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The Origin of the Gatorade Shower

Getty Images
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?


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.

Big Questions
What is Mercury in Retrograde, and Why Do We Blame Things On It?

Crashed computers, missed flights, tensions in your workplace—a person who subscribes to astrology would tell you to expect all this chaos and more when Mercury starts retrograding for the first time this year on Friday, March 23. But according to an astronomer, this common celestial phenomenon is no reason to stay cooped up at home for weeks at a time.

"We don't know of any physical mechanism that would cause things like power outages or personality changes in people," Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, tells Mental Floss. So if Mercury doesn’t throw business dealings and relationships out of whack when it appears to change direction in the sky, why are so many people convinced that it does?


Mercury retrograde—as it's technically called—was being written about in astrology circles as far back as the mid-18th century. The event was noted in British agricultural almanacs of the time, which farmers would read to sync their planting schedules to the patterns of the stars. During the spiritualism craze of the Victorian era, interest in astrology boomed, with many believing that the stars affected the Earth in a variety of (often inconvenient) ways. Late 19th-century publications like The Astrologer’s Magazine and The Science of the Stars connected Mercury retrograde with heavy rainfall. Characterizations of the happening as an "ill omen" also appeared in a handful of articles during that period, but its association with outright disaster wasn’t as prevalent then as it is today.

While other spiritualist hobbies like séances and crystal gazing gradually faded, astrology grew even more popular. By the 1970s, horoscopes were a newspaper mainstay and Mercury retrograde was a recurring player. Because the Roman god Mercury was said to govern travel, commerce, financial wealth, and communication, in astrological circles, Mercury the planet became linked to those matters as well.

"Don’t start anything when Mercury is retrograde," an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun instructed its readers. "A large communications organization notes that magnetic storms, disrupting messages, are prolonged when Mercury appears to be going backwards. Mercury, of course, is the planet associated with communication." The power attributed to the event has become so overblown that today it's blamed for everything from digestive problems to broken washing machines.


Though hysteria around Mercury retrograde is stronger than ever, there's still zero evidence that it's something we should worry about. Even the flimsiest explanations, like the idea that the gravitational pull from Mercury influences the water in our bodies in the same way that the moon controls the tides, are easily deflated by science. "A car 20 feet away from you will exert a stronger pull of gravity than the planet Mercury does," Dr. Hammergren says.

To understand how little Mercury retrograde impacts life on Earth, it helps to learn the physical process behind the phenomenon. When the planet nearest to the Sun is retrograde, it appears to move "backwards" (east to west rather than west to east) across the sky. This apparent reversal in Mercury's orbit is actually just an illusion to the people viewing it from Earth. Picture Mercury and Earth circling the Sun like cars on a racetrack. A year on Mercury is shorter than a year on Earth (88 Earth days compared to 365), which means Mercury experiences four years in the time it takes us to finish one solar loop.

When the planets are next to one another on the same side of the Sun, Mercury looks like it's moving east to those of us on Earth. But when Mercury overtakes Earth and continues its orbit, its straight trajectory seems to change course. According to Dr. Hammergren, it's just a trick of perspective. "Same thing if you were passing a car on a highway, maybe going a little bit faster than they are," he says. "They're not really going backwards, they just appear to be going backwards relative to your motion."

Embedded from GIFY

Earth's orbit isn't identical to that of any other planet in the solar system, which means that all the planets appear to move backwards at varying points in time. Planets farther from the Sun than Earth have even more noticeable retrograde patterns because they're visible at night. But thanks to astrology, it's Mercury's retrograde motion that incites dread every few months.

Dr. Hammergren blames the superstition attached to Mercury, and astrology as a whole, on confirmation bias: "[Believers] will say, 'Aha! See, there's a shake-up in my workplace because Mercury's retrograde.'" He urges people to review the past year and see if the periods of their lives when Mercury was retrograde were especially catastrophic. They'll likely find that misinterpreted messages and technical problems are fairly common throughout the year. But as Dr. Hammergren says, when things go wrong and Mercury isn't retrograde, "we don't get that hashtag. It's called Monday."

This story originally ran in 2017.

Big Questions
What Is Fair Trade?

What is fair trade?

Shannon Fisher:

Fair trade is a system of manufacturing and purchasing intended to:

1) level the economic playing field for underdeveloped nations; and

2) protect against human rights abuses in the Global South.

Fair trade farmers are guaranteed fair market prices for their crops, and farm workers are guaranteed a living wage, which means workers who farm fair trade products and ingredients are guaranteed to earn enough to support their families and comfortably live in their communities. There are rules against inhumane work practices. Fair trade farming organizations are monitored for a safe work environment, lack of discrimination, the freedom to organize, and strict adherence to child labor laws. Agrochemicals and GMOs are also forbidden. If these rules are not followed, a product will not receive fair trade certification.

The quality of life in many communities producing fair trade-certified goods is greatly improved. Sometimes, farming communities are given profit sharing from the companies that source their ingredients, and those profits go to improving the community as a whole—be it with a library, medical facilities, town infrastructure, or opening small businesses to support the residents. A major goal of fair trade is to help foster sustainable development around the globe. By helping farming communities in third-world countries, the economy of the entire region gets a boost.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.


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