TE2: THE LINGERING
Two weeks ago on WWF/MTV's Tough Enough 2, we watched contestants push themselves through a grueling obstacle course. We watched one of those contestants, Aaron, seemingly lose control of his motor reflexes and eventually pass out. Aaron was then rushed to a hospital.
The next week, Aaron was cut from the show.
No big deal, right? The kid was just another ego-inflated spotlight seeker, all of them a dime a dozen. Why should I, or anyone else, be upset?
The show made me livid because of the way some very important facts were being glossed over. Mainly, the reason Aaron was unconscious was because that morning he had taken a dietary supplement containing the drug Ephedrin. A very dangerous drug, that.
Ephedrin was listed as the probable catlyst in the death of Minnesota Vikings lineman Kory Stringer last summer. A recent piece on HBO's Real Sports catalogued the drug's widespread use among college and high school athletes, with eye-opening negative, and sometimes fatal, results.
This was a golden opportunity for the WWF, and certainly for MTV, to make a strong anti-drug statement to the music network's core audience (teenagers). Wouldn't take much, and it would make for great reality TV. Have one of the trainers take Aaron aside and give him a good talking-to. At the very least, head trainer Al Snow might, oh, I don't know, MENTION it when he cut Aaron one week later.
What did the WWF and MTV do? They did nothing. That pisses me off.
So I asked other questions: What exactly was Aaron's medical condition that day? What did the doctors at the hospital tell him? Could he have actually died? What exactly did he ingest that morning? Even though Tough Enough is supposedly a "reality" show, these are things we'll never know the answers to. Last year, Tough Enough aired several conferences between contestants and doctors as participants got injured. Why not even one minute about this one, which seemed pretty serious to even a casual observer?
Because they didn't want us to know, or even think about, what had happened?
Which leads a logical person to ask: Is the reason the WWF and MTV did nothing because one of the biggest sponsors of all WWF programming is the dietary supplement Stacker 2? The tie-in of Stacker 2 with Vince McMahon is so strong that WWF wrestlers appear in commercials for the product, and for all we know a jug of Stacker 2 is on the Tough Enough breakfast table. Of course one of the main ingredients in Stacker 2 is, you guessed it, Ephedrin. And with ratings down and advertisers hard to come by, wouldn't Vince go to great lengths to not piss off a sponsor that is almost his business partner?
When I called both companies to ask for comments, my calls were not returned. This in and of itself is not all that unusual; no doubt they have bigger fish to fry. But the numerous messages I left with them over the past week detailed in no uncertain terms the nature of my inquiry. If they had anything to say on the subject, they're keeping it to themselves.
I'm angry because what happened to Aaron was not something to be taken lightly. Kids die from things like this, straight up. What's even more shameful is that the show could have used the occasion to do some good, to take something negative and use that opportunity to do something positive. Sometimes both the WWF and MTV have ad campaigns designed to make it look like they care about kids, but make no mistake: It's all for show. That the people at Tough Enough did absolutely nothing, maybe that can be chalked up to mere stupidity, or callousness. If they did it to placate a sponsor, that's despicable.
Some people just don't get it, and never will. You can now most assuredly add Vince McMahon and the folks at MTV to that list.