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The Origin of the Gatorade Shower

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Getty Images

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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What Happens When You Flush an Airplane Toilet?
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For millions of people, summer means an opportunity to hop on a plane and experience new and exciting sights, cultures, and food. It also means getting packed into a giant commercial aircraft and then wondering if you can make it to your next layover without submitting to the anxiety of using the onboard bathroom.

Roughly the size of an apartment pantry, these narrow facilities barely accommodate your outstretched knees; turbulence can make expelling waste a harrowing nightmare. Once you’ve successfully managed to complete the task and flush, what happens next?

Unlike our home toilets, planes can’t rely on water tanks to create passive suction to draw waste from the bowl. In addition to the expense of hauling hundreds of gallons of water, it’s impractical to leave standing water in an environment that shakes its contents like a snow globe. Originally, planes used an electronic pump system that moved waste along with a deodorizing liquid called Anotec. That method worked, but carrying the Anotec was undesirable for the same reasons as storing water: It raised fuel costs and added weight to the aircraft that could have been allocated for passengers. (Not surprisingly, airlines prefer to transport paying customers over blobs of poop.)

Beginning in the 1980s, planes used a pneumatic vacuum to suck liquids and solids down and away from the fixture. Once you hit the flush button, a valve at the bottom of the toilet opens, allowing the vacuum to siphon the contents out. (A nonstick coating similar to Teflon reduces the odds of any residue.) It travels to a storage tank near the back of the plane at high speeds, ready for ground crews to drain it once the airplane lands. The tank is then flushed out using a disinfectant.

If you’re also curious about timing your bathroom visit to avoid people waiting in line while you void, flight attendants say the best time to go is right after the captain turns off the seat belt sign and before drink service begins.

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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Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?
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Today, people around the globe will feel uneasy about getting out of bed, leaving their homes, or going about their normal daily routines, all because of a superstition. These unfortunate folks suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia, a common neurosis familiar to us all: the fear of Friday the 13th. But just where did this superstitious association come from, and how did it catch on?

The truth is that no one is absolutely sure where the idea that Friday the 13th is unlucky originated. Donald Dossey, the founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, suspects the fear can be traced back to a Norse myth about 12 gods who had a dinner at Valhalla—the fabled hall where legendary Norse heroes feasted for eternity after they died—that was interrupted by a 13th guest, the evil and mischievous god Loki.

According to legend, Loki tricked Höðr (the blind god of winter and son of Odin, the supreme god in Norse mythology) into shooting his brother Baldr (the benevolent god of summer who was also a son of Odin) with a magical spear tipped with mistletoe—the only substance that could defeat him. Thus the number 13 was branded as unlucky because of the ominous period of mourning following the loss of such powerful gods by this unwanted 13th guest.

For whatever reason, among many cultures, the number 12 emerged throughout history as a "complete" number: There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 Gods of Olympus, 12 sons of Odin, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 Jyotirlingas or Hindu shrines where Shiva is worshipped, 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, and 12 tribes of Israel. In Christianity, Jesus was betrayed by one of his 12 Apostles—Judas—who was the 13th guest to arrive for the Last Supper. Surpassing the number 12 ostensibly unbalances the ideal nature of things; because it is seen as irregular and disrespectful of a sense of perfection, the number 13 bears the stigma of misfortune and bad luck we know today.

WHY FRIDAY?

Friday joins in the mix mostly because all of the early accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion agree that it took place on Friday—the standard day for crucifixions in Rome. As Chaucer noted in The Canterbury Tales, "And on a Friday fell all this mischance." Yet perpetuating Friday as an unlucky day in America came from the late 19th-century American tradition of holding all executions on Fridays; Friday the 13th became the unluckiest of days simply because it combined two distinct superstitions into one. According to the Oxford University Press Dictionary of Superstitions, the first reference to Friday the 13th itself wasn’t until 1913. (So despite actually occurring on Friday, October 13, 1307, the popular notion that the Friday the 13th stigma comes from the date on which the famed order of the Knights Templar were wiped out by King Philip of France is just a coincidence.)

The repercussions of these phobias reverberated through American culture, particularly in the 20th century. Most skyscrapers and hotels lack a 13th floor, which specifically comes from the tendency in the early 1900s for buildings in New York City to omit the unlucky number (though the Empire State Building has a 13th floor). Some street addresses also skip from 12 to 14, while airports may skip the 13th gate. Allegedly, the popular Friday the 13th films were so-named just to cash in on this menacing date recognition, not because the filmmakers actually believed the date to be unlucky.

So, is Friday the 13th actually unlucky? Despite centuries of superstitious behavior, it largely seems like psychological mumbo jumbo. One 1993 study seemed to reveal that, statistically speaking, Friday the 13th is unlucky, but the study's authors told LiveScience that though the data was accurate, "the paper was just a bit of fun and not to be taken seriously." Other studies have shown no correlation between things like increased accidents or injuries and Friday the 13th.

And Friday the 13th isn't a big deal in other cultures, which have their own unlucky days: Greeks and Spanish-speaking countries consider Tuesday the 13th to be the unluckiest day, while Italians steer clear of Friday the 17th. So today, try to rest a little easy—Friday the 13th may not be so unlucky after all.

Additional Source: 13: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Superstition.

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