Times a Changin: Beer Cans, Church Keys, and Ted Williams

Old School Beer Can

Having never before considered the history of the beer can, last night I was reading a book of collected essays by John Updike, and I was surprised to find him complaining (reading as time travel) in the year 1964 about a new innovation:  “Now we are given, instead, a top beetling with an ugly, shmoo-shapped ‘tab,’ which after fiercely resisting the tugging, bleeding fingers of the thirsty man, threatens his lips with a dangerous and hideous hole.”  Mr. Updike combated this problem by simply turning the can over, popping his holes into the bottom, and drinking mostly as he always had.  My mother-in-law tells me the little hole-popping device was known as a “church key” and carried on many a key chain.

Another essay in the collection is on Ted Williams’ last baseball game.  Updike explains that the sports of his time are able to avoid “irrelevance…not by the occasional heroics that sportswriters feed upon but by the players who always care; who care, that is to say, about themselves and their art.”  I’m certainly not saying that all athletes don’t care.  There’s an arc of them flowing from my childhood to today–Walter Payton, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Brett Favre, and Tiger Woods (that’s right!)–who’ve been able to keep me occasionally interested in what threatens to become irrelevant, at least keep me interested for the passion they show and have shown on the field of competition.

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