- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

Forget Comedy Central. For sheer knee-slapping humor, nothing tops the infomercial Steve Garvey did for a weight-loss product a while back. Perhaps you've seen it in your television wanderings. I mean, how could you not? It has been aired 30,000 times on cable and local TV stations since December 1998, according to the Federal Trade Commission. I don't think Steve got that much exposure when he was banging out base hits for the Dodgers.

During the 30-minute spot, Garvey and pseudo-nutritionist Kendall Carson extol the virtues of the miracle "system" developed by Enforma Natural Products. All you have to do is take two little supplements, they insist, and the pounds will just melt away.

"The Enforma System works, isn't that right, Kendall?" Garvey chirps.

"You bet, Steve," Carson chirps back. "The Enforma System was created using years of scientific study, and you will see proof that it works right here today."

Later, Carson makes the claim that one of the supplements, "Exercise In A Bottle," "works on a cellular level, forcing every cell in your body to work, whether you're exercising or not. And when your cells are working, you are burning calories or losing fat."

Garvey: "And, of course, all this happens without exercise, right?"

Carson: "Absolutely. In fact, lab studies have proven it, Steve."

"Exercise In A Bottle"? That's almost as funny as "Janitor In A Drum." But you don't see Garvey laughing. You only see him nodding like a bobbing-head doll. Watching the ad, it's hard not to feel embarrassed for the guy. Here's a 10-time National League All-Star, a near Hall of Famer (in my humble opinion), and he's peddling snake oil. What, he can't make enough money doing baseball card shows?

Shame on him. As a former athlete, he should know better than anyone that fitness doesn't come in a container. It comes through discipline and hard work. But there are plenty of people out there who wish it came in a container, people who don't have the time or the energy or the inclination to lose weight even when their health is at stake. These are the people Garvey and his employers were preying on. Folks who are willing to try anything, even a product that promises "you can eat what you want and never, ever, ever, ever have to diet again."

(Too bad this stuff wasn't around when Refrigerator Perry was fighting the battle of the bulge. He could have shrunk himself to the size of a small ice chest.)

The FTC has already gone after Enforma, forcing the company to refund $10 million to customers. And now it's going after Garvey, the flimflam man. The same Garvey who got the royal treatment from fans during his playing days. (How many first basemen bat .284 with eight homers and get voted to start in the All-Star Game as he was in 1984? And this is how he repays them?)

Of course, that was when Steve was still in his All-American Boy phase. He was later discovered to have been the Shawn Kemp of his era, fathering children out of wedlock with two women. Three years ago you probably missed this one he renewed his marriage vows with his wife, Candy, from whom he was once legally separated, on the Family Channel. That should have been the tipoff right there that his career was careening out of control.

And then he traded on his celebrity or what was left of it and became the pitchman for Enforma. What's next, Steve, the Psychic Hotline?

It's scary what some of these ex-athletes will do to make a buck. Last October, Fran Tarkenton agreed to pay $154,187 in fines after the SEC found that his software firm, KnowledgeWare, had cooked the books to help its stock price. Tarkenton didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing the man could always scramble but the episode still stank to high heaven.

This Garvey scam, though. The gall of it. "You can enjoy all these delicious foods like fried chicken, pizza, cheeseburgers, even butter and sour cream, and stop worrying about the weight," the infomercial claimed. " 'Fat Trapper' permanently [blocks fat] so that it can never be absorbed by your body never." Imagine thinking you could get away with something like that.

I remember talking to an ex-ballplayer once who had lost a bunch of money in a bad investment. "Is there any advice you could give people to prevent the same thing from happening to them?" I asked.

"Never put your money into something that promises more than a 3-to-1 return," he replied.

Words to live by, to be sure. And here are a few more:

Never buy a weight-loss product that promises to help you "burn more calories while you're just standing or sitting around doing nothing even while you're sleeping." Especially if it's endorsed by a former athlete.

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