays us like a cheap Belgian fiddle (you know A-B is now part of a Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate now, I’m sure), and they’re far from alone. They couldn’t even be bothered to pick someone other veterans and military families might call the “right guy” for this role. They went with the well-connected, media-savvy known quantity. Why? Because Budweiser is smart enough to know that by and large, where the military is concerned, America is dumb. Why take a risk on some average Joe? Why pick some enlisted soldier who might not be quite as polished or pretty after a few years of war? Definitely don’t pick one of those wounded veterans with a missing limb. That’d be way too uncomfortable. America will lap up any camo-clad figurine Bud throws on the screen, so pick the guy who briefs well. This isn’t actually about the soldiers, anyway. It just has to look that way.

Of course you welled up with pride and misty-eyed joy at the sight of this commercial. We all did. We’re conditioned to do so, whether by societal norms or by memories of our own first homecoming from the sandy outposts of American foreign policy. We have come to accept soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as props.  Our honorable warfighters have been allowed to become fungible assets in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Veterans are on par with the Priceline Negotiator and Sarah MacLachlan’s gut-wrenching narration of starving puppies (seriously, cut that out before I adopt dog #4). They’re all means to end. America feels good. Dollars get spent. The terrorists don’t win.

BudBowl2Make no mistake, we enjoy our ducats here at GF3 (when the t-shirts and car stickers go on sale, you damn well better buy some). But don’t for a moment think that Anheuser-Busch gives two good goddamns about a soldier’s homecoming, whether it’s aspirational poster-child Chuck Nadd or a Navy SEAL or anyone else in the uniform of the United States. Chuck Nadd was on the commercial for one reason: to sell you shitty beer (two, if you count his personal dreams of stardom). The military has been on a long, hard road since 2001. Like any weary traveler, a warm hug and a hot meal feels great. The problem is that the people doing the hugging and feeding are packaging up their good deeds and selling it to an American public all too happy to say “bless their hearts” and buy another six-pack of St. Louis Swill.

The second trend is the NFL’s ever-increasing ability to turn patriotism into profit. I suppose this could be considered two sides of the same coin, but the points remain. I don’t like pro ball for a lot of reasons. It’s mercenary sport, and if you’re going to cheer for the Seahawks over the Broncos you might as well tune into quarterly conference calls so you can cheer for Google over Apple. It’s the same relationship. But even worse than that is the NFL model and the soulless measures it goes to to sell us on its wholesome image. The Atlanta Falcons just milked $200 million in tax money out of the city for a new stadium. Why? They didn’t like their old one. It wasn’t nice enough. Someone else had shinier toys. And if you don’t agree to pay the millionaire owner’s ransom? Why they’ll just move the team. Ask Cleveland. Or Baltimore. Or Houston. Or Los Angeles. How’s that for wholesome? They wield your love and loyalty like a weapon and hold you ransom. They’re the husband who beats you and you swear they do it because you deserve it.

How much do you think the NFL gave to veterans programs last year? $800,000. Not even a million dollars. The NFL’s revenues last year topped $9 billion. For those of you who checked your mathemagician skills at the door, that means the NFL gave away .0088% of its revenue to help the veterans it happily trots out to you before each game. Essentially, they bought a house in Winter Park. You gave 1000 times that proportion to your church, and you’re a cheapskate (it’s ok…render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and not a penny more).

The NFL loves to slap those camo ribbons on every fall and show us a clip of some sergeant in Bagram saying “Who Dey!?” at the commercial break. But when it comes time to cut a check, suddenly the Army’s ACU pattern works pretty well because the NFL can’t seem to spot those same veterans anywhere. That is, until it’s time to unfurl a giant flag or fly some jets over the stadium, or sing the National Anthem. To borrow from Kipling…

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

I’d say nothing about the NFL’s marketing machine could be more shameless, but that would be an insult to their use of the Susan G. Komen pink breast cancer campaign. (Hint: it’s not about cancer, it’s about female viewership and profits). Look at the bright side, though, at least those profits weren’t chewed up by taxes, since the NFL is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization. As Biggie Smalls said, “and if you don’t know, now you know.”

1LT Chuck Nadd may be a bad guy whose shameless self-promotion is embarrassing to the Army and his alma mater. More likely he’s just a guy who doesn’t know when to call it quits, and is now facing a withering storm from hard-nosed veterans who can pick out a “Spotlight Ranger” a mile away and won’t mince words about it. As GF3 stringer and Afghanistan veteran Mighty Dog says, “if you’re alive and you got all your limbs, ain’t nobody need to look at you.”

We all learn hard lessons. Neither possibility about the young LT is germane to the real point and the real problem.

Every time a corporation uses a veteran to shill its goods, the dignity of service is eroded. The military is one of the few truly great institutions in this country–a place where values and work ethic combine to form a fearsome force which can move mountains, topple tyrants, and mend lives both here and abroad. It is not perfect by any stretch, but it’s a damn sight better than most other corners of the American experiment.

We are your warfighters. We are your sons and daughters. We are your fathers and mothers and spouses. We are your sword and protector. We are not aimless urchins. We are not broken objects to be pitied at a safe distance.

And we are not your goddamn beer salesmen.

Shame on you, Budweiser. Shame on you, nameless PR flack who allowed the Army to underwrite Budweiser’s Super Bowl profit grab. In a military where leaders struggle to both help good young soldiers make smart choices about alcohol and to keep troubled veterans from leaning on it to ease their pain, helping sell beer isn’t going to win any foresight awards.

Shame on you NFL, for making Scrooge McDuck look both poor and charitable. Shame on us for lapping it up.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

Only 6 more months until college football.

 

 

 

 

Author’s note: As I said in the initial post—and will reiterate here—this is not an attack piece on Chuck Nadd. The LT made some pretty questionable decisions with regard to his pursuit of notoriety, to be sure. If nothing else, this whole event will likely serve as harsh lesson in the pitfalls of willfully crafting one’s own transition from a private servicemember to a public figure. I doubt he’ll soon forget it. The point of bringing his decision to seek media attention was to illustrate that Budweiser was not out to find a deserving “hero” to honor. It was out to find the right image to honor in its ultimate pursuit of selling more beer. For reasons great and small, he fit that image.  Some of those reasons are his doing, and some are of Budweiser’s doing.

At the end of the day, the LT is still a LT. He is an American servicemember who, as I said, has done his duty when called upon. That commands a baseline of respect. Even if you disagree with his proclivity for public appearances, he is still an officer and a young man with a long life of growth ahead. Temper your vitriol accordingly. None of us is perfect, either. If nothing else, this is a grand lesson in the downside of self-promotion and fame-seeking in the age of the internet and how little altruism actually exists in the “feel good” spots about servicemembers.

Accordingly, many of the more vicious and personal comments have been moderated to keep some sense of decorum alive here.

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Outrageously handsome. Infinitely practical. Stunningly insightful. An Ozymandian tour de force of college football punditry. Makes Jesse Palmer's tie look fat.