We’ve heard a lot during this bizarre election season about disavowals. As both parties disavow unwanted endorsements, sketchy people who crash their campaign rallies and comments made during the heat of the scrimmage, it seems like everyone is scrambling to get away from bad press. That’s why the following newspaper headline caught my attention recently: “University disavows its study of chocolate milk.”
It seems that the University of Maryland (U of M) has been caught in its own pay-to-play scandal. Last December, a scientist announced on the university’s website that a certain brand of chocolate milk had substantial benefits for helping athletes recover from concussions. This finding, he claimed, was based on his original research. But as it turns out, the guy botched his study from beginning to end: he not only used his own students as test subjects, but also failed to control for a number of variables. Worst of all, he apparently accepted $200,000 from a milk-based lobbying organization to finance his future lab work.
Yes, there are such lobbyists out there, and they have deep pockets. Remember all those “Got Milk?” ads from the 90s, with various celebrities sporting a white upper lip? None of those ads promoted a particular brand or dairy. No, that was the lactose lobby in action. That big DC milk money was pulling the strings behind the whole operation to get Americans hooked on Vitamin D. It seems that milk has a dark side, and I’m not just talking about chocolate.
But getting back to the story. The PR office at U of M is now walking back what is obviously a major athletic scandal—football players juicing up on Nesquik, all with the blessing of the nutrition lab. Just for the record, there is no untainted evidence that chocolate milk will cure a concussion, though anecdotal data suggests that if you have a headache, you should sip a Coke. My mother says that, and she has never received a penny from the fizzy drinks lobby.
I applaud the university’s integrity. It can’t be good press to denounce chocolate milk. I’m reminded of that scene in “Miracle on 34th Street” where Mr. Macy himself is put on the witness stand to testify against his store’s Santa Claus. Kris Kringle is on trial for insanity because he claims to be the real deal, and when asked his opinion on the matter, Macy pauses, thinking of the bad publicity that would hound him for disavowing Father Christmas. No doubt U of M officials were second-guessing themselves, too. After all, what kind of Grinch speaks out against chocolate milk? Who wants to be accused of being cocoa intolerant?
Fortunately, the scientific method won the day.
The funny thing is, I came awfully close to disavowing chocolate milk myself three weeks ago. I had just finished making a milkshake one evening and used up the last drop of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Not wanting to draw ants when I tossed the bottle in the recycling bin, I went to wash it out. But the cap was on so tight that I had to get out one of those lid looseners everyone should keep handy in a kitchen drawer.
Some readers may recall the “blue pen incident” I wrote about last October, where I got carried away shaking a Pilot Precise V7 Rollerball Fine Blue pen and ended up redecorating my office in a soothing polka-dot ink montage. Well, when I got to work twisting that bottle of chocolate sauce, I exercised a similar zeal. Before I knew what was happening, the top came off like a champagne cork and ricocheted off four different kitchen cabinets. Sauce got on the counter and the walls and the floor and the cabinets and the drawers and the blinds and even on the loaf of Honey Wheat bread in the corner. To paraphrase Lady Macbeth, “Who would have thought the old bottle to have so much syrup in him.” The resulting splatter pattern would have gotten me arrested for a crime of passion on any episode of “Rizzoli and Isles.”
And to add insult to injury, while I was cleaning up the mess and mumbling, “Out brown dot,” I bumped my head. So now I may have a concussion. At least, that’s what I’ll tell my department chair when he’s handing out committee assignments for the semester. After all, if you have a head injury, you might as well milk it.