Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wood you buy a $200 book from this scam?

If Whirled Musings isn't a political blog, except when it is, it is even less of a sportsblog, as I am almost totally lacking in the sports-fan gene, and the part of the human brain that is responsible for sports and games comprehension apparently is woefully underdeveloped in my particular brain. Don't even try to explain to me how football works -- or card games, for that matter -- because I will never, ever understand any of it. And I'm okay with that. I'm okay with you being an avid sports fan (or card game or board game player for that matter), as long as you're not so obsessed that you are a danger to yourself and others, but don't expect me to share your enthusiasm.

Now that we have that out of the way, there are some sportsy topics that interest me from a larger-context, pop-cultural perspective. There is for instance my general annoyance over the fact that our culture worships sports celebs and that professional athletes are blatantly so much more highly valued than everyday people who do far more useful work, such as nurses and teachers and paramedics and cops and firefighters. I do think that overall the culture has an unhealthy obsession with sports, and this fixation breeds everything from the above-noted pay disparities, to the unfair burden that taxpayers so often must assume for overfed billionaires' privately owned sports stadiums, to our tendency to give celebrity athletes or coaches a pass when they commit egregious misdeeds. But there's an aspect of sports that intersects more neatly with this blog, and I credit my blogging colleague Steve Salerno of SHAMblog for making me aware of it. It was Steve who, beginning with his 2005 book SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, and continuing via SHAMblog throughout the years, pointed out the ways in which "sportsthink" is influenced by the selfish-help/motivational-geek culture (most notably the mandatory-positive-thinking mindset), and vice versa.

In recent months I've been alerted to yet another related area of interest for this blog, and it has less to do with motivational mindlessness and more to do with the unhealthy union of professional sports and Scamworld proper. It first came to my attention some time in the fall of 2015 that New England Patriots quarterback
Tom Brady, star of the Deflategate (aka Ballghazi) scandal (ably mocked by Saturday Night Live), had partnered with a serial huckster and former fake doctor named Alejandro (Alex) Guerrero, the latter of whom Boston Magazine described as a "glorified snake-oil salesman. The two of them, Brady and Guerrero, are apparently cleaning up in a health-and-fitness scampire, TB12 -- and this business seemingly has the endorsement of the Patriots organization, and the NFL doesn't seem to mind a bit.

a December 2015 piece, Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe wrote:
The Patriots, in an unusual departure from National Football League practice, have created a revenue stream for a private business owned by their franchise quarterback, Tom Brady, and a partner who faced federal sanctions after falsely presenting himself as a medical doctor and deceptively promoting nutritional supplements.

One notable product that Brady’s partner, Alejandro “Alex” Guerrero, promoted — and the quarterback enthusiastically endorsed — was marketed as helping to prevent and heal concussions, a grave health issue for NFL players and a challenge to the sport’s image. The Federal Trade Commission effectively shut down sales of Guerrero’s “neuroprotective’’ drink, Neurosafe, in 2014, repudiating his “extraordinary claims.’’
[Note: Neurosafe was marketed as
providing protection from concussions and the effects of traumatic brain injury. ~CC]

Nine years earlier, the FTC sanctioned Guerrero, who doubles as a fitness specialist, for marketing a beverage made largely of organic greens that he falsely claimed could help prevent or cure cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.

Guerrero’s past has not dissuaded the Patriots from forging a business relationship with the company he owns with Brady, the TB12 Sports Therapy Center, at the Patriots Place complex adjacent to Gillette Stadium. Since the center opened in 2013, the team has paid the company for Guerrero and his staff to provide treatment services and nutritional advice to multiple Patriots players.

Alex Guerrero has also been associated with that champion enabler of scammers,
Donald Barrett of infomercial production company ITV Direct. And Barrett, as mentioned here a few times previously, has been involved in some of the schemes of serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie. That seems like considerably less than the proverbial six degrees of separation. In fact Guerrero, Barrett and Trudeau all came under fire from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2004 for claiming that various dietary supplements could prevent and cure cancer and other diseases. With Guerrero it was the above-mentioned organic greens concoction, which he called Supreme Greens, and with Katie it was Coral Calcium Daily.

It's a small Scamworld, after all, as we are fond of saying on this blog.

I'd had this Brady/Guerrero thing on the back burner of the blog for more than six months, but it popped up to the front just the other day when the sports and general media announced that
Tom Brady is set to release a "nutrition manual"/cookbook -- with a wooden cover, no less -- and he's selling it for $200. That's pretty hefty even for the most elegantly designed and produced book, which this one doesn't seem to be.

"Oh, but it has
Tom Brady's recipe for avocado ice cream, so it must be worth it!" said nobody I personally know, although clearly someone is ordering the book, perhaps in the vain hope that it will make them look or perform like Brady, or look like his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen, depending upon the gender identification specifications and personal goals of the individual (sadly deluded) buyer. As it is, the book only has 89 recipes, although it's designed to be expandable, no doubt so Brady can sell you more egregiously overpriced recipes and bits of wisdom.

sales page on the TB12 web site describes Brady's magnum dopus thusly:
TB12 Nutrition Manual is a limited-edition "living document" containing information about our core TB12 nutritional philosophies and featuring a library of 89 seasonally-inspired recipes that you can use to support your TB12-aligned nutrition plan.

The TB12 Nutrition Manual is designed to be modified and expanded over time using its unique screw post binding: as we periodically update this manual with new or modified recipes, we will send additional pages to all purchasers of the manual.

The manual is printed and hand assembled in the United States, and is printed on thick 100 pound text paper. The covers are made from natural wood with a laser-etched TB12 logo and title. (Note: because of the natural materials used, some variation in covers is normal.)

"Unique screw post binding?" Sounds to me like those posts aren't the only things being screwed. And I am not sure exactly what is meant by a "living document" but I am thinking that maybe that's one reason used to justify the inflated price. I am not convinced that it is alive enough to shell out $200 for, though. Now, if you want a true "living document," this is more like it:

Something like that, I might consider to be worth $200. Maybe even more.

Just in case you're thinking of buying a copy of Brady's woodbook and then returning it to get your money back once you've scanned or photocopied that coveted avocado ice cream recipe, be warned:

Please note that due to its unique content and binding, all sales of the TB12 Nutrition Manual are final sale (the manual can not be returned or exchanged).
So there, cheapskate.

Some might argue that this "nutrition manual" and "living document" seems to be based not upon the wisdumb of Alex Guerrero so much as on the ideas of Brady-Bündchen's personal chef,
Allen Campbell. Apropos of that, here's a more critical look at that diet. Even though it's a bit more dismissive of GMO concerns than I'm comfortable with, the author sums the other issues up quite well, I think -- reminding us of the painfully obvious point that many people conveniently shove under their mental sofa cushion when they're whipping out their wallets:
As much as you want to look like Tom and Gisele, remember, that's genetically coded. Boston's golden couple could step away from their nutty diet and still be absolutely healthy and beautiful. You can't eat your way into looking like the model and quarterback next door, but you can say no to their bullshit. 
In any case Guerrero reportedly works with chef Campbell, according to this largely uncritical January 2015 New York Times piece.
Soon after we met in New York, Brady embarked with his family on a pre-training-camp vacation in the Bahamas. The trip represented a rare separation between Brady and Alex Guerrero, his best friend and ever­present guru for training and many other things. While Guerrero is known as Brady’s “body coach,” that label significantly understates his exhaustive reach into Brady’s life. Guerrero is his spiritual guide, counselor, pal, nutrition adviser, trainer, massage therapist and family member. He is the godfather of Brady’s younger son, Ben. He accompanies Brady to almost every Patriots game, home and away, and stands on the sidelines. He works with Brady’s personal chef to put together optimally healthful menus [bolding mine for emphasis ~CC]; he plans Brady’s training schedule months in advance. Above all, during the football season he works on Brady seven days a week, usually twice a day. These sessions focus on Brady’s legs, thighs and right arm, the one he throws with, which he calls “the moneymaker.”
And the overarching point here is that regardless of how much or how little input Alejandro Guerrero had in this wooden wonder of a "book," the TB12 Nutrition Manual is all part of a larger hustle being run by Brady and Guerrero, and it seems pretty clear that both the Patriots and the NFL are enabling the hustle. Moreover Guerrero himself apparently continues to be involved in some dodgy doings, including falsely claiming that Gisele endorses his "health supplements"; declaring that he sold a company for $500 million when he was actually bankrupt; and targeting fellow members of his Mormon Church in Utah to buy his health frauducts. (And yes, I know that link is from the Daily Fail, but it might be worth reading anyway.)

It's not surprising that there's a Utah connection to all of this, seeing as how
Utah is kind of the fraud capital of the US. In January 2015 the Deseret News posted an article noting that Brady "relies on LDS (Mormon) trainer for guidance in all aspects of life." That LDS trainer would be Guerrero, of course. The Deseret News piece linked to the New York Times piece I quoted above, which also said:
...Guerrero, 49, is a practicing Mormon of Argentine descent with a master’s degree in Chinese medicine from a college in Los Angeles. His philosophy is built on three components: “We work on staying physically fit, emotionally stable and spiritually sound,” he says. He can sound somewhat Stuart Smalley-like in his mantras. Guerrero shares with me a saying that he and Brady invoke a lot: “Where your concentration goes, your energy flows and that’s what grows.”

Brady is always telling his teammates to see Guerrero. Many do, with varying levels of commitment. The former Patriots receiver Wes Welker, Brady’s close friend, was a disciple, as is the current receiver Julian Edelman. The linebacker Junior Seau finished his career in New England, where he worked with Guerrero; Brady says Seau nicknamed Guerrero “Mr. Miyagi.”
Wes Welker, as noted elsewhere in the New York Times article, has "too many concussions to count. Will he know when to walk away? What will even be left of Welker in 10 years?" Evidently that NeuroSafe snake oil that was "powered by TB12" didn't help him much. Still, Welker enthusiastically endorsed NeuroSafe back in the day.

Here's another piece that provides
a bit of an inside look on how Brady foists Guerrero on others. It features an email exchange between Brady and another wealthy, wed-to-a-supermodel pal, and as the author notes, "It goes about how you expect ridiculously rich men to talk."

As might also be expected,
Brady has defended his good friend and bidness partner Guerrero. So have others, including Tom E. Curran (sort of), who wrote:
I don’t think Guerrero’s a quack. I don’t think he or Brady are out to dupe the masses to make a buck.

I think they believe passionately in some unconventional training methods that -- speaking from my experience –- have great benefit. They want them to be accessible to normal people, not simply professional athletes.

If they save the lofty claims and stay out of the FTC’s face, they’ll probably be able to do that.

But this uncovered information has not been a positive business development.
Keep in mind that this was months before the $200 woodbook story broke. Tom, you might want to reconsider that statement about not thinking that Brady and Guerrero are out to dupe the masses or make a buck. If you absolutely must, give Brady a pass for now, but for gosh sakes, don't let Alex Guerrero off the hook.

* * * * *

From a strictly capitalistic perspective, totally stripped of moral or ethical considerations, I suppose you can't really blame either Tom Brady or Alex Guerrero for wanting to get on the health/fitness/weight loss moneywagon. I mean, duh. That's just about the easiest scam in the book, if you can manage to "stay out of the FTC's face" (or the FDA's), and there will always and forever be a hungry (so to speak) market. In a January 2015 blog post about the Paleo diet craze, syndicated fitness columnist James S. Fell, CSCS, of "Body for Wife" fame, wrote:
One of the things I describe in detail in my book is “Weight Loss Inc.” It’s the crap-filled industry of which I am a part, although I try to set myself apart from the excrement. Not everything in the industry is something you’d be better off flushing down the toilet. Anyway, I reference an FTC report that determines weight loss is the #1 form of fraud in the U.S., and it has been for a long time. More people get taken in by weight loss scams than any other type of fraud.
Indeed, weight loss/diet fraud -- specifically, some intentionally deceptive advertising claims for a book about his wacko version of the the infamous Albert T.W. Simeons hCG protocol -- was at the heart of the contempt charges that earned the aforementioned Kevin Trudeau a ten-year prison sentence for criminal contempt, and a $37.6 million fine for civil contempt. The saga of Katie's legal battles has been a fairly frequent topic on this blog over the past few years.

And another formerly frequent snarget on this blog,
Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale has on more than one occasion enthusiastically promoted a be-all and end-all for weight loss (on this 2009 post, see "Another miracle in a bottle...and another 'permanent' weight-loss secret"). I could give scads more examples, but you get my drift.

So really, you can't blame Tom Brady. After all,
the Wood Book has already sold out, prepublication. Which just gives more credence to the "Thirteenth Precept" in the 1990's parody book, The Philistine Prophecy (mentioned in this 2006 Whirled post):
"People Will Buy Just About Anything."

Especially if it has a celebrity's name attached to it. And most especially if it's a sports celeb. But all is not lost if you're not motivated to shell out a couple hundred bucks for a wood book, but are pining, so to speak, for
an avocado ice cream recipe, The Interwebz is replete with ideas, and it won't cost you a penny to get the recipes.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for the $200 book, Brady is just copying his wife's recent success of selling out all 1,000 books of her 'coffee table' book on Amazon at $700 each in just one week. That was a quick $700 grand.

Monday, May 30, 2016 6:05:00 PM  

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