Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Thursday, October 13, 2005
Updated: October 14, 12:35 PM ET
How the dunk was born

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

Next Sunday is the 20th anniversary of the Gatorade Dunk. So with the dunkers, the New York Giants, playing the dunkee, Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys this week, we're flashing back to the moment. The following is an excerpt from the new book, "First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned The Science of Sweat Into A Cultural Phenomenon," (AMACOM) by ESPN.com sports business reporter Darren Rovell.

THE "TIPPING" POINT
On a warm August night in 2003, Wagener-Salley High School football coach Steve DeRiggs never thought he would get the chills.

 
After a 12-game losing streak that extended back to October 2001, the seniors who played on his high school team had almost forgotten what winning felt like. But they hadn't forgotten how every important victory should be celebrated.

Following the War Eagles' 34-0 victory, DeRiggs' players gave him something that every coach has now come to expect, yet can't evade, after that big win. Call it a dunk, a bath, a splash or a shower, but almost all important wins are accompanied by a coach getting soaked.

In the past two decades, the dumping of the Gatorade cooler on the coach has become a tradition at every level of sports. During every fall weekend, a Gatorade dunking probably happens on a football field in every state, and the reporting of the event gives the brand thousands of free media mentions and impressions every year. It has reached a point in which coaches of all sports -- including tennis, basketball, soccer and baseball -- have received the ice cold shower.

THE INAUGURAL DUNK
What happened at Wagener-Salley in South Carolina would not have occurred if New York Giants nose guard Jim Burt hadn't decided to seek revenge on his coach, Bill Parcells, in 1985.

The Giants were 3-3 that year, and Parcells, leading up to a game against the archrival Washington Redskins, was trying to motivate Burt.

"The whole week Coach Parcells was telling him how [Redskins offensive lineman] Jeff Bostic was going to eat him up, and it infuriated Jim," said teammate Harry Carson.

So Burt decided on a unique way to both celebrate and get back at his coach after their 17-3 victory over the Redskins. He grabbed the Gatorade cooler, which was still full of the liquid, and poured it on Parcells as time expired.

"I was the only one who had the guts to do it without knowing what his reaction was going to be," Burt said.

Burt's teammates were shocked. The first recorded bath was seen almost as a sign of disrespect. The next week, Burt let Carson in on the act. They waited until Parcells took his headphones off, then doused him with the orange-colored drink in the orange cooler.

"You have to remember that we are talking about a ritual, however charming, that's essentially the public demeaning of a football coach, and football coaches are not traditionally tolerant of such behavior," wrote Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser.

But once it became clear that the Gatorade shower was really a sign of affection that defined the bond between a player and his coach, it became a tradition for the Giants, whose coach actually smiled the first time he was hit with it.

"It's like when you were in school and always used to pick on the chubby guys," Burt told Joan Rivers on her show, when asked about the tradition. "That was sort of what we were doing, picking on the chubby guy."

The following season, the stunt caught on nationally in a serendipitous marketing coup that was too good to be true for those who worked on the Gatorade brand.

The Giants lost their season opener to the Cowboys 31-28. The next week, New York beat San Diego 20-7, and at the end of the game, Parcells was once again left soaking wet, although Burt was no longer part of the equation. He thought the act had lost its originality. But Carson took it upon himself to keep it going.

"Coach Parcells was very superstitious," Carson said. "If we did something one week and it worked, we did it again. So I kept the Gatorade showers coming, and by the end I think he started to look forward to it."

Bill Parcells
Bill Parcells gets the Gatorade treatment at the end of Super Bowl XXI.
Parcells didn't mind the showers at all.

"It's fun," Parcells said. "If you have fun, fine. It's not all life and death."

After each victory, Parcells welcomed the baths. Most of the time, the television cameras would focus on Carson and Parcells in the waning minutes of the game, so that viewers wouldn't miss the moment they had come to expect.

The media loved the display. Along with television commentators mentioning it, newspaper writers filled their columns with mentions, even noting the time left in the game when the dunk occurred. The required photo along with each Giants victory was, of course, the one of Parcells getting doused.

The Giants finished the regular season 14-2, and even during their week off between the regular season and the playoffs, Gatorade got its exposure. That's because Ahmad Rashad snuck up behind Carson (the guest commentator on CBS's NFL Today show) and dumped a Gatorade bucket full of shredded paper on him.

CARSON AND PARCELLS GET PAID
Interestingly, Gatorade had no interaction with either Carson or Parcells until the playoffs came.

On Jan. 4, 1987, Bill Schmidt, Gatorade's head of sports marketing at the time, sat down on his couch to watch the Giants play Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. Many people had told him about the Gatorade dunk, but he hadn't caught a glimpse of it yet.

Towards the end of the game, in which the Giants prevailed 49-3 and in the process, advanced to the NFC Championship game, Carson went to the Gatorade bucket, with the cameras following his every move.

"[Announcer] John Madden was circling the Gatorade coolers showing how they do this thing," Schmidt said. "I'm thinking, 'What the hell? I think I've died and gone to heaven.'"

The next day, Schmidt held a meeting to discuss what the brand should do to respond to all the publicity it had received. Schmidt argued that it was best to do nothing, since the company had had nothing to do with it in the first place.

"If a marketer ever tried to create that [Gatorade dunk] moment, it would look fake and phony and contrived," said Tom Fox, currently senior vice president of sports marketing, who worked under Schmidt.

In fact, that had been tried. Burt said that another drink company called him up after they saw that he was the force behind it all and offered him money to dump their drink on Parcells. He passed.

But now that Schmidt had seen the Gatorade dunk with his own two eyes, he wanted to do something behind the scenes.

"At some point someone was going to ask Coach Parcells if he heard from Gatorade," Schmidt said.

So Schmidt sent a letter to Carson and Parcells. Enclosed in each was a $1,000 Brooks Brothers gift certificate.

Pete Carroll
Pete Carroll has gotten a Gatorade bath, too.
"We at The Quaker Oats Company, makers of Gatorade Thirst Quencher, realize that due to the yearlong 'Gatorade dunking' you have been receiving, your wardrobe has probably taken a beating," Schmidt wrote to Parcells. "The enclosed should help remedy the problem; after all, we do feel somewhat responsible for your cleaning bill."

Two days later, Parcells sent a letter back to Schmidt.

"It will be put to good use, and I certainly hope that I'll be getting a few more Gatorade dunkings this year," Parcells wrote.

Despite his anticipation, the next week he begged Carson not to dunk him at the end of the NFC Championship game against the Redskins, claiming it was too cold outside. Carson wouldn't have any of it. Parcells was toast.

The grand stage for the Gatorade bath came two weeks later at Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena, Calif.

Parcells had been doused with more than 80 gallons of Gatorade during the course of the season and fans in the stands even had their Gatorade-themed signs, including one that said "Gatorade me," and even homemade Gatorade dunk buttons. It was truly a marketer's dream.

The last batch dumped on Parcells was the sweetest. After a 39-20 victory over the Denver Broncos and the 17th and final Gatorade bath of the season, the Giants were crowned champions. The final dunk of the 1986-87 season was named No. 27 on ESPN.com's list of Top 100 Super Bowl moments, compiled in 2002.

"When the season was over, the reaction was pretty phenomenal," said Schmidt, whose company made commemorative Gatorade dunk shirts that were sold for $10. "We had corporations in New York who wanted to get their hands on a cooler for their annual meeting so that they could dunk their CEO who had a good year."

Thanks to the national reaction to the Giants, Schmidt decided he'd take care of Parcells and Carson when the season concluded. He gave Parcells $120,000 over a three-year period and did a $20,000 deal with Carson, so that they could include him on a "How to Dunk" poster that was inserted into all the coolers the company sent out.

"It was cheap advertising for Gatorade," Carson said.

WHO REALLY DUNKED FIRST?
Parcells and Carson will always be associated with Gatorade. Carson had a 13-year career that included nine Pro Bowls, but today, the most common photograph he is asked to autograph at card shows is that of him throwing Gatorade on Parcells.

Carson often gets the credit, even though Jim Burt was the actual inventor -- or so we thought. That was until 1999, when Chicago Bears Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton claimed that he actually executed the first dunk. This prompted a reporter for the Daily Herald in Chicago to review a video of the game between the Bears and the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13 of the 1984 season.

With time still on the clock but the Bears safely assured of clinching the NFC Central division title, Steve McMichael held Bears coach Mike Ditka while Hampton and fellow teammate Mike Singletary moved in.

"I stood in front of him as the game was still going on, and he was protesting, 'Get away from me,'" McMichael wrote in his recently published book. "He couldn't figure out why I was talking to him when he was trying to run a game. I actually had to grab his shoulders and hold him, and Dan came from behind and just doused him. That's when the Gatorade baths started."[1]

Perhaps Hampton's mistake was that he and his teammates didn't perform the act again when the Bears thrashed the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl that same year.

"What were we going to say?" Hampton said to the Daily Herald. "We should have been back there in 1986 winning our second straight Super Bowl. Were we going to whine about the Gatorade thing?"[2]

[1] Arvia, Phil and Steve McMichael. "Steve McMichael's Tales from the Chicago Bears sideline." Sports Publishing. Pg. 75-76., 2004.

[2] Rozner, Barry. "Hampton robbed of credit for inventing 'Gatorade Dunk.' Daily Herald. Nov. 25, 1999. Pg. 1

Excerpted from First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned The Science of Sweat Into A Cultural Phenomenon by Darren Rovell. Copyright 2006 Darren Rovell. Published by AMACOM books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.