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The Gatorade shower: An enduring symbol of athletic victory

The history of the Gatorade shower tradition from some of the people who created and experienced it.

By Allison Flicker, NBC News

At the end of a football game, players are usually covered in mud, dirt and grass stains. A football coach, however, hopes to be covered in just one thing – Gatorade. 

The Gatorade shower is an iconic sports tradition on playing fields across the country. 

“Hey, forget the medals and the letter sweater,” Chicago Bears defensive lineman Dan Hampton said.  The “universal sign of achievement” is dunking the coach.

The tradition first started with Hampton and the 1984 Chicago Bears.

“When I dumped it on [Coach Mike] Ditka, you could see him fighting it off, and he had no idea,” Hampton said. “You have to remember, this was the first time that it had ever been attempted.”

Two years later, the New York Giants made the new practice a tradition. Their coach, Bill Parcells, was very superstitious, so as they continued to win, they continued to dump Gatorade on him.

“He knew it was coming from somewhere,” Giants linebacker Harry Carson said. “He just didn't know exactly where, or if I was going to be wearing my uniform, or somebody's coat, or somebody's hat, but he knew it was coming.”

Carson said the Gatorade shower isn’t to parade a win over the opposing team. 

“You know, doing it, wasn't so much about rubbing it into the face of our opponent,” Carson said. “It was a symbol of love and affection that we had for our coach.”

Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy soaked in tradition.

“I really wasn’t expecting it but it’s a good feeling to know that you’ve accomplished something that they players feel is worthy of pouring the bucket on you,” Dungy said.

When asked if he had ever tried to buck the tradition, Dungy said he hadn’t.

“No, not at all. Because you know once you get over that initial shock of being so cold you realize, ‘Hey, these guys believe we've done something special.’ The overall feeling that, wow, we've accomplished something unique,” Dungy said.

Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula, however, was not such a fan.

“[It] didn't have a lot of class to it,” Shula said. “And I'd prefer to be carried off the field.”

Shula, though, knows the technique for a proper Gatorade shower.

“Somebody will come around to get the coach's attention and talk to them seriously about something that's going on the field,” Shula explained. “So now the coach has to give that player all of his attention. And then the Gatorade comes and dunks him.”

The Giants’ Carson said he made sure his coach had removed his headset before dousing him.

“What I wanted to do was get the Gatorade on his head, not on his neck,” Carson said. “I wanted to see it really splash down from the heavens from the top of his head, to cover the whole upper half of his torso.”

Almost three decades later, the Gatorade shower is a symbolic part of any athletic victory celebration – especially on the football field. 

“Somebody had to be the first one to put the star on top of the tree, right?” Hampton said.

So who will get the Gatorade shower at Super Bowl XLVII?

“I'm going to go out on a limb and say it’s going to be Coach Harbaugh,” Hampton said jokingly.

Carson did not offer a prediction but did offer some expert advice to the winning players and coach.

“If that coach is getting dumped, he should be thrilled and extremely happy that he is getting dumped because losers don't get dumped,” Carson said. “Just let that coach feel the exhilaration of winning.” 

About 1,500 police officers are fanning across New Orleans ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday – the city's first Super Bowl since Hurricane Katrina more than seven years ago. NBC's Janet Shamlian reports.