NEW ORLEANS – The "press conference" of the deer antler spray salesman had dragged on for over an hour.
Mitch Ross, fresh off a plane from Alabama, stood on the sidewalk outside the New Orleans convention center, home to the Super Bowl XLVII media center, and despite claiming he would "clear the air" about everything, managed to only further confuse things.
Ross, 45, wore a tight, sleeveless T-shirt after taking off his tight, sleeveless black vest, so eventually when the media became exhausted and baffled enough – eyes spinning at all the empty allegations, bold defenses and strange promises – they just turned the thing from confrontational to comical.
"Mitch, Mitch, do you have any shirts with sleeves?"
"Mitch, Mitch, have you met Bambi?"
Everyone laughed, even Ross at times, which made the entire thing more surreal, a real-life turn out of "Alice in Wonderland," perhaps the perfect cap to one of the strangest weeks of pregame hype ever.
Whether any of Mitch Ross's products – say the deer antler spray that Ray Lewis supposedly used, or the energy patches that he claimed the Baltimore Ravens wore as they defeated the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots to get to this Super Bowl – actually work is still anyone's guess.
Ross is a full believer. His proof isn't exactly clear – some combination of anecdotal belief, demands that the media "look it up on the Internet" and the promise of a future interview with a doctor in Hawaii that will testify to it.
For the sake of argument, let's assume it's all good and Mitch Ross isn't how he was characterized in Sports Illustrated, which dubbed this week's article on him: "Snake Oil For Sale." Hey, his sales are up after all this pub, although Ross kept repeating he didn't care about money.
The SI article set off a firestorm because of the inclusion of Lewis, who may have used the product to make a quick recovery from a midseason triceps tear. Lewis denies this and calls Ross a "coward." In the end, none of it really matters.
Ross said he's gotten death threats from Ravens fans, although he offered nothing specific. He found that unfortunate since he also said it was God who initially sent him to Baltimore to work with Ray Lewis.
There were times during the "press conference" when Ross wouldn't badmouth Lewis, or answer anything about him. Then there were other times he would. He said he gave Lewis his deer antler spray in the past, but acknowledged he never saw it actually used. Later he apologized to the Ravens linebacker. That's where it got even stranger. Was this press conference an attack? A whistleblower attempt? A defense? A cry for attention?
About the only thing that was certain is that he's angry at Sports Illustrated for leading him on for a couple years and then hitting him with a negative story. "They catfished me," Ross said. "They dated me for two years."
At one point, as he scanned through his text messages in front of reporters, the name "Ray Lewis" came up with a Monday date.
Wait, the deer antler guy and Lewis were texting this week?
"I text'd him and said, 'God Bless,' " Ross said. "He has not texted me."
Ah, well, after showing reporters supposed proof of communication with Lewis, which naturally drags the Ravens linebacker back into things and raises new questions, wouldn't you want to show the actual message to then clear Lewis? That'd be fair, right?
At one point he mentioned another Ravens player, thrusting his name into this story and promised to show text messages of their communication about his products. Only after scanning through the phone for a bit, he apparently changed his mind and decided against it. Not before the player was thrown under the bus, of course. It was similar when he name-dropped others NFLers current and former, baseball players and even golfers. And followed it up with little substance.
Confused? Everyone is, perhaps even including Ross, who at least did confirm he was once a male stripper but also offered up tidbits such as this:
"Now I'm going to blow your mind, you have two brains," he told everyone. One is the regular brain in your head, of course. The other, he said, is in your small intestine, which is loaded with neurons.
"You ever have a gut feeling?"
OK then, moving on. Later Ross said his products can help reverse or offset some ALS symptoms.
Wait, wait, wait, it can do what? Why the hell are we talking about a stupid football game when this man is sitting on one of the most important medical breakthroughs in years?
Ross explained that he was trying to get some publicity about his discovery, which is why he agreed to let Sports Illustrated hang around for a couple years. Unfortunately drug companies (which presumably would covet such medicine) aren't interested because the substance is natural and thus can't be patented and thus they can't turn a profit off of it.
Or something like that.
So sorry ALS patients, you'll have to wait. Maybe.
Ross is earnest about his work. There is no question many athletes believe in him and his products. This might be a window into the kind of person players have to count on to gain an edge. Or just how spectacularly outrageous this market is.
Is he a bad guy? A good guy? A smart businessman trying to make a buck? A confused soul who couldn't make sense of anything? If nothing else, he appears mostly harmless.
Eventually Ross ran out of some steam and decided to end the "press conference," which didn't appear to accomplish much.
He said he'd have more to tell on Monday to some lucky media outlet. Maybe more guys would get named or more fingers pointed or more explanations about how the fight against a terrible disease was about to have a new weapon, if only someone would listen to him.
Ross headed toward a waiting black Chevy Suburban LTZ as some Ravens fans yelled, "Leave Ray alone!" Soon Ross was standing by the door of the car, the chauffeur waiting to whisk him away, but more media showed up so he kind of began the whole thing over again.
He's just trying to help guys heal faster and maybe train better, he repeated. He listed off his recent champions, including Auburn and Alabama in college football, both of which have filed legal papers against him. Undeterred, he credited his products with aiding their victories.
So if Notre Dame players were clients they would've won?
"Manti Te'o was messed up, dude," Ross said and then laughed.
With that he went back to talking from that sidewalk, about what, there is no telling.
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