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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?

reagan-86giants

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
Why Does Asparagus Make Your Pee Smell Funny?
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The asparagus has a long and storied history. It was mentioned in the myths and the scholarly writings of ancient Greece, and its cultivation was the subject of a detailed lesson in Cato the Elder's treatise, On Agriculture. But it wasn't until the turn of the 18th century that discussion of the link between asparagus and odorous urine emerged. In 1731, John Arbuthnot, physician to Queen Anne, noted in a book about food that asparagus "affects the urine with a foetid smell ... and therefore have been suspected by some physicians as not friendly to the kidneys." Benjamin Franklin also noticed that eating asparagus "shall give our urine a disagreeable odor."

Since then, there has been debate over what is responsible for the stinky pee phenomenon. Polish chemist and doctor Marceli Nencki identified a compound called methanethiol as the cause in 1891, after a study that involved four men eating about three and a half pounds of asparagus apiece. In 1975, Robert H. White, a chemist at the University of California at San Diego, used gas chromatography to pin down several compounds known as S-methyl thioesters as the culprits. Other researchers have blamed various "sulfur-containing compounds" and, simply, "metabolites."

More recently, a study demonstrated that asparagusic acid taken orally by subjects known to produce stinky asparagus pee produced odorous urine, which contained the same volatile compounds found in their asparagus-induced odorous urine. Other subjects, who normally didn't experience asparagus-induced odorous urine, likewise were spared stinky pee after taking asparagusic acid.

The researchers concluded that asparagusic acid and its derivatives are the precursors of urinary odor (compared, in different scientific papers, to the smell of "rotten cabbage," "boiling cabbage" and "vegetable soup"). The various compounds that contribute to the distinct smell—and were sometimes blamed as the sole cause in the past—are metabolized from asparagusic acid.

Exactly how these compounds are produced as we digest asparagus remains unclear, so let's turn to an equally compelling, but more answerable question:

WHY DOESN'T ASPARAGUS MAKE YOUR PEE SMELL FUNNY?

Remember when I said that some people don't produce stinky asparagus pee? Several studies have shown that only some of us experience stinky pee (ranging from 20 to 40 percent of the subjects taking part in the study, depending on which paper you read), while the majority have never had the pleasure.

For a while, the world was divided into those whose pee stank after eating asparagus and those whose didn't. Then in 1980, a study complicated matters: Subjects whose pee stank sniffed the urine of subjects whose pee didn't. Guess what? The pee stank. It turns out we're not only divided by the ability to produce odorous asparagus pee, but the ability to smell it.

An anosmia—an inability to perceive a smell—keeps certain people from smelling the compounds that make up even the most offensive asparagus pee, and like the stinky pee non-producers, they're in the majority.

Producing and perceiving asparagus pee don't go hand-in-hand, either. The 1980 study found that some people who don't produce stinky pee could detect the rotten cabbage smell in another person's urine. On the flip side, some stink producers aren't able to pick up the scent in their own urine or the urine of others.

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
What Legal Authority Does Judge Judy Have?
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While Judith Sheindlin was a real, live judge—New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed her to family court in 1982 and then made her Manhattan's supervising family court judge in 1986—she's not acting as one on her show. Neither are any of the other daytime TV judges (whether they passed the bar and served as actual judges or not).

TV court shows don't take place in real courtrooms and they don't feature real trials, though they are usually real cases—the producers often contact parties who have pending litigation in small claims court and offer them the opportunity to appear on TV instead. What you're seeing on these TV court shows is really just arbitration playing dress-up in small claims court's clothes.

Arbitration is a legal method for resolving disputes outside the court. The disputing parties present their cases to a neutral, third-party arbitrator or arbitrators who hear the case, examine the evidence, and make a (usually binding) decision. Like a court-based case, arbitration is adversarial, but generally less formal in its rules and procedures.

The power that Judge Judy and the rest of the TV arbitrators have over the disputing parties is granted by a contract, specific to their case, that they sign before appearing on the show. These contracts make the arbitrators' decision final and binding, prevent the disputing parties from negotiating the terms of the arbitration, and allow the "judges" wide discretion on procedural and evidentiary rules during the arbitration.

TV judges make their decision on the case and either decide for the plaintiff, in which case the show's producers award them a judgment fee, or with the defendant, in which case the producers award both parties with an appearance fee. This system seems to skew things in favor of the defendants and gives them an incentive to take their case from court to TV. If they have a weak case, appearing on the show absolves them of any financial liability; if they have a strong case, they stand to earn an appearance fee along with their victory.

If one party or the other doesn't like the arbitrator's decision, it can really only be successfully appealed if it addresses a matter outside the scope of the contract. In 2000, Judge Judy had one of her decisions overturned for that reason by the Family Court of Kings County. In the case B.M. v. D.L., the parties appeared in front of Sheindlin to solve a personal property dispute. Sheindlin ruled on that dispute, but also made a decision on the parties' child custody and visitation rights. One of the parties appealed in court, and the family court overturned the custody and visitation part of the decision because they weren't covered by the agreement to arbitrate.

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

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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