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Tony the Tiger and the flaky NFL
by Andrew Barbano
Nov 29, 2008 | 692 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Joan Galt
By Joan Galt
The National Futzball League presented three blowouts instead of football games on last week’s appropriately-termed Turkey Day.

Adding insult to indigestion, the barons of bone breakage brokered a bushel of network time for some public relations initiative called NFL Play60. (No, it’s not a new parlay bet at the Nugget sports book, but give it a week.)

Paunchy people, prostrate before their 70-watt gods, were peppered with propaganda promoting a new war on pork called “The NFL movement for an Active Generation.”

The latest bad rap against flabby abs was launched with video of undoubtedly steroid-free behemoths barking to children about the beauty of busting their buns in order to burst forth with better health. It was the first interesting thing on the tube all day, and more transparent than the Seahawks’ ground game.

Maybe it was a deft exercise in reverse-psychology. Show non-fat kids gleefully interacting with NFL millionaires and their real-life marketing targets will revolt at the whole idea of junk food for health.

Which is exactly what it was. Not one nanosecond of the NFL promotional programming or support spots mentioned better nutrition. Understandable. Why risk that the blubber blunderbuss might blow up in your face because of an awkwardly placed McDonald’s commercial? Better to show skinny, happy kids sweating to the NFL oldies.

The total focus on Super Bowl over cereal bowl galvanized me to L-lysine-induced inaction. I was so irritated that I almost got off the sofa and made coffee. When my fourth beer and the Cardinals-Eagles pillow fight ended at the same time, I put the crack Tribune investigative unit into action. As usual, we spared every expense to expose the hypocrisy of the jockocracy.

A simple Web search turned up the official list of co-sponsors of NFL Play60. I cracked the case when I found Tony the Tiger cracking his catty smile.

No less than the American Heart Association is in bed with the legendary striped salescritter — probably a case of “if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.” Besides, who wants to lick Frosted Flakes, especially if you’re allergic to cats.

Some front outfit called the School Nutrition Association is part of this hustle, exhorting our little lab rats to “power up with school breakfast with the help of Crunch, Yogurl (did Cap’n Crunch get married to a Swedish Viking chick?) and the rest of the school breakfast superheroes.” (I think I’m gonna be sick.)

The SNA purports to promote the “importance of eating a healthy breakfast, eating a variety of foods, and being active.” “Variety of foods” is junk food lobby code for “mix us in with good food and on average we don’t look so bad.”

Well, skunk juice does smell sweet to other skunks.

Tony the Tiger is using this NFL tie-in to pimp “The Power of Gold: Athletes are discovering the power of NEW Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Gold. With 10 grams of whole grain per serving, it gives you energy when you need it most – helping you go for the gold!” (No emphases added.)

This particular section of the salescat’s Web site is titled “Eat Right,” where Tony advises all his little marketing prospects to “just add ice-cold milk and enjoy.” Milk. Butterfat bobbing in lactose. Right. Tony’s page also sports a link to Pop-Tarts. These guys never miss a cross-promotional possibility, do they?

I was getting soggy with all this unintentional self-satire, but slogged on in the name of journalistic hilarity. Tony’s list of ingredients includes sugar, honey and high-fructose corn syrup, the additive increasingly accused as the critical source of our national porkification. The flakes also contain “natural sweeteners.” (Like what, campaign contributions?)

And “BHT (preservative).”

Butylhydroxytoluene keeps fat from going rancid and is also used in cosmetics, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products and (gasp) embalming fluid.

For decades, BHT has been accused of producing hyperactivity in some children (I thought that’s what all the gold-medal sugars were for) and as a possible cause of cancers and tumors. It has shown promise as a treatment for AIDS and herpes, so perhaps Tony may one day be thanked for immunizing our media-seduced, sexy sub-teens. That would be a damn sight better than the Orwellianly-named Gardasil, the purported cervical cancer preventative that has been killing and brain-damaging young girls nationwide.

“There is evidence that certain persons may have difficulty metabolizing BHT, resulting in health and behavior changes,” notes’s chemistry section.

Kellogg’s changed “Sugar Frosted Flakes” to just “Frosted Flakes” a few years ago. They later produced a reduced-sugar version.

In 2005, the Associated Press did an independent analysis to see if Tony had changed his stripes. Nope. The lower-sugar compounds of Frosted Flakes and several others were just as fattening. To preserve the crunch, the technocrats of moppet marketing simply added other carbohydrates that your body sees as sugar anyway — energy to go for the gold while sporting overpriced footwear.

Nike, a purveyor of products produced by impoverished skinny kids in third-world sweatshops, is thus another quite logical co-sponsor of this football boondoggle. May their swash buckle.

“This is about marketing. It is about nothing else,” New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle told the AP after reviewing the 2005 cereal science.

“It is not about kids’ health,” the noted author added.

The same can be said about the NFL’s foul ball on Turkey Day.

Eat well.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 40-year Nevadan and editor of He hosts live news and talk on Sparks-Reno-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 and 216,

Monday throuogh Friday, 2 to 4 p.m., webstreaming at Barbwire.TV. On-air hotline, 682-4144.

E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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