One of my favourite sporting images of 2010 is of Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka at the US Open. During her second round match, Azarenka collapsed and had to be helped from the court in a wheelchair. Later, Azarenka issued the following statement:
“I was warming up in the gym prior to my match against Gisela Dulko when I fell while running a sprint. I fell forward and hit my arm and head. I was checked by the medical team before I went on court and they were courtside for monitoring. I felt worse as the match went on, having a headache and feeling dizzy. I also started having trouble seeing and felt weak before I fell. I was taken to the hospital for some medical tests and have been diagnosed with a mild concussion.”
While it may seem just a tad unfair to take delight in the image of a collapsed Azarenka, permit me to draw your attention to two of her accoutrements: around each wrist, she is wearing a “Power Balance” band.
Power Balance bands, and their numerous knock-offs (if you can ‘knock-off’ a product that doesn’t do anything itself), have become one of the great fads of 2010. Their organisation has claimed that “the band’s mylar holograms are embedded with naturally occurring frequencies designed to work with the body’s natural energy field for improved balance, strength and flexibility.”
All of which prompted this response from Choice magazine: “CHOICE is all for the power of positive thinking, but we can’t find much positive to say about Power Balance. It has no discernable effect on flexibility and balance. Any benefit you feel while wearing it is almost certainly due to a placebo effect. So, zero stars for the Power Balance.
“If the products were cheap, we could at least call them a harmless bit of nonsense, but at $60 for the wristband and $95 for the pendant they’re far too overpriced to laugh off.”
As such, Choice gave Power Balance the honour of one of its annual ‘Shonky Awards’, which are presented to those services and products regarded to be the shonkiest rip-offs and scams of the calendar year.
In late November, the Therapeutic Goods Complaints Resolution Panel called upon Power Balance to remove claims that their products have “frequencies that react positively with your body’s natural energy field” from their website. They also “demanded” that a retraction be published by November 29.
At the time of writing, in early December, such a retraction cannot be found, however underneath the heading “What is Power Balance” on the organisation’s official website, there is now quite a beautiful phrase: “Coming Soon”.
For some reason, I am not offended by Power Balance Australasian Importers Tom O’Dowd and Sean Condon – if they have the nous to earn a profit by creating a pointless item of “equipment” that dumb people will purchase for $60, then all power to them.
However, I am absolutely offended by those sportspeople who wear and promote the product, as it is these people who are at the heart of Power Balance’s marketing.
At school, an amazing number of students have appeared at various moments of the year wearing a Power Balance band or one of its “imitators”. I cannot understate it – the sheer number has been astounding. Some honestly believe it will make them more powerful or balanced, while others purely wear them for aesthetic reasons: they want to look like their heroes.
As has been shown by the lack of a retraction on Power Balance’s website, at this stage there appears to be no way that Australia’s self-regulated advertising community will be able to ensure that these shonky products will be prevented from any further promotion and marketing. As such, it is time for the citizenry to rise up against this phenomenon. I call upon all sports fans to stop supporting any athletes who are obviously wearing a Power Balance band. Find them wherever they are – some are promoted on the organisation’s website, others such as many in the English cricket team are seen wearing them on the field, and Kevin Durant even wore them in a staged photo that appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated – and withdraw your interest in them and their lives until the Power Balance bands are removed. These athletes are preying on the stupidity, ignorance and impressionability of amateur athletes and children alike. Clearly, they think we’re stupid enough to believe Power Balance’s ludicrous “scientific” claims purely because they provide the product with their endorsement.
The only way to ensure that such disgraceful and offensive advertising ceases is to stop respecting and supporting these athletes. You’re on notice, Mr Durant, Mr Fevola, Mr Marshall and all of your pathetic colleagues. Until you stop wearing Power Balance and stop treating we members of the public – who ultimately fund your salaries – like morons, you will not receive any support whatsoever from these parts. For you surely don’t deserve the support of those whom you treat with such contempt.