Life Is a Total Scam: Get Used to It, Kid


Earlier this week my 11 year old son and I made our bi-weekly (or so it seems) trip to Sports Authority.


Despite the fact that our plan was to get a mouth guard, I walked into the store with the knowledge that both Home Depot and Sports Authority are just like those old “Two Drink Minimum” Comedy Clubs in that getting in is free.  Getting out ain’t.


Finding the mouth guard only took about 10 minutes but perusing the aisles upon aisles of other sporting paraphernalia took the better part of an hour.


After 30 minutes of browsing, my Germanic tight-ass tendencies kicked in and despite a relentless assault of “Dad, can I get this?  Dad, can I get this?”, I stood firm and decided we were leaving with only a mouth guard on this trip.


Given my contributions to Sports Authority over the years I feel fairly secure in saying that of Mr. and Mrs. Sports Authority, whoever they are, have already covered the cost of braces, college, and weddings for their well-adjusted 2.5 kids on my dime.  One cheap-o trip isn’t going to hurt them.


On the way to the checkout, my son came across a little trinket called the “Power Balance Sports Bracelet” and was absolutely convinced that at $29.99, this was a bargain that absolutely could not be passed up.


Dad, can I get one of these?”




Dad, please?”




Seriously, Dad.  Puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeease??????”


Nope.  Sorry.”


After trudging back to the car I foolishly attempted to engage my surly 11 year old in a conversation about why he wanted a little neoprene bracelet with a holographic sticker on it in the first damn place.


Because it helps with your balance, Dad.  I really think it would help me in baseball.”


Me:  “How exactly does it help with your balance?”


Him:  “It balances out your positive and negative energy so you have better balance.”  (Apparently at age 11 my son still can’t do long division but has a really good grasp on how important it is to continuously realign one’s chakras.  I’m raising a Maharishi and didn’t even know it.)


Me:  “How do you know it works?”


Him:  “I saw it on TV.”


Oh.  Well of course you did.  Then that settles it.  If it was on TV, the very same TV where Kate Gosslein and the Housewives of Orange County and the oompah-loompah’s of Jersey Shore have had shows for umpteen years now, then it MUST be a high quality product.


Sensing the need for a little Dad-ly wisdom I said, “Son, you gotta understand.  Most of what you see on TV is complete crap.  Especially things that claim to have magical powers.  The only way to get better balance is by training your body.  And if you want to do that I’m all for it.”


(Insert cricket sound effects here.)


Let me put it another way, son.  Derek Jeter is a pretty good baseball player, right?”


Yeah.  He’s great.”


Okay.  Do you think he’d be a better player if he wore one of those balance bracelets?”


11 year old son, with an overwhelming tone of derision:  “He DOES wear a balance bracelet, DAD.  And so did Shaq, and Kobe and Phil Mickelson.  EVERYONE wears them, DAD.”


Okay, I didn’t know that, but still, do you think those guys are all great athletes because they train their bodies to make the most of their God given abilities (minus Mickelson who’s the greatest golfer with man boobs since Craig Stadler) or because they wear a cheezy neoprene bracelet with a sticker on it?”


Both, Dad.  They’re great because of BOTH things.”


One of the interesting things about parenting is the more you do it, the more attuned you become to the idea of “I could talk and talk and talk about this until the kid is in his 30’s, but nothing I say is going to matter at this point because he’s already done listening.”


Clearly, this was one of those times.


The silence on the rest of the ride home was broken only by the sound of his door slamming shut a wee-bit too forcefully when we got to the driveway.


I don’t mean to sound glass half-empty here but if we’re really honest with ourselves, most of the stuff we buy and over-buy in this country is absolutely and completely unnecessary.


Do we need clothes?  Sure.


Do we need $400 dollar jeans because they make our asses look good? No.


Do we need shelter?  Absolutely.


But do we need an 11,000 square foot house with 42 bathrooms?  No.


Do we need transportation of some kind?  Well, yeah.


Does anyone really need an $80,000 dollar sports car?  Not if they have at least a regular sized penis they don’t.


Some Dads are really concerned about what profession their Sons will choose when they grow up.


You know the drill:  “I really want him to be a lawyer, or a Doctor, or a hedge-fund manager” or whatever.


I honestly don’t care all that much what profession Evan chooses when the time comes.


I just can’t abide by the idea of raising a sucker, a rube, another one of the mindless American sheep who buy stuff they don’t really need because someone they don’t even know told ‘em they needed it.


And I don’t much care what Kobe, or Shaq, or Phil Mickelson or Derek Jeter say on this one.


At least when it comes to my house, no one, but no one, needs a damn Power Balance sports bracelet.


Go ahead and hang my picture up on the wall in the “Mean Dad Hall of Fame”.


Wait, what’s that you say?


It’s already there?


Fair enough.


(Footnote:  Even the people who MAKE the damn Power Balance bracelet admit that there’s no scientific evidence to support the notion that they do anything at all.  Read more here.)



  • Good man: if he really needs the effect, there is something called the Placebo bracelet, available for $2 from Australia with the same rubber and hologram. Read up and show him this:

  • Karen Arbuckle wrote:

    Amen Mike. I remember when we were growing up we used a round log and put a board over it. We would stand on the board and practice our balance that way, Maybe you could give Evan a shot at that idea. While raising my kids, I remember similar wantings, my reply to them was save your money and when you have enough you can buy it, Worked like a charm, IF they really wanted it they would eventually have enough to by it themselves. What pride was on their face when they walked out of the store with the item they saved for. They took very good of it too!

    By the way I love my $$$$$$ sports cart. Took a long time for me to save up and buy it. I get chills ever time I settle my butt into that drivers seat.

    Would love to get a response on what you think.

    Thanks Mike.…. Karen from the League

  • Karen Arbuckle wrote:

    Me again. I meant to write that after they bought it they took very good CARE of it. Karen from the League

  • Cousin Charlie wrote:

    Your son will be living under a bridge huffing gasoline fumes from a paper bag because he lost his balance trying to field ground balls during high school baseball tryouts and misses the cut. Hope you sleep well at night, my friend.

  • Fantastic!!! Superb! Bravo! Most hilarious and spot-on commentary I have read in months. You sir are a hero as far as I am concerned. Perfect candidate for Zen. Really enjoyed reading this post. I will be thinking deeply about this on my jog. BTW, I’m jogging into the woods … less scammy there.

  • Cecelia wrote:

    Kudos, Mike! I was a single parent and couldn’t afford a lot of the latest fads. I didn’t realize years later the best way to describe it was the difference between “value” and “price”. You want kids to learn the lesson of value in relationships, work, life, etc., not just how much price in dollars can be attached to something. Good for you making the effort to parent, not just trying to be a best friend. The kids whose parents try to be popular are the ones who end up being problem children and even bigger problem adults.

  • Just to be clear. This does NOT apply to novelty foods right? RIGHT?

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