Sunday, April 15, 2007

April 15, We Are Family

When I entered the exhibit hall today, I realized that yesterday’s crowds had died down substantially — and since I had seen virtually every inch of the exhibit hall, I decided to experience a bit more of St. Louis. I learned that the 2006 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals were playing at home in Busch Stadium against the Milwaukee Brewers, and walked down the street to catch my first-ever major league game. Interestingly, Milwaukee was the host of last year’s NRA Annual Meetings and, mirroring last years’ NRA meeting attendance numbers, St. Louis kicked Milwaukee’s buttocks ... 10 to 2.

It was Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball and, in recognition of Robinson’s contribution to breaking down the racial barriers in the major leagues sixty years ago, every player in the major leagues wore number 42 today in Robinson’s honor. I marveled at the contradiction that I far we’ve come from such an event being newsworthy to how short we’ve fallen with comments like “nappy headed hos” being delivered just this week. Seems no matter how much we’ve been taught, some of us never learn. Tom DeLay may stand behind the NRA, but when he stands behind Don Imus’ remarks, which he did, he’s lost me. Time to part company.

The overriding sentiment that settled on me today was one of tradition. There are not many more beautiful stadiums than Busch Stadium. With springtime finally getting a foothold over the cold, wet weather of the last few days, today was amazing with blue sky and sunshine. The day invited the happiest and warmest of thoughts.

Today is my birthday, and since my wife is from Missouri, and since her family has always been members of the “Cardinal Nation,” my thoughts turned toward family. I thought of my late father-in-law who was a Missouri state champion trap shooter, and a man who had to decline an invitation to join the Olympic shooting team because shooters had to pay their own way in those days. I thought of his two brothers — one, the recently retired Executive Director of the National Sporing Clays Association and National Skeet Shooting Association and the other, a prominent handgun hunting outdoor writer and member of the Missouri state legislature. I thought of my own father who, along with signing me up for little league baseball, made me a member of the NRA and member of the Salt Lake Small Arms Club when I was 12 years old. God only knows the impact they have all had on my life.

I’ve worked with so many companies within the firearms industry in my career that it defies belief ... Browning, Winchester, Remington, Beretta, Sigarms, Hammerli, Blaser, Sauer, Leupold and, most importantly, Springfield Armory. All of the other brands I’ve worked for build the products that make America fun. Springfield Armory makes the products that make America great.

When I first learned that I had to be in St. Louis for the NRA show on my birthday, I was frustrated. I used the word “alone” to describe my feelings. Today, I feel exactly the opposite. Before departing Busch Stadium, I wanted to shout to the tens of thousands of people in the crowd, “I’m on my way to catch a flight back to Utah. Before I leave, I want to let you know that St. Louis ROCKS!!!!”

Does this shirt make me look fat?

With my thoughts of family, I reflected on Friday evening. I spent Friday evening sitting by the pool of the St. Louis Holiday Inn Select with a dozen employees from Springfield Armory. We ate Buffalo wings and pizza. We drank beer. I played everything from Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead to Billy Joel, Elton John and Ray Charles on a baby grand piano that sat nearby, until hotel guests called the front desk to complain about the noise. The primary feeling I came away with was one of family.

I had sat among assembly techs, office assistants, accountants, sales reps and, arguably, the greatest pistol shooter in the world, Rob Leatham, that night. The overriding feeling I came away with was “family.”

I know I’m getting paid by Springfield Armory to blog the events of the 2007 NRA show, but in all honesty, I have never worked for another company that is as down-to-earth and real as these guys. I don’t care who you are, you would enjoy being around these people. Support them by buying their amazing products. Support them by joining the NRA.

Until next year in Louisville, where I hope you’ll join me at the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibit, I’m signing off.

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