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The Origin of the Gatorade Shower

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Although the exact origins of the tradition are hotly debated, former New York Giants defensive tackle Jim Burt often gets the credit for the first bath. According to Darren Rovell's interesting book First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon, Burt had the idea for the prank while the Giants were struggling during the 1985 season. Head coach Bill Parcells had been riding Burt pretty hard before a midseason game against the Washington Redskins, and after the Giants emerged from that game with a 17-3 win, Burt playfully dumped a cooler full of Gatorade on the Big Tuna.

Linebacker Harry Carson, a favorite of Parcells, took the baths to the next level.

While Burt eventually decided the dousing had lost its originality, Carson kept it up, showering Parcells with Gatorade after each of the Giants' wins en route to their Super Bowl championship during the 1986 season.

However, while Burt and Carson popularized the Gatorade shower, they didn't pull off the first dunking. That honor goes to former Chicago Bears lineman Dan Hampton, who collaborated with teammates Steve McMichael and Mike Singletary to get coach Mike Ditka wet after a regular-season win over the Vikings in 1984.

Who was Carson's most famous victim?

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When the Giants made their trip to the White House in early 1987 to celebrate their Super Bowl victory, Carson brought the tradition with him. His target: none other than Ronald Reagan. Of course, it would have been a crime to mar Reagan's fastidiously styled hair with sports drink, so Carson showered the president with a Gatorade cooler full of popcorn. Carson later wrote on his website, "How many people can say they did that to the President with Secret Service agents standing near with guns under their jackets?"

What did Gatorade think of the whole idea?

How could any company be irked by such great free advertising? When Gatorade's head of sports marketing, Bill Schmidt, heard John Madden describing the Gatorade shower to millions of viewers during a Giants-49ers playoff game, he said, "I think I've died and gone to heaven."

Did Parcells and Carson get anything for their trouble?

According to Rovell, since Gatorade didn't actually think of the ritual, they weren't quite sure how to handle the situation. To show the brand's gratitude to the coach and his linebacker, Gatorade sent both men $1,000 Brooks Brothers gift certificates, along with a note from Schmidt. ("We do feel somewhat responsible for your cleaning bill," he wrote.)

After the G-Men won the Super Bowl, though, a more formal endorsement seemed like a good idea. Parcells got a $120,000 deal for a three-year deal, and Carson picked up $20,000 of his own.

Did any coaches truly loathe the Gatorade bath?

Of course. Legendary Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula wanted no part of a Gatorade shower and ordered his players not to douse him.

Has a Gatorade bath ever turned deadly?

Possibly. In November 1990, 72-year-old former Redskins and Rams coach George Allen led Long Beach State to a season-ending victory over UNLV, and his players rewarded him with a dunk from the cooler. Dousing a septuagenarian with cold liquid is a questionable move even in a temperate climate, and the drenching did quite a number on Allen's body. He died of ventricular fibrillation on December 31, 1990; just one week earlier, he had commented in an interview that his health had never really returned following the bath.

Don't blame Allen's death on Gatorade, though. According to Allen, the team "couldn't afford Gatorade," so the possibly deadly liquid barrage was regular old ice water.

What other Gatorade baths have gone wrong?

It wasn't deadly, but the Gatorade shower Kentucky coach Guy Morriss received in the waning moments of the Wildcats' 2002 game against LSU was pretty embarrassing. With just seconds left to play in the game, Kentucky looked like a lock to pull off a major upset over the Tigers, so Morriss' players doused the coach with Gatorade.

Unfortunately for Morriss and Big Blue Nation, there's a difference between looking like a lock to win and actually winning. LSU wideout Devery Henderson quickly scored a miracle touchdown on a tipped Hail Mary play, and Morriss was left standing on the sidelines, drenched and disappointed.

Has the Gatorade bath made the leap to other sports?

When the Boston Celtics captured the 2008 NBA title to end a 22-year drought, Finals MVP Paul Pierce doused coach Doc Rivers with a cooler full of red Gatorade. Reporters speculated that this might have been the first time the Gatorade shower had crossed over to the NBA.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
How Many Rings Does Saturn Have?
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Of all the planets surrounded by rings, Saturn is the most famous. These planetary rings are massive enough that Galileo was able to see them using a simple telescope way back in 1610, though it wasn't until half a century later that another scientist was able to figure out what the "arms" Galileo saw actually were. NASA has since called them "the most recognized characteristic of any world in our solar system."

So how many rings does Saturn have, anyway? If you can see them from your backyard, there must be a lot, right?

Scientists don't know for sure exactly how many rings Saturn has. There are eight main, named ring groups that stretch across 175,000 miles, but there are far more than eight rings. These systems are named with letters of the alphabet, in order of their discovery. (Astronomers have known about ring groups A, B, and C since the 17th century, while others are newer discoveries. (The most recent was just discovered in 2009.)

The rings we can see in images of the planet—even high-resolution images—aren't single rings, per se, but are in fact comprised of thousands of smaller ringlets and can differ a lot in appearance, showing irregular ripples, kinks, and spokes. The chunky particles of ice that make up Saturn's rings vary in size from as small as a speck of dust to as large as a mountain.

While the gaps between Saturn's rings are small, the 26-mile-wide Keeler Gap is large enough to contain multiple moons, albeit very small ones. The largest ring system—the one discovered in 2009—starts 3.7 million miles away from Saturn itself and its material extends another 7.4 million miles out, though it's nearly invisible without the help of an infrared camera.

Researchers are still discovering new rings as well as new insights into the features of Saturn's already-known ring systems. In the early 1980s, NASA's Voyager missions took the first high-resolution images of Saturn and its rings, revealing previously unknown kinks in one of the narrower rings, known as the F ring. In 1997, NASA sent the Cassini orbiter to continue the space agency's study of the ringed planet, leading to the discovery of new rings, so faint that they remained unknown until Cassini's arrival in 2006. Before Cassini is sent to burn up in Saturn's atmosphere in September 2017, it's taking 22 dives through the space between the planet and its rings, bringing back new, up-close revelations about the ring system before the spacecraft dives to its death.

Though it's certainly possible to see Saturn's rings without any fancy equipment, using a low-end telescope at your house, that doesn't mean you always can. It depends on the way the planet is tilted; if you're looking at the rings edge-on, they may look like a flat line or, depending on the magnification, you might not be able to see them at all. However, 2017 happens to be a good year to see the sixth planet, so you're in luck.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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