The Things I Do for You: Eating Ancient Bubble Gum

Topps Pack Outside

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.”
Johnson: Rambler #103 (March 12, 1751)

Despite this innate curiosity Johnson describes above, there are some things that it’s better for you not to investigate. To forgo your natural curiosity is not a sign of a weak intellect in such cases, but is a testament to your understanding that some shit will straight up kill you, and you should probably not try it.

Just because your brain wonders how it feels to jump out of an airplane, or mix cotton candy and Scotch, or get hit in the face with a t-shirt fired from a mascot-wielded t-shirt cannon, doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. That’s where I come in. To resolve, then, the conflict between your natural innate curiosity and the wiser angels of your nature, I am offering myself as your avatar to try things on a semi-regular basis that you should not, and to tell you about the results. That way, your curiosity is satisfied, and the only one in harm’s way is a 34 year old father of two who should really know better.

And so it was that a couple of weeks ago I was getting lunch and playing nerdy baseball board games with Gentleman of the Internet and Shame of the BBWAA Carson Cistulli and the impossibly young Jackie Moore when Carson laid out three packs of tattered, ancient baseball cards before us. “Take one,” he murmured, seductively.

I chose a bubble-gum pack of 1987 Topps. You know, the ones with the wood borders. I slid my finger beneath the fold and opened this pack of hidden and valueless treasures. In it, I received several wonderful and utterly worthless cards, including Rickey Henderson and three managers, Tommy Lasorda, Chuck Tanner, and Pete Rose. And at the bottom, stuck to the back of the last card, which commemorated former AL Home Run champ Ben Oglivie’s final season in baseball, were the pieces of the promised bubble gum, long ago broken and crumbled and inedible.

Or were they? I remember Topps bubble gum as being largely disappointing back in the day, some initial sweetness that quickly lost its flavor and grew hard and unchewable, let alone bubbleable. Could any of that flavor be salvaged? What was left of the gum of my youth? What was left of my youth?

As we prepared to leave the establishment, I gathered the pieces that I had managed to save in a cupped palm, and with little ceremony, I tossed them into my mouth. And friends, where once the gum would have been pliant and responsive, now it just dissolved. As I felt the shards melting between my tongue and soft palate, I realized the magnitude of my mistake. Not only was any of the original flavor long since destroyed by the ravages of time, but the unpleasant sensation of the crumpled sugar plank turning to liquid caused panic to surge through my body. I was sure I had poisoned myself with 25 year old bubble gum. I spit the contents back out into an empty water glass (at this point, I want to offer an apology to our lovely, though completely unamused by our antics, waitress, any table bussers, and dish doers who stood grossed out and perplexed by the glass’s pink contents).

But that wasn’t enough. I hurriedly packed up, not saying a word, not swallowing, and simply nodding responses to the inane questions of one Carson Cistulli until we finally left the restaurant. Then, I proceeded over to the nearest snow bank, and spit several more times. Nevertheless, the dull, stale aftertaste clung to me for the next half hour or so. As far as I know, I did not die. But I assume I could have. And likewise, now that you know, I have saved your life. I’m not saying I’m a hero, but if you were going to call me one, I wouldn’t disagree with you.

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Mike Bates co-founded The Platoon Advantage, and has written for many other baseball websites, including NotGraphs (rest in peace) and The Score. Currently, he writes for MLB Daily Dish on SB Nation. His favorite word is paradigm. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBatesSBN.

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Certainly, you are an American treasure. I will say that I’ve topped you (or maybe not). I ate half a stick of 1984 Topps gum recently. I say ate because the thing dissolved into dust the minute I tried to chew it. I will back up how the disgusting taste lingers. I am still around, so i think you will not die.