You’re watching the final moments of the game and out of the corner of your eye you see it; one of the players is tip-toeing towards the coach, Gatorade cooler held steadily in both hands. Suddenly, the player tips the cooler and gallons of neon-colored fluid rain down on them while the crowd cheers. This is one of sports most cherished traditions and while it might sound unpleasant, the act signifies a monumental win and victory for the team. So, what is a Gatorade shower?
What is a Gatorade Shower?
To put it in simplest terms, a Gatorade shower happens after a significant victory in sports and involves dumping a cooler of Gatorade on the winning coach’s head. While Gatorade is often the drink of choice, teams have also chosen to use Powerade or simply water. If you somehow haven’t heard of Gatorade, it’s a brand of flavored water that comes in a variety of fruit flavors developed for the purpose of replenishing electrolytes in athletes.
How Did it Start?
The origins of the Gatorade shower tradition are still up for debate, but the most popular story is that the act was first done by Jim Burt of the New York Giants. It was October 28th, 1984, and the Giants were on their way to a 37-13 victory over the Washington Redskins. Burt was said to have been frustrated with head coach Bill Parcells for chastising him the week prior. In the game’s waning moments, Burt, along with teammate and coach favorite Harry Carson, grabbed one of the large coolers filled with Gatorade and emptied it onto Parcells’ head. A tradition was born.
There is another origin story, however. Dan Hampton, a lineman for the Chicago Bears, claims he invented the tradition when he dumped a cooler of Gatorade on coach Mike Ditka after clinching the NFC Central that same year. That game took place in November though, and there is no video evidence of it occurring, so it is typically Burt who ultimately gets credit for it.
From a One-Time Event To a Rite of Passage
When that first Gatorade shower took place, the Giants had been in a celebratory mood. Coach Parcells wasn’t bothered by the surprise event, and things may have ended there, if not for superstition.
Though Harry Carson had simply been an accomplice for that initial Gatorade shower, he was highly superstitious (like many athletes) and felt that the act should be reproduced after every victory. He would take the prank and turn it into a ritual.
By the 1986 season, even Jim Burt thought the Gatorade shower had lost originality, but Carson continued to run with it. That year, Carson dumped Gatorade on Bill Parcells after every win. The Giants would win the Super Bowl that year, and Parcells was “showered” a total of 17 times. Following their championship win, the team was invited to the White House to visit then-President Ronald Reagan. As a joke, the team dumped a Gatorade cooler filled with popcorn over Reagan’s head. This event helped to solidify the shower’s place in sports history.
Gatorade Showers Don’t Always End Well
While this tradition is typically lighthearted, there have been a few instances in which it has not ended well for the recipients. In November of 1990, coach George Allen, age 72 at the time, led Long Beach State to a season ending win over UNLV. Due to budget cuts his players decided to shower him with ice water instead of Gatorade, causing him to finish out the rest of his post-game interviews in wet clothes. He was ill at the time and the shower is said to have given him pneumonia which he never fully recovered from. He died of ventricular fibrillation 6 weeks later and many attributed his death to the shower. Allen’s son George, however, insists that the shower isn’t what killed him.
Another less serious, but still unfortunate, Gatorade shower was in 2002 during the Kentucky Wildcats game against the LSU Tigers. Up by 3 points with only moments left in the game, Wildcats players celebrated by soaking their coach, Guy Morriss. The move was premature, however, as the Tigers came back with a touchdown on a tipped Hail Mary play to win the game. The team was stunned to say the least, as was the coach who was left dripping in Gatorade.
Gatorade Showers Today
What started as a football tradition was quickly adopted by the rest of the sporting world and today can be seen in almost every major sport. Gatorade showers have boosted the company’s popularity, helping Gatorade become one of the most well-known sports drinks in the world. If you plan on doing this during a game, just be certain that your team is actually going to win.