Learning Day: A-Rod’s Gum Disease Campaign 🌭

The other day, I became less aware of gum disease. How? I listened to Alex Rodriguez.

Gah! Him again. Many American sports fans react that way when Alex Rodriguez crosses their screen. “A-Rod” (his words not mine) is a retired athlete, a grindset hokum peddler, and a relentless font of uncanny. Somehow he is always weird. Somehow he turns the coolest things on Earth into icky headaches. For example, he’s one of the greatest baseball players ever…to ruin that with steroid stuff, twice over, plus give testimony against other guys. He achieved his dream of winning the heart of megastar Jennifer Lopez… also no he did not, commence tragic rebound. He made the near-impossible leap from sports player to sports owner, by purchasing… the worst pro basketball team, mathematically. He’s also written a children’s book that fractured my sanity, and began writing an adult’s book in the weirdest way postable:

What a cool post on Alex Rodriguez’s Instagram story! It’s great to see my least favorite ballplayer write nothing, on corny letterhead, in a framing that achieves “optical illusion of pantslessness.”

What is my fellow Alex up to now? Besides simulating flashing his own house? He’s leading a disease awareness campaign. Dot dot dot. Dot dot dot. In the most Alex Rodriguez way possible. You see, Alex Rodriguez is now an advocate for gum disease awareness. How does that work in practice? Alex Rodriguez tells people he has early-stage gum disease. He does that on TV:

And in magazines:

And in…paid advertising for a pharmaceutical company??

Alex Rodriguez began telling people about his gum disease when he started receiving money to be a spokesman for gum disease medication. Which is…fine, ish. Athletes sponsor all kinds of stuff. However, big problem: most sports fans assume “famous athlete is sick” means “famous athlete is sharing about that sickness as an act of charity.” Not to link-spam you, but there’s a robust tradition of American athletes choosing to become symbols of fighting a disease: Lou Gehrig, Walter Payton, “Truth Era” Lance Armstrong. Alex Rodriguez never quite claims to be part of this tradition. He does not steal that valor…in a technical legal sense. Instead, he tells the truth about having gum disease, while maintaining varying levels of clarity about this being part of an advertisement. It’s less charity, more charitish.

Good news: though that basic situation is a bummer, I’ve filled this column with its endless silver linings. Funny silver linings! Also: this creepy ad campaign is still a net good, because gum disease is for real, and most people don’t know that, and I didn’t know that till I read that link. So thank you, real medical stuff I googled. No thank you, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod is so bad at explaining gum disease, he decreases a viewer’s understanding of it. It’s like a sketch comedy premise of “Unaware Awareness Guy.” Check out A-Rod’s attempt to answer one question about what gum disease is, in a national television spot dedicated to that:

Good news: I don’t think A-Rod is trying to exploit anything or anybody in those statements. He references the black and brown community because that is a true fact. Also because he is brown. And he invokes Tony Gwynn because they were friends. But also, my dude, I can read the screen. You are on television to increase gum disease awareness. Say facts about gum disease. Instead, we get borderline misinformed. By distrusting this segment, and googling, I’ve learned Tony Gwynn died of salivary gland cancer, a sickness that experts and Gwynn himself attributed to Not Gum Disease. He is not the topic here. We’re off the rails, disease awareness-wise. Next silver lining: so much else went off the rails. This interview goes Metaphorical Train Disaster in a whole ‘nother direction, and it does that before they can even wrap up the Gwynn stuff:

Ho ho ho! Alex might not have prepared any scientific information, but he sure prepped some pleasant jollity! You know my guy’s packin’ a Boy Scout one-liner. “Packin’ A Boy Scout One-Liner” is also a plausible erection nickname for A-Rod. Especially given that “A-Rod” is taken. Anyway: do you remember one hundred hyperlinks ago, when I linked about A-Rod getting caught using steroids, twice? America’s gotten over that somewhat, as a baseball thing. But this man is such a space alien, he thinks he can sling twee li’l japes about having overly perfect health beliefs, when he is fully the all-time record holder for steroid suspension length. The TV journalists hearing this bravely push back, in the sense that they pivot to asking A-Rod what he thinks of recent baseball games’ quality. Spoiler: he thinks they are good. Extra spoiler: most of the rest of the segment doesn’t touch on gums, unless you count the grinning.

Two more silver linings await you. The next one is a print interview. In the print interview, Alex Rodriguez tries to say the exact TV interview stuff you just heard, but say it again, into a People Magazine tape recorder. Should that go smoothly? Sure. Does that go smoothly? Well it starts kind of like the TV interview, with Rodriguez affirming he did not use tobacco. He also throws in a little more detail on why he did not use it.

Great! Thanks Alex. That normal story wraps up this intervi–

Um…sure, thanks Alex. Great talking to–

Again, the stated goal here is disease awareness. Also, the secondary moral goal and primary financial goal is medication sales. But the moment your brain tries to latch onto any of that, Alex Rodriguez unspools an out-of-nowhere yarn about 25 epic years of arcane gum numerology. Questions abound. How did he find the time to eat and chew all that? How did he find the mouth space? Should I google the answer to the math problem “25 years times 162 games times 36 sticks of Fruit Stripe”? What does a relentless mix of pink rubber and sunflower seeds taste like? Was A-Rod exploring whether it’s possible to contract gum disease simply by chewing way way too often? Was he coining a new and psychiatric definition for the words “Gum Disease”?

Our final, vastest silver lining is A-Rod’s three and a half minute medication commercial. This ad is his clearest spokes-for-pay gig. It’s pretty clear he’s getting money. So I respect that. It also continues the trend of A-Rod openly barely understanding this disease.

Cool! That’s honest. He let his dentist lead the learning process. A dentist should lead that. However: I counted. Within 55 seconds, A-Rod racks up three more “my dentist told me”s:

That repetition turns funny. You start wanting to just hear from the dentist. Why is this ad a game of literal Telephone? I keep thinking Alex’s dentist will walk in, turn him 90 degrees, and tap him forward like a windup toy, so that an expert can talk to the camera while Alex Rodriguez bonks into a wall.

The rest of the ad turns weirder. If there’s one thing American medication commercials do, it’s show the ill person having tons of friends. That’s always what’s shown during the tiny legal text and the voiceover about side effects. This commercial missed that memo. Other than that one shot of Alex Rodriguez with a dentist, he spends this ad alone. Totally alone, in a huge glassy house. Everything from his tragic diagnosis…

…to the entire rest of his life…

…is the opposite of every other medication commercial. Total isolation. Gum disease quarantine. It’s so backward, it feels like how a space alien would write a medication commercial, in a good way. No distracting communal joy. Just pure uncut Guy Grappling With Illness. It even ends on more than a minute of warning voiceover. Which is too much. That’s longer than most entire commercials. This commercial spends 70 seconds unspooling a harrowing list of potential side effects. It includes a request that you, the patient, help them document new side effects, because that’s how new this drug is (!). That dire warning plays over one unbroken stalker shot of Alex Rodriguez brushing.

This 3.5 minute ad deserves a full episode of a bad movie podcast. It’s profoundly antithetical to selling its own product. And our fella Alex Rodriguez is this art film’s MVP (“Most Very-Freaky Person”). I never thought I’d write a column about him again. Perhaps this is the last one. But I see how he could recur yet again. This website is named 1900HOTDOG. And someday, when I seek another literal hot dog premise, I’ll remember no athlete’s ever simulated more dangled wiener.

This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Alpha Scientist Javo, who one time wrote Article.

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