The Benevolent and Loyal Order of Pessimists makes its home in Iowa City. Two hundred members strong, the organization holds its annual meeting as close as possible to April 15—which has the dual distinction of marking the income tax filing deadline and the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The Pessimists' glum creed: In front of every silver lining there's a dark cloud.
Iowa City also harbors the Malevolent and Loyal Order of Optimists. The membership of this club is more exclusive: Two. One is 28-year-old Terry Brands, the 1993 and '95 world freestyle wrestling champion at 125.5 pounds. The other is his twin brother, Tom, the '93 king at 136.5. Both are expected to make the U.S. Olympic team at the trials June 7-8. Becoming Olympians would come as no surprise to the Brands brothers, who since age 10 have believed they would someday compete in the Games.
"In eighth grade a kid much bigger than me laughed when I told him I planned to wrestle in the Olympics," says Tom. "Before he knew it, I was on the ground fighting him."
"The Olympics were a dream we shared," says Terry. "You can't stand around and let someone knock your dreams."
In street clothes the 5'7" Brands twins are genial roughs who comport themselves with a certain burly panache. In singlets they adopt alligator moves and Rottweiler dispositions. "If I could, I'd tear limbs off to win," says Tom. "When I get on top of an opponent, I want to rip out his arm and hand back a bloody stump. That might sound demented, but I thrive on the brutality of the sport. The object is to inflict intense legal pain."
This is not just punk bravado. There's something unnerving about the Brandses' bluster. "They've got a different aura to them," says Royce Alger, who was on the Iowa wrestling team with Tom and Terry in the late 1980s. "It's in their nature to be violent." BRUTAL, SAVAGE, RUTHLESS is how they described themselves on T-shirts at Iowa, where they won 295 of 311 matches and live national titles. "I'm motivated by an absolute hatred of losing," says Tom, his mouth tightening. It's a mouth that even in repose suggests a knowledge of cruelty. On Super Bowl Sunday in his senior year at Sheldon ( Iowa) Community High, Tom says, he and three buddies were involved in what was termed sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old. "Some people thought it was rape, but it wasn't," insists Tom, who until now has never spoken publicly about the incident. "The girl was willing."
Willing or not, she did not return to school for several days after the incident. At the end of the week Tom was summoned by the principal, David Kapfer, and the athletic director, Jim DeJong, and told he would be banned for the rest of the wrestling season, including the state tournament. "For what?" Tom says he screamed. "I didn't get caught smoking cigarettes or drinking or doing dope! You can't make me ineligible. My life is wrestling!"
Though Tom was never charged with a crime—and the alleged victim was also suspended from extracurricular activities—the school board voted to uphold the decision. "It was a joke!" Tom says, still indignant. "A kangaroo joke!" When Tom's parents took the board to court, a federal district judge refused to lift the ban. Tom missed the state finals. "The whole thing was a mistake, a stupid, infantile mistake," says Tom. "I've made a lot of mistakes ewer the years, but overall I've led a pretty clean life. I'm married now." There's a coil of anger beneath the apology.
Perhaps because they spent their first nine months confined together in a tight space, both Brandses are restless, fidgety. They walk alike, talk alike, even spit alike. Asked if they tend to do things in unison, they chorus, "Not really." They live by the same motto: Never let anyone get the best of you in anything. That goes double if he's your brother. "There's nobody in this world I love more than Tom," says Terry, "but that doesn't mean I'm going to go to his house for tea and cookies. The truth is, we just don't get along." Which is why they live at opposite ends of Iowa City.
They argue incessantly over subjects like who would win a duel between John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.