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Power bracelets and lucky socks

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I was walking through a huge outdoor flea market last summer when I came upon a couple of familiar faces, husband and wife, and stopped to say hello. It turns out they had a small business going. They were selling power bracelets. You've seen them advertised on TV. Instead of just a hello, I got a demonstration (sales pitch). The demonstration showed that, standing on one leg, I could easily lose balance with a bit of pressure when I wasn't wearing a bracelet, whereas, with a bracelet on, I had better balance. Also I had greater range in stretching my arms with a bracelet than without. These obvious advantages, endorsed by athletes and celebrities, could be mine for only $29.99. For $80 that same power is available in a sterling silver pendant. I passed on the offer, opting to try to get by with my existing limited power, balance and flexibility.

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Later on TV I saw that I could buy a different brand of power bracelet for only $19.99 with an extra one thrown in free if I called within 24 hours. The temptation to get a bargain had power in itself, but again I passed.

Then in August I was working with my friend Jeff on a painting project in a hot, humid location. I noticed that Jeff was wearing one of those power bracelets. At the end of the day I asked Jeff, a strong and energetic young man even without any additives, how well the bracelet was working for him. He said he couldn't seem to feel much difference. But he offered to let me wear it the next day. I was eager to get that extra power, balance and flexibility because I really needed it. After the next 24 hours in the heat and humidity, I still needed it. Maybe there was an "on" switch that I had missed.

The Power Balance Company has been selling bracelets since 2007. The bracelets are imbedded with "holograms" that are designed to interact with the body's natural energy flow. Basketball giant Shaquille O'Neal swears by them saying they gave him a competitive edge on the court. The company has advertised that power bracelets have been worn in the last World Series and Super Bowl. They have paid some athletes to endorse the product. When all 2010 sales are added up, they're expected to exceed $35 million.

But under pressure from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Power Balance confessed a week or two ago that "We admit there is no credible scientific evidence to support our claims" and they have agreed to give refunds to unsatisfied customers. But the ads are still running on TV. I hope Jeff gets his money back.

One athletic trainer suggested that power bracelets probably provide the same benefit to an athlete as a pair of "lucky socks." Other more scientific people have said the bracelets have the placebo effect -- an actual benefit because they believe they will be getting one -- just like a sugar pill sometimes provides expected medical benefits.

My belief is that we get our energy from within and from those around us. Look at this: the average of wins and losses in all athletic competition is 50/50. But according to a study in two college athletic conferences covering 418 games. The home team won 68 percent of games. Why would that be? It certainly isn't because the home team has cooler uniforms. The answer has to be that the home team has the hometown fans with their enthusiasm. I believe these fans project energy to one another and to their teams.

Not only do fans energize players, but students energize one another in the classroom, workers energize one another in the workplace, friends energize one another socially and parents can energize their children with a kind remark, a compliment or a word of encouragement (and vice versa).

So if you want a package of power, balance, flexibility and energy, associate with people who have it and you can share it with one another. And if your kid Mary Jo is out there playing ball and you holler, "way to go Mary Jo," you're not just making noise, you're sending some of your energy out to somebody who can put it to good use. That's what gives the home team the advantage.

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