Ask Your Doctor If This Article Is Right For You

Ask Your Doctor If This Article Is Right For You

Whew! We Got Through It! 

Oh, not the midterms. Not the survival of Democracy, although good news there too.

 No, I’m welcoming the end of the political “advertising” that filled the airwaves from August until Election Day. The ads themselves deserve the calm scrutiny I bring to every cultural phenomenon, but the celebration of their departure is inspired by the return of the extremely important and helpful ads describing the side effects of medications I might be inclined to try, on a whim perhaps.

Serious television viewers who still watch broadcasts sponsored by a peddlers of goods and services, are aware of “The Crawl”, words that race across the bottom of the screen in tiny letters as the ad itself plays at full volume on most of the screen. I assume that legal teams somewhere have determined that while full disclosure of the side effects of medication is required by law, nobody said it has to be on the main stage. 

But who can we trust, really, in this age of competing realities? Airline pilots, the guy holding the harness when we bungee jump, game show hosts? What about doctors, you ask?  Uh, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on television, but I do remember the solemnity with which actual physicians pimped spoke for the tobacco industry. I’m also pretty sure doctors stood with the Sacklers as oxycontin made the country dopesick. 

So, let’s put doctors on hold for the moment and get solid with science. Scientists may be goofy at times and dress badly, but there’s no questioning their dedication to science. For them it’s a sacred trust. And … it’s medicine, right? Scientific stuff. Fully researched and tested on rabbits. Scientific Research – What could possibly go wrong?

Well, leaving aside NASA’s failure to convert from the metric system in building spacecraft, let’s get right into the lab.

Imagine a phalanx of scientists sweating over their test tubes, dashing their failures to the ground as the sound of splintering glass fills the air. Finally one leaps to their feet and shouts, “Eureka! I’ve Got It! A Synthetic Fat Molecule, Zero Grams of Fat and Half the Calories of real fat. Synthetic FAT!!! The lab belonged to Proctor and Gamble, and the discovery shouted from the rooftops was Olestra, a substance arriving just as the company hoped to trot out (poor word choice) Fat-Free snacks. The products which arrived – “Fritos Wow!” “Doritos Wow!” and “Ruffles Wow!” – were eagerly gobbled up until experience and experimentation discovered that Olestra, fat free molecule that it was, turned out to be too large to be absorbed by the intestine; it traveled unencumbered directly to the digestion tract. 

Quickly. I mean, really quickly.

As a result, two phrases entered the advertising world for the first time: “Fecal Urgency” and “Anal Leakage”

Urgency of some sorts is not universally to be feared; leakage isn’t good. 

I can hear the question humming:

“Sure, but can I still buy yummy fat free snacks made with Olestra?” 

You can, and if you hunt rigorously enough, you’ll find it under the brand name Olean. 

“Sold only on the dark web and in Turkish prisons though, right?”

Well, Olean has been banned in Europe, but here in the good old US of A, you can pick up Pringles Light Potato Chips, Doritos Light Snack Chips, Tostitos Light Tortilla Chips, and BakeLean cookies which use Olean instead of margarine.

I’m not sure why televised ads for Light Potato Chips don’t have a crawl advising consumers that over-consumption may bring … well, you know … urgency. Those ads belong to the variety of advertisements directed at the consumer. So are the Pharma ads, the ones replaced by an unnamed political party’s pretty much accusing our local probate judge of vampirism. Televised Pharma ads are specifically directed to the consumer rather than to medical professionals. I’m sure you’d like to know more about the drug reps who market directly to physicians, but, you know, time marches on.

Most of the ads are pretty buoyant; those are my favorites. But even the scary ads have moderately reassuring Hallmark moments. We all remember the understated warning presented by Amgen in touting its drug, Repatha, an injectable medicine used in adults with cardiovascular disease. We’re at a wedding party. The father of the bride, still wearing his bow tie but without the formal jacket, walks by a half eaten carcass, sorry, standing rib roast, resists temptation, is in the act of loading his plate with a leafy salad (as if that would help) when his daughter’s arm gently takes his elbow. He begins to dance, all smiles, but Woah! The screen goes red. The arm on his shoulder is an EMT dragging him from the wedding to emergency surgery … or worse. Shots of the daughter are frozen and in black and white, her arm now empty in a maudlin salute to a father … lost to heart attack. Pretty grim, but in an instant sunlight returns as a smiling dad smart enough to use Repatha joins his daughter in what appears to be a combination of the macarena and chicken dance. Embarrassingly awful, but, you know, Dads? What can you do?

Large white print above the dancers claims a 63% reduction in bad cholesterol and reduction of heart attack risk by 27%. The crawl announces, “In a study, patients not treated with Repatha had more heart attacks (4.3%) compared to those treated with Repatha (3.4%).*

I’ll leave it to the statisticians in my reading audience to explain exactly what that means and whether “a study” is a wide enough range of observation to assure validity of Repatha’s claims. Without suggesting that the drug has notable side-effects, a later tiny caution appears. “Get medical help right away if you experience any of these signs- trouble breathing or swallowing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, throat, or arms.” I’m always concerned with trouble breathing, but swelling of the ARMS?

Enough real world snark. 

Without further ado, here’s my Mega-Olestra ad filled with soft music and shots of jolly grandparents playing with children, husbands surprising wives with flowers, independent women cheerfully striding through the workplace, and so on. Without naming names and incurring the wrath and legal salvos of Big Pharma, a few of the terms appear in the crawl beneath their inviting world of prescriptive medicine.

A well modulated voice intones,“Ask your doctor if Mega-Olestra is right for you”.

Side effects may cause dizziness, nausea, mild discomfort, pain at the injection site, redness or rash, anal leakage, fecal urgency, death, paralysis, testicular explosion, clammy hands, lycanthropy, intestinal ballooning, death, fear of yellow things, dental necrosis, sensitivity to water, blindness, fungal heart infarction, loss of memory, inability to breathe, and loss of skin.

“Mega-Olestra is not for everyone, but may be just what the doctor orders.”

Fade to soft blue as laughing grandfather pets a fluffy dog chewing on his sleeping wife’s knitting bag.

“We can get through anything together, but … Honey, my arm is swelling.”

Just How Much Can a High School Athlete Make These Days?

Just How Much Can a High School Athlete Make These Days?

Bronny James now has a net worth of 4.6 million dollars. It’ll come in handy, I’m sure, as he is a senior in high school with the expenses any high school student might expect. I haven’t mucked around to see what his younger brother has pulled in, but I have joined the millions of people who have viewed both of LeBron’s children stuffing a basketball into a hoop at the Sierra Canyon’s Midnight Madness Dunk-A-Thon. 

Impressive, but Bronny’s cash comes from the recent (July, 2021) decision on the part of the NCAA (sued into submission) to grant college athletes the right to be compensated for the use of their Name, Image, or Likeness (NIL). There is not world enough and time to reconstruct the myriad idiocies perpetrated  by the NCAA; you may not know, for example, that the NCAA limits the amount of food a university can provide an athlete, or that a college football media guide cannot exceed 208 pages. Do I want to read more than 208 pages about Kentucky basketball? Not much, but, Jeez, who’s counting? The NCAA apparently.

OK, back to basics. College athletes may now be paid for the use of their names and likenesses, and by the commutative property of college sports, recruits are also now free to sign endorsement deals. Just how meaty are these deals? The Detroit Lions’ Josh Paschal’s  has a deal with Steckler Pediatric Dentistry that probably doesn’t bring him financial security, but the 42 million Steph Curry earns for wearing shoes and togs designed by Under Armour is roughly ten million dollars more than he earns playing for Golden State 

Seven states now allow high school athletes to be compensated as is Johnuel (Boogie) Fland, a 6’2” point guard currently attending Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plans, New York. Fland is currently ranked the 19th most highly sought recruit in the nation. 15 years old, Fland has been signed by Spreadshop, earning a percentage of the income from sale of merchandise and a monthly stipend for posting about  Spreadshop on social media.

 The dunk-a-thon may have helped move Bronny James from the 45th hottest recruit to the 34th, a more than satisfactory  assessment of a high school player’s projected value to a college program, but here’s where NIL and college recruitment bump into some murky territory when the 34th most recruited kid is LeBron James’ son.

Let’s start with that.

You are a college coach. You’ve built a program guided by your style of play. You are Mark Few, we’ll say, at Gonzaga since 1989, head coach since 1999. You’ve moved Gonzaga from relative obscurity to the highest level of college competition. You live and coach in Spokane, Washington. You love your family, fly fishing, and the great outdoors. You’ve cut practice before a big game to make sure you were able to see your son’s church league game. The word your colleagues use to describe you is “balanced”. You aren’t among the top 20 highest paid coaches, but life is good. You’ve recruited players from around the world, talented young players who have developed over three or four years playing for you. You’ve got a strong starting five, returning players, and freshmen and sophomores ready to move up in the next season.

Every coach deals with parents who want their kid to be on the floor. Bronny’s parent is the among the most celebrated and powerful athletes in the world, and not a guy to be taken lightly. To be clear: Wherever he ends up, Bronny James does NOT expect to be on the bench. The moment he signs a National Letter of Intent, the spotlight begins to bake the campus he has chosen. You want hoopla and endless conjecture? You want to be the coach that doesn’t play Bronny James?

There’s another complication absolutely affected by the NIL.

Bronny’s got a deal with Nike and with Beats. The Beats deal doesn’t affect where he plays, but some of the colleges he might consider are not affiliated with Nike. He can’t really go to a college affiliated with another brand. The shoe companies have divvied up college basketball, as a quick trip to two conferences will attest:

The PAC12

Arizona-Nike, Arizona State – Adidas, California – Under Armour, Colorado Under Armour, Oregon – Nike (no surprise), Oregon State – Nike, Stanford – Nike, UCLA Under Armour, USC – Nike, Utah – Under Armour, Washington – Nike, Washington State – Nike

The BIG10

Illinois – Nike, Indiana – Adidas, Iowa – Nike, Maryland – Under Armour, Michigan – Nike, Michigan State – Nike, Minnesota – Nike, Nebraska – Adidas, Northwestern – Under Armour, Ohio State – Nike, Penn State – Nike, Purdue – Nike, Rutgers – Adidas, Wisconsin – Under Armour

Gonzaga is a Nike school, one of three to adopt a protocol recognizing the Workers’ Rights Consortium; that’s the result of hard work by the United Students Against Sweatshops. Still, Bronny and Mark Few? Unlikely.

The Early Division I basketball Letter of Intent Signing Day has already passed. It looks as if Kentucky has scooped up a powerhouse group committed to the Wildcats. Some guess that recruits may admire coach John Caliapari’s  willingness to send players on to the NBA after just one year in Lexington; or, maybe they have an endorsement contract with Nike. In any case, the next deadline is May 17th. Claiming a modicum of perspective, Bronny’s decision is hardly the most important issue facing a world in climate crisis. We may see college basketball players’ uniforms festooned with logos like race cars and Phil Mickelson’s golf shirt, but we’ve survived more odious spectacles than that. 

On the other hand, I really don’t want to see the starting five sporting uniforms touting Steckler Pediatric Dentistry.