As we enter the much anticipated football season, we turn our attention to a hotly debated subject – Namely, Who started the Gatorade Bath/Shower tradition? This is when at the end of a football game players creep up behind their victorious coach with a large cooler of ice and Gatorade and douse their unsuspecting leader. (This, of course, has spread to more sports now that just football.)
I’m sure coaches across the college and professional ranks are gearing up for another year of these frigid end-of-the-year antics.
But a warning should go out to the players who will be concocting these sneaky schemes. There have been some embarrassing and premature shower celebrations.
One in particular came when underdog Kentucky was just a few seconds away from upsetting the LSU Tigers in 2002. Up by three points, the game was a cinch, right? Not so fast – LSU threw up a “Hail Mary” eighty yards from pay dirt. The receiver grabbed the tipped ball at the fifteen yard line and waltzed in for the winning score. But just moments before, Kentucky head coach Guy Morriss had already received the winner’s Gatorade Shower.
And yes, some coaches do not care to indulge in this type of celebration. Miami Dolphins’ famous head coach, Don Shula, laid down the edict to his team that he wanted no part in the Gatorade Bath.
And, sadly, one such celebration possibly led to a death. In 1990 George Allen was coaching at Long Beach State. Coach Allen was 72 years old and had been a successful NFL head coach with the Rams and Redskins. After a season ending victory against UNLV, his players innocently covered him with the icy bath. In this instance the liquid was ice water and not Gatorade, but Coach Allen died about a month later from complications that could have been associated with his being drenched in ice water.
Ask the knowledgeable fan that remembers the early days of this traditional soaking. It is surely quite entertaining to watch today, but when it began it was hilarious as the serious, focused coach was suddenly drenched and shocked by the cold. The facial expressions of the coaches are certainly worth the wait. (I suppose this was a pre cursor to the ALS Challenge.)
Ask these fans if they know who actually started all of this craziness and you will most likely get answers across the board from Lawrence Taylor with the New York Giants to a college team somewhere.
But let’s set the record straight today. The controversy seems to stem from the claim that Jim Burt, defensive tackle for the New York Giants was the first to contrive this deed as the Giants struggled through their 1985 season. Coach Bill Parcells had been riding Burt the week preceding the big game with the Washington Redskins. As the Giants closed the game with a 17-3 win, Burt and co-conspirator, linebacker Harry Carson doused Parcells with the bucket of Gatorade.
The next season, the Giants dominated the league with a 14-2 regular season record and went on to win the Super Bowl. In every one of the seventeen wins, Carson made sure Coach Parcells enjoyed a Gatorade Shower.
This rendition has been purported to be the beginning of this freezing tradition. But “Hold on there, Bob-a-Louie!” This claim has been deemed an Urban Legend. And you might ask, “Why?”
Well, I’m glad you asked, because the truth of the matter is that during the 1984 NFL season, then Chicago Bears lineman, Dan Hampton is credited with having the initial idea. He conscripted his teammates Steve McMichael and Mike Singletary into dousing Head Coach Mike Ditka after a win over the Minnesota Vikings.
So Jim Burt and Harry Carson made the Gatorade Bath popular, but they were not the first.
Now you are one “splash” ahead in the next NFL trivia contest you find yourself in.