"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Phiten: Mind Over Snake Oil

Photo from phitenusa.com's official blog.

For weeks now I’ve been griping about the silliness of those Phiten necklaces that almost all the Texas Rangers, and many of the players on every other MLB team, were wearing this fall. The necklaces are nothing new (Phiten has an “MLB Authentic Collection” endorsed by Joba Chamberlain, among others), and indeed plenty of Yankees have worn them for years now, but they’ve rarely been as noticeable as the model so many Rangers sported: thick ropes that looked like some of the hideous if well-intentioned friendship bracelets I used to make at Indian Brook Summer Camp back in the day.

I was all ready to unleash a full-on rant, because the “science” behind Phiten sounds like absolute 100% shameless steaming bullcrap; from their website:

The official team necklace worn on the field by the New York Yankees [or insert your team here]. Featuring Phiten’s exclusive Aqua-Titanium™ technology, this product helps to promote stable energy flow throughout the body. The benefits of this are longer lasting energy, less fatigue, shortened recovery time and more relaxed muscles.

Oh sure… “Aqua-Titanium™” technology. Please, tell me more!

Phiten Technology is based around the different applications of our high-intensity Phild Process. Titanium has been found by our scientists to be particularly responsive to the Phild Process; meaning, it is consistently effective in emitting, or “passing on” the stabilizing effect of the Phild Process.

Thanks for defining “emitting” for me, that is a tricky one. And what is the Phild Process, again?

Miniscule beads of titanium are created using the Phild Process. These perfectly spherical beads can then be mixed into a compound to be printed or layered directly onto material to target specific areas of the body with concentrated effectiveness… 

At first glance, the inner core of Phiten necklaces and bracelets may look like mere rubber. However, it actually contains Micro-Titanium Spheres and Carbonized Titanium held together in a compound by the elastomer rubber.

You get the idea. I’m no scientist… in fact, in college the only science courses I ever took were Ecology 110, Intro to Computer Programming, and, I’m ashamed to admit, “Science Fiction, Science Fact”. So maybe I don’t have any right to say it, but I feel confident saying it anyway: this is not real science. It is not how the human body works. It is fairy dust. Besides, I’ve had titanium rods in my spine since high school, and the stability of my energy flow is nothing to write home about, believe me.

I was gearing up for a good screed when much to my surprise, multiple friends on Twitter – people I actually know, and who are quite smart – mentioned they’d used Phiten products, and said that it had worked for them. Which I found… startling.

Upon further reflection, I can believe that it did, even though I’m certain that this product is utter snake oil. I don’t believe that “Aqua-Titanium” does a damn thing for the body, but I absolutely do believe in the placebo effect. Ever had someone mention lice or bedbugs and start itching? Ever taken a pill and been sure it was working, only to discover it was actually a much lower does than could’ve possibly been effective? Not to say that positive thinking can cure cancer, or anything so dramatic. But there are a million examples, and tons of studies: psychosomatic symptoms, and even pyschosomatic cures for real symptoms, are very real… even if they’re not real.

So yes, I believe that Phiten is essentially a scam. On the other hand, if a $36 necklace makes your neck hurt less, or a $25 bracelet makes your carpal tunnel more manageable — well, that’s not such a bad deal. I may resent the pseudo-science, but hey: probably those old 19th century snake-oil salesmen made a few people’s joints feel better, too. Whatever works. And to quote Bull Durham:

If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you ARE!

That rings a lot truer to me than the Phild Process does.


1 Dimelo   ~  Nov 5, 2010 5:58 pm

yeah really hard not to call it all bs.

2 Yankster   ~  Nov 5, 2010 6:52 pm

I ran around screaming at these necklaces when I first saw them. The first sign of BS: no health claim. Device related health claims are regulated by the federal government and very carefully monitored. Although I have nothing against "stable energy flow," what I want to know is, what do I need it for? Will it enhance performance? Will it feel good? blech!

Why hasn't anyone written a piece comparing our dear old Yankees savior J. Damon to measly Gardner? A lot of people were really into this one at the start of the season, but I don't hear much these days. He's available again. Any banterers interested in benching Gardner and giving Damon the outfield? He's a lot cheaper this year than last!

3 Chyll Will   ~  Nov 5, 2010 7:11 pm

[2] Speaking for myself, i certainly wanted Damon back for three reasons: 1.) He was an effective lead-off batter, 2.) He would have been a better 4th outfielder than anyone the Yanks would have going into the season, and 3.) He loosened up the clubhouse considerably and likely would have continued to do so. I attribute much of his down numbers to the fact that he was being counted on for a lot more in Detroit's lineup and had to adjust his game accordingly (and who knows if he wasn't pining a bit in the beginning). Despite the numbers, I might have been okay if he came back here if Detroit released him, because he automatically becomes the leadoff hitter and platoons with Marcus Leftykiller at DH. It couldn't have hurt at that point.

If I were the Yanks, I'd be sending him an invite with chocolates, but expressing that he'd be competing for the 4th OF/DH. If he wants to continue starting anywhere, well it was nice knowing you Johnny!

4 RIYank   ~  Nov 5, 2010 8:18 pm

Seems like it should be a prosecutable offense.

Not re-hiring Damon. I mean, making those preposterous, fraudulent claims to sell necklaces.

5 knuckles   ~  Nov 5, 2010 8:54 pm

F that noise.

Better read the fine print: Your Phiten necklace may be rendered ineffective upon exposure to Lincecum.

6 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 5, 2010 9:26 pm

JD would be a nice 4th OFer, PR, PH type, but Cashman won't pay $5m for a bench player. He would add depth to our team.

7 monkeypants   ~  Nov 5, 2010 9:59 pm

I don't see Cashman adding JD as a fourth OF (actually, more like a break glass in case of emergency fifth OF the way his defense declined) / DH (when Posada looks to be slotted as the starting DH, if reports are to be believed) / PR (how many PRs does an AL team need when it carries 12 or 13 pitchers and already has Peña/Nuñez on the roster?).

And I am not sure JD will want to come back as the not-even-first-guy-off-the-bench.

So yeah, I just don't see that happening.

8 OldYanksFan   ~  Nov 6, 2010 2:20 am

From FanGraphs:
"That’s one of the reasons I expect that their offer [for Lee] will be significantly more than the 5 years, $105 million that the crowd estimated Lee would sign for yesterday."

9 Boatzilla   ~  Nov 6, 2010 9:07 am

Emma, that stuff is for real. We have been using similar products in Japan for more than 10 years, long before Phiten became popular in the West. The titanium helps the flow of negative ions through the body. For the most part, we are city dwellers and most of us wear shoes and walk on pavement all the time. Thus, we have lost our connection with the earth, from which negative ions enter our bodies.

You can can achieve similar efects through, yoga, acupuncture, hari (moxibustion) and shiatsu, but baseball players have busy schedules they don't always have time for proper holistic healing. You can make fun of it all you want, but it will be a long, long time before Western medicine catches up with what the East has been doing for 1000s of years. That is: helping the body heal itself, without drugs or invasive measures.

10 Chyll Will   ~  Nov 6, 2010 9:19 am

[9] Hey, dem's Phiten woids! (particularly moxibustion... >;)

11 vockins   ~  Nov 6, 2010 10:54 am

[9] what

12 Nettles_HoF   ~  Nov 7, 2010 9:04 pm

Sorry Phiten and [9], but speaking as a physicist, that's 100% pure, weapons-grade bolognium.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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