This is the twenty-third in a series of examinations of football-related urban legends and whether they are true or false. This week, discover if the Governor of Colorado really lost Pikes Peak in a football bet! Plus, did the New York Giants REALLY invent the “Gatorade shower”? And what one-time only special rule did the NFL have to come up due to extenuating circumstances in the 1940 NFL Championship Game?
Click here to view an archive of all the previous football urban legends.
FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The Governor of Colorado lost Pike’s Peak to Texas in a football bet.
Bets between politicans are a common tradition in the world of professional sports. Just this past year, before the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series began between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made a bet with Arlington mayor Robert Cluck that the mayor of the losing city has to travel to the winning city to do a day of community service wearing the jersey of the victorious team. In addition, had the Giants lost, Newson would have had to send to Cluck some Ghirardelli chocolate, sourdough bread, Dungeness crabs, and some Anchor Steam Beer. If the Rangers lost, Cluck would have had to send to Newson some BBQ from a local place called Spring Creek BBQ. Similarly, Speaker of The House Nancy Pelosi made a bet with Arlington representative Joe Barton. If San Francisco won, Pelosi would receive a Pecan Pie from Corsicana’s Collin Street Bakery. If Texas won, Pelosi would send some of San Francisco’s finest Ghirardelli chocolate.
So this is a common tradition. But in 1938, did the Governors of Texas and Colorado take this tradition to the next level? Did they actually bet national landmarks on the results of a football game?
Teller Ammons was born in 1895 to Elias Ammons, who served one two-year term as the Governor of Colorado from 1913-1915. In 1937, the younger Ammons followed in his father’s footsteps. Teller Ammons served as the Governor of Colorado for one two-year term of his own. After he lost his re-election bid, Ammons worked as a lawyer for the rest of his life (he was Denver’s city attorney directly before becoming Governor). At 42 years old, Ammons was a fairly young Governor. James V. Allred was even younger when he became the Governor of Texas in 1935 at the age of 36!
Allred (the V. stood for nothing – it was a mistake when he enlisted in the Navy in 1918 that he liked enough to keep for the rest of his life) was a popular Texas attorney who, at the age of 31, became the youngest person ever elected Attorney General of Texas. Allred was an ardent supporter of President Franklin Delano Roosvelt, and was rewarded with a federal judgeship after his two terms as Governor of Texas finished in 1939. He resigned in 1942 to try to unseat the conversative Democractic Senator from Texas, W. Lee O’Daniel (who had followed Allred as Governor). After failing to do so, Roosevel tried to get Allred back as a federal judge, but the Senate Judiacry Committee refused to confirm him in 1944. In 1949, though, President Harry S. Truman (who shared a middle name, of sorts, with Allred) again nominated Allred, and this time Allred was confirmed. He served as a federal judge until his death in 1959.
Allred was well-known for his love of publicity stunts designed to attract attention to Texas. His most famous stunt occurred after the 1938 Cotten Bowl, which saw the University of Colorado Buffalos face off against the Rice University Owls. The Cotton Bowl was formed just a year earlier, as Texas oil executive J. Curtis Sanford financed the first game out of his own pocket. He lost money that first year, even though 17,000 people saw TCU defeat Marquette. The 1938 game, though, saw 37,000 attend and the game made money and has become a college football institution ever since.
In any event, before the game, Allred and Ammons made a rather unusual bet on the game. Ammons bet Colorado’s famous mountain, Pike’s Peak (the peak that inspired the song “America, the Beautiful”) and Allred bet Texas’ Big Bend Country.
Rice won the game 28-14, so Allred has successfully “won” Pike’s Peak. A popular joke in Texas at the time was that Allred was the first Texas Governor to actually ADD territory to Texas! So on October 20, 1938, Allred traveled to Colorado to claim his prize. He went to the top of Pike’s Peak and after a short address placed the Lone Star Flag into a snow drift, thereby claiming the mountain for the state of Texas.
Amusingly enough, the two Governors playfully began to wrestle in the snow before the flag was planted (Life magazine was not amused at the time, noting that the pair had set a new record for gubernatorial lack of dignity).
FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The New York Giants originated the “Gatorade shower.”
During the 1986 National Football League (NFL) season, the New York Giants dominated the league as a whole. They went 14-2 and crushed their three playoff opponents on their way to a Super Bowl victory in January 1987 (their smallest margin of victory in the playoffs was seventeen points). After every one of the Giants’ seventeen victories, the Giants would pour a bucket of Gatorade on head coach Bill Parcells. This “Gatorade shower” (or “Gatorade dunk” or “Gatorade bath,” the act has been given a lot of different names over the years) became a national sensation in 1987, popping up from everywhere to sporting events (like the 1987 World Series) and Presidential celebrations (President Ronald Reagan was given a drawing for his 76th birthday party depicting Reagan receiving a Gatorade shower). Bill Schmidt, head of sports marketing for Gatorade, did not see the Giants do their celebration until the first round of the playoffs (where the Giants defeated the 49ers 49-3). When he did, Schmidt later recalled that he thought, “What the hell? I think I have died and gone to heaven?” Gatorade naturally latched on to the celebration and marketed it heavily. It has now become a longstanding sports tradition, especially in the world of football.
But where did the tradition start? In his excellent book, First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon, Darren Rovell wrote about how the Giants first began doing the celebration. Amazingly enough, it began as somewhat of an act of aggression! You see, in 1985 the Giants started the season 3-3. They hosted their divisional rival Washington Redskins on October 20, 1985 in a big game for both teams (the Redskins had also started the season 3-3). In the week leading up to the game, Bill Parcells gave nose guard Jim Burt a lot of grief, telling him that Redskins offensive lineman Jeff Bostic was going to eat him up. So when the Giants won the game 17-3, Burt decided to celebrate/take his anger out on his coach by pouring the Gatorade cooler on Parcells’ head. The next week, the Giants won again. This time, Burt enlisted Giant Pro Bowl Linebacker Harry Carson, one of the most respected members of the team (and a favorite of Parcells) to do the dunk, figuring that if Carson did it, Parcells could not get mad. Parcells did not mind the dunks. The following season, while Burt felt that the bit was no longer original and did not want to do it anymore, Carson continued doing it after every Giants victory. As a result, Carson and Parcells became the face of the dunk (Carson even ended up signing a $20,000 deal with Gatorade where they would use his image on a “How to dunk” promotional poster!). So clearly, the New York Giants, Harry Carson and Bill Parcells are what people think of when it comes to the “Gatorade dunk,” and Rovell is quite correct as to the origins of how the Giants came to do the dunk. But was it actually the ORIGINATION of the Gatorade shower?
Quite simply, no, it was not. The previous season, on November 25, 1984, the Chicago Bears were on the verge of clinching the Central Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) via a 39-3 thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings. Defensive tackle Steve McMichael grabbed head coach Mike Ditka and defensive tackle Mike Hampton and linebacker Mike Singletary (both Pro Bowlers that year) poured the Gatorade cooler over Ditka’s head in celebration of the Bears clinching the division (which capped an impressive three-year turnaround for the franchise). This particular Gatorade shower was even included in NFL Film’s 1984 Yearbook for the Bears, so it was not an obscure incident.
I think that it is very believable that Burt had no idea that the Bears had done the Gatorade shower the previous season when he did it to Parcells, but whether he was inspired by the Bears’ celebration or not, the Bears clearly did do it first. So when you see an article refer to the Giants as originating the Gatorade shower, you now know better.
FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: The NFL changed the rules for extra points during the 1940 NFL Championship Game because they were running out of footballs.
On November 17th, 1940, the West division leading Chicago Bears brought their 6-2 record into Washington D.C. to face off against the East division leading 7-1 Washington Redskins. Both teams had a very good chance of making the playoffs and then facing off again in the NFL Championship Game in three weeks (the Redskins ended up having a very good Brooklyn Dodgers team give them a bit of a scare at the end of the season, but the Bears were pretty much all by themselves in the West) and the game had a bit of a “let’s find out who the best team in the NFL is” feel to it.
The Redskins won 7-3, but the game ended with the Bears on the Redskins’ five-yard line and a possible game-winning touchdown pass going by Chicago Pro Bowl fullback Rob Osmanski. The Bears called for pass interference but to no avail, the game was Washington’s. Redskin owner George Marshall then gave Chicago both barrells as he called them whiners and crybabies, even going as far as to say that they were quitters and they were not a second-half of the season team.
The December 8th Championship Game was a rematch in two ways, with the Redskins only previous NFL Championship coming in 1937 when they also defeated the Chicago Bears.
The game went a whole different direction, though.
The biggest Super Bowl margin of victory in NFL history is 45 points.
The Bears defeated the Redskins by SEVENTY-THREE points!!!
And here’s where the rule change came in. Late in the game, with the Bears up 60-0, they missed their NINTH point after kick. This led to a problem – the balls were going into the crowd and the angry Washington audience were NOT returning them! So they were running out of balls to play with!!
Therefore, for the last two scores in the game, the Bears were not allowed to kick an extra point. They had to pass or run the ball in. The Bears went 1 for 2 in their attempts.
Pretty nuts, huh?
Okay, that’s it for this edition!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org