Here’s hoping that deer in headlights reap more than magic deer antlers
by Joe Medley
This week’s news of deer antler sprays, holographic chips, negatively charged water and the Alabama players who apparently sought them probably left most people with the same reaction … whaaaaaa?

The under-regulated world of sports supplements raises lots of questions with few people qualified to answer, and many who answer probably need air quotes around the word “experts.”

It’s a world ripe for snake oils and their salesmen. Only time and credible research can determine whether the good folks at Fultondale-based Sports with Alternatives to Steroids and their products deserve such unflattering tags or an FDA stamp of approval.

If owner Mitch Ross and pitch man Christopher Key have truly found a completely natural enhancement for athletic performance and the world just needs education, as they claim, then God bless them and the riches they could make. Here’s just one hope, and it involves those Alabama players who showed up in Room 612 of the New Orleans Marriott on Jan. 7, 2012, for a product presentation, according to Sports Illustrated.

Yeah, those young guys who Key caught on his pen camera, which taped the reported video that he reportedly showed to SI journalists.

You know, the deer in headlights that came to hear all about deer antlers and got named publicly? Yeah, those guys.

Let’s say the SWATS guys, who have sworn off athlete endorsements out of a stated concern for credibility, have truly hit on something and make lots of money. How about giving those kids named publicly a little something for their troubles, something besides free product?

After (cough cough) the players are done playing at Alabama, of course. Wouldn’t want to cause them or their school problems with the NCAA, now would we?

We don’t have to call it endorsement money, but c’mon. Quinton Dial, Alex Watkins and Adrian Hubbard managed to get caught on camera before SWATS made deer antlers something more than hunting trophies to the general public.

The players got caught on SWATS Cam back before Joe Six’s antennae had reached full velvet on the subject, back when getting caught hearing the pitch left one looking almost as gullible as Manti Te’o. If they wind up looking really smart for it, then they should wind up feeling really smart for it, if you know what I mean.

After all, the SI story led with the Alabama players, and Key told that his phone has been ringing like crazy since the story hit the interwebs Tuesday.

“It hasn’t stopped ringing,” he said. “We’ve talked to HBO Real Sports. We’ve talked to Yahoo! We’ve talked to The New York Times. We’ve talked to the Drudge Report.”

OK, so they’re young adults and not necessarily innocent. They were there to hear all about a supplement that contains IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor banned by the NCAA, NFL and other major sports leagues. The SWATS folks dispute that their brand of IGF-1 is banned, telling that it’s the natural product of deer antlers and not synthetic, ergo no known failed NCAA drug tests.

Let’s just say the subject is in dispute, so there’s risk the NCAA might see things differently. One presumes that the guys in the Marriott room had reason to question it, at least.

If we’re to believe the SWATS guys, players from Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Georgia have come a’ hunting deer-antler velvet, too, but the Alabama guys have reportedly been seen on video and named publicly.

Then again, for all who would oversimplify and say those players were legal adults, we have a new, point-to icon. We have Te’o, an academic All-American who, best case, sold into a fictional, online girlfriend.

Society’s age for adulthood is legally set. True adult insight knows no magic age and comes with experience.

Let’s say the guys in the gray-and-crimson sweats become the ground-floor faces of something great.

For those who haven’t seen Steve Martin’s classic dark comedy The Jerk, let’s look through nose-handle-supported glasses to the future and say those guys become a group of Navin R. Johnsons, stumbling across the ground floor of Opti-Grab greatness. No one will say the Alabama crew should live the life of dispenser wine glasses for it, but why not give them a cut of all the riches that deer antler spray and holographic chips can earn?

Just in case it doesn’t help them achieve NFL riches?

Some former college athletes have already sued for a cut of the riches raked in by the use of their likenesses. Do their faces on a pen-camera video count for something?

For those who believe it will, make sure to power off your cellphones before entering Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare Stadium on fall Saturdays. Wouldn’t want those frequencies to power down your favorite team.

Back to reality, it takes true experts to address issues raised by the SWATS story. If Nick Saban hasn’t already, maybe the Alabama coach should find the Kevin Elko of supplements and bring him in to speak to the Tide’s players.

Bring him in annually, to keep players current on all the new snake oils, supplements and their salesmen in the marketplace.

Maybe the Alabama legislature can legislate, like it did in response to the agent problem.

As for the NCAA, the governing body of college sports can wade in at its own risk. One termite could mean an infestation.

Love and follow college sports as we do, it’s been a fun week of learning a new aspect to the underbelly, hasn’t it?

Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

© 2013