TISINGER: ‘Fan cans’ no reason to buzz

Sarah Tisinger

Last Thursday was the first game for Iowa State, which also means the first chance for tailgating. Students packed the lawns with party buses, trucks and tents sporting the Cyclone colors. It’s almost needless to say that there was endless ISU spirit throughout the tailgating and the game and during the team’s win.

I was among the many students who participated in the season’s first tailgating events. My party grilled brats, listened to music and played Frisbee with other nearby students. Did I have any alcohol to enjoy this event? Not a drop.

We walked through the crowds toward the game and observed the other groups of celebrators. It seemed ironic to me that the majority of “fan cans” seen were in the hands of the alumni crowd, when such a fuss was made and people thought these cans would cause more drinking on campus. And when I say alumni, I really do mean the 30-and-up age group.

This could be due to the fact that Iowa State has recently asked the Anheuser-Busch company to stop selling the red and gold cans in the Ames area. Or it could also be due to the fact that the “fan cans” were never really a big deal.

The Bud Light cans, in a recent promotional ploy, had been decorated in 26 different color combinations close to the colors of university teams. The company’s Web site even asks drinkers to visit and vote for the colors they like best. One of those combinations was dark red with two yellow stripes.

This promotion is brilliant. Tailgating is such a fun event, and everyone knows that people bring beer. If you’re going to drink a beer, why not drink a beer that celebrates your team’s colors?

The Daily editorial board wrote an editorial condemning the cans and complaining that Iowa State hadn’t yet made a stand against them.

“Underage drinking undoubtedly continues to support Anheuser-Busch, and when “fan cans” enter the picture, it isn’t hard to imagine what the results will be,” it said.

But John McCarroll, executive director of university relations, said a few days later “when you provide a product like that in this community, it sort of implies a connection with the university because of the colors.”

So is the fight about the company encouraging underage drinking, or about Iowa State not making any money off of the promotion?

Isn’t it strange how Iowa State can say that students shouldn’t be drinking from red and gold cans, yet the university puts its logo on insulated drink holders specifically designed for beer bottles? Or that shot glasses with ISU insignia are sold at the bookstore?

I’m sorry, Iowa State, but you can’t have one without the other and not look like a hypocrite. Rich Parizek, manager of Campustown Liquor in Ames, wrote a letter to the editor last week saying much the same thing.

“Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think you can copyright colors,” Parizek argued. “If a contract was drawn up to sell these cans, with the university getting a payback on cases sold, would they have turned the other way?”

Parizek also felt that these colored cans are not a major factor in encouraging underage drinking. “Unfortunately, there are many, many things out there in the world which encourage underage drinking and binge drinking a heck of a lot more than colored cans.”

Plenty of students feel the same way.

“I don’t think it’s really a big deal,” said Bill Dickens, junior in kinesiology and health, at the tailgate Thursday. “I feel that the colors are good for school pride, but as far as them wanting to take it away, it’s not really going to make a difference for anybody. Underage kids are going to drink anyway, and the color of a can isn’t going to cause the statistics to go up or down.”

Steven Bromley, senior in software engineering, agreed.

“I don’t think the cans encourage people to drink. Other things and other people are going to encourage people to drink more than the color of the can,” he said.

I had a lot of fun tailgating without alcohol. Students who want to drink are going to drink. Those who don’t can always find ways to get around it. Bud Light “fan cans” are not targeting underage drinkers; they’re encouraging those who already drink, to drink from cans that celebrate a certain college.

ISU representatives may have been a bit rash in their decision. Banning cans is just slapping a bandage on a broken bone. Maybe they feel like they’ve done something, but in the end, they’ve only missed the bigger problem.

If we’re going to get serious about underage drinking, ISU officials, stop distracting us by getting rid of an economically brilliant promotion of colored aluminum, and get real.

– Sarah Tisinger is a junior in journalism and mass communication from Bettendorf, Iowa.