On the Superbowl, Gatorade, and the economic potential of Quahog Chowder

Martha's Vineyard coach Donald Herman soaks up a victory bath. — Photo by David Welch

As Trader Fred and I settle comfortably into gentlemen’s recliner chairs to watch the Super Bowl*, we shall not place any bets on the Gatorade. In the quaint traditional shadows of Edgartown and seasonal sport we shall forego the gambling possibilities for drink, though it turns out that last year the peculiar electrolyte tradition stumped a lot of bookies.

In the hysterical if not maniacal final moments of the 2013 Super Bowl, field frenzy was such that the winning coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens was NOT doused with Gatorade … so a lot of money did not change hands. What?

Online wagering sites actually gave odds for what color Gatorade would anoint the winning coach … and then there was none. When that has happened three times in the past — nothing is dumped on the winning coach — all bets are off. It is ruled “No action.” The suspense of the power drink’s hue is still in the wind. Unspilled, the color remains coded and a lot of folks were disappointed.

This year, online oddsmakers at Bovada  say “Clear/Water” is the popular choice, having opened as a 2/1 favorite, followed by “Orange” and “Yellow,” which were listed at 3/1 when Bovada posted Super Bowl prop bets on Thursday. While I generally think of the traditional drink as orange or green, the clear dunk was picked four years in a row, `03 to `06. In other years yellow, orange, and purple have each had double douses dating back to Bowl 35 —  yellow and Baltimore being that year’s winners.

Watching games, Fred and I have joked about ideas like having a Quahog Bowl to boost our local economy. But we must consider now dousing a coach in chowder — and it would have to be quahog chowder — none of this clam business to keep this Vineyard true.

That opened the conversation to the commercialization of Gatorade. Think of the gallons of Gatorade which are dumped on coaches every Saturday during football season. Every team, from peewee on up to the super pros had Gatorade to replenish and then an additional five gallons per team to dump on the winning coach.

That’s a terrific lateral marketing effort. The electrolyte-filled drink was conceived and delivered by the University of Florida to their dehydrated football players in 1966. While there is some dissent on the first time it doused a coach — Bill Parcells or Mike Ditka, both in 1984**, whichever one was first set off a tidal wave of such baptisms, thereby selling every football team in America — or the world for all we know — enough of the stuff to drink and then spill.

Granted quahog chowder would be a bit more untidy than Gatorade, but we think far more comforting, if not soothing, as the full winter sets in, and by designating the quahog part, we could corner the market. Can you see Net Result tank trucks heading off on the ferry to more local venues while C-141s load up at the airport? Barbie Fenner and Jackie Flynn-Morgan taking over the high school kitchens on Friday nights to create fresh batches for game day America? Besides, we need some Yankee interjection since the National Anthem has been usurped into alternating soul, country and Wayne-Newton-esque versions. We New Englanders need our presence known and I think chowder just might do it.

Maybe the Chowder Company could come out with the first glass-lined tank car, Fella Cecillo would have a diamond headed walking stick from his quahog consulting. The Net Result would be shipping bags of the stuff to Seattle. Petey Berndt would be pitching his lobster bisque as a more easily transported ritual puree…but the point here is that we would have made the transition from power drink to porridge. Think how many steam tables each team would need, think how much healthier a nation we would be if cold and flu season boasted an additional flagon of chicken soup.

I sat there watching giant men scramble for the ball, rambling on about soup and could almost hear Trader Fred’s head-wheels turning, could he make chowder in vast quantities in one of the Island’s lesser ponds? Watching football with Fred and me should almost be a business school program.

Perhaps then the bets could be on the Menemsha Galley’s brothier over the creamier chowder from The Bite. In any case, there would be room for an even newer product to remove quahog stains from coaches’ coats and somehow I think Trader Fred might find some way into this merchandizing fiesta.

* In 1964 chemist Norman Stingley created the first Super Ball a small orb of synthetic rubber called Zectron which bounced to within 92% of its drop height. Super indeed.

By the end of 1965, more than 6-million of the things were bouncing around the world and the term “super,” gained a fluency in our vocabulary which would accelerate all events and motions of success.  We hadn’t “super-sized” anything yet but the 1967 national pro football championship came to be known as the Super Bowl. Decent legend has it that football visionary and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Hunt, while fiddling with his daughter’s Super Ball, was inspired by the toy and its name and opted to name the national championship game for it, thus the first Super Bowl.

** This is some discrepancy on the very first such lavatation — New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells  after they beat the Denver Broncos 39-20, or did Jim Burt of the Giants first dump Gatorade on Parcells after a 37-13 win over the Washington Redskins on October 28, 1984. Some versions of history have that it was not Bill at all but Mike Ditka and that Chicago Bears Defensive tackle Dan Hampton soaked coach Mike after his team copped their division title, also in `84.

Jib Ellis writes from the wilds of Vineyard Haven, where he thinks, often, about how the Island is, was and could be.