NORM:This group can make your average Joe feel right at home


March 16, 1992|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Staff Writer

Lanham -- Sure, Tom Campion says, he'll have another beer, another Samuel Adams -- a fine brew, a fine man, that Sam. A revolutionary, Sam was; never liked paying taxes to bloody ol' Britain.

Probably would have felt right at home here at Langway's sports bar, tipping a few with the guys, watching basketball reruns, discussing this curious new group called the National Organization of Regular Men, or NORM.

Mr. Campion and a buddy, Bill Miller, formed the group last fall to celebrate regular guys. Its motto is: We like sports. We like beer. We like women.

The founders are history teachers at Thomas Johnson Middle School in Prince George's County. They've been friends for 10 years, Mr. Campion says, and talked occasionally about how your average, hard-working, tax-paying, beer-drinking, sports-loving guy gets overlooked in the deluge of special-interest groups and politically correct behavior.

They got fed up last fall when native Americans protested the "tomahawk chop," the rallying cry of fans of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, as well as the nickname of Washington's football team, the Redskins. And they really got steamed during the Clarence Thomas hearings as Anita Hill accused the Supreme Court nominee of sexual harassment and, as Mr. Campion says, "men were getting trashed daily."

So they formed NORM, tongue mostly in cheek, to poke fun at more serious special-interest groups, but tongue not totally in cheek.

"The founders of NORM feel that regular men have been treated unfairly in recent years," the group's first newsletter says. "While the contributions of regular men are taken for granted, their shortcomings are rarely overlooked. . . .

"We carved homes out of the wilderness and turned open prairie into bountiful farmland. We built the roads, railroads, bridges and airports that hold our nation together. We kill spiders when others can not.

"And who notices? What day of the year are men honored? Where is Men's History Month?"

Mr. Campion has written members of Congress urging a national holiday celebrating the contribution of regular men as well as a Men's History Month in October, which seems the ideal time because lots of sports are on TV then.

He hasn't heard a word from the politicians, but he's gotten an earful from women's groups.

Officers of National Organization for Women chapters in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, where most NORM members live, have called the group shallow, disrespectful of women and a Neanderthal throwback.

Mr. Campion's response? "I feel like we've just made our point. They don't know a thing about us, and they criticize us out of hand."

Fran Everett, past president of the Baltimore chapter of NOW, says NORM's motto "superficially is kind of funny. But it's sort of insulting, too."

By being so frivolous, she says, it trivializes the serious concerns of other organizations. For instance, says Laura Newman, current president of the Baltimore chapter, violence and rape against women are extremely serious and real concerns.

Both women agree that a month devoted to men's history would be superfluous.

"All history is men's history," Ms. Everett says. "That's why other people have their own history months."

One person amused by NORM is George Wendt, who plays the easy-going, beer-loving Norm on the television series "Cheers." Even though NORM was not named after Norm -- the acronym is coincidental -- Mr. Wendt said in a telephone interview he thinks it's flattering that his character is identified with a regular-guy's group.

After all, he said, Norm is your average, normal guy.

Does Mr. Wendt personally relate to NORM's motto of liking sports, beer and women?

"Oh sure," he said, "those are three things I like a lot. They're not all I like, though. I do like beer. Nobody's that good an actor.

"I don't hang out in bars. I have a much better relationship with my wife than Norm does. I have five kids while Norm doesn't have any. I do like sports.

"But Norm has much better writers than I do."

Mr. Campion, NORM's 42-year-old director, says the organization has more than 100 members, which is more than he ever anticipated, and is growing. He says he and Mr. Miller figured a few friends, relatives and co-workers would join, and that would be it.

But NORM has gotten some publicity, and word has spread. It has members as far west as California (Mr. Campion's brother) and as far north as Vermont (a state senator).

The senator, Richard McCormack, received a gift membership from a fellow state senator, John McClaughry. In a letter to Mr. Campion, Senator McClaughry, who had read a newspaper story about NORM, wrote:

"I welcome the creation of NORM. For too long we regular men have been getting the short end of the stick from gays, feminists, wimps and miscellaneous others who erroneously believe they are superior to us."

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