The NFL players and owners recently came to an agreement that both sides could be happy with, but there’s one group that isn’t happy: the Gatorade coolers.
“We’ve been unhappy for a while now, and we had asked the NFL to put something in the new CBA to provide us with better working conditions, but what did we get? Nothing!” says Frank the Gatorade Cooler, lead representative of the National Coalition of Athletic Beverage Dispensers. The NCABD has been threatening to strike for months but held off in hopes that the NFL, one of its most important clients, would set an example to other sports organizations. “We’ve always had a special relationship with the NFL. Ever since the first time a team dumped one of us onto their coach after a Super Bowl win, we’ve been really close,” Frank reminisces. “That’s why we were hoping they’d be the first to give us the treatment we deserve.”
One might wonder why the NCABD would focus their resentment so strongly on a league that has had a mostly positive relationship with them. “Honestly, the end result we were looking for was to get some leverage over Major League Baseball,” says one Gatorade cooler, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We had hoped that if the NFL worked out a deal with us, MLB would be forced to follow suit. I mean, don’t get me wrong, working a football game isn’t always a picnic. My friend Al had to do four [Tennessee] Titans games last year and of course Kerry Collins got falling-down drunk before each game. First time, he’s so trashed he thinks Al’s a urinal and pisses all over him. Then the next two he lifts Al’s lid and spends the first quarter of the game puking into him. That’s just [expletive] gross. But that’s nothing compared to baseball,” he laments, rotating his lid back in forth in what can probably be considered the equivalent of shaking one’s head.
Gatorade coolers have indeed had a hard time of it in baseball. San Francisco Giants fans recently witnessed closer Brian Wilson having a meltdown wherein he threw, punched, and hit a cooler with a bat. 2009 saw pitcher Carlos Zambrano taking a bat to a Gatorade dispenser in a Wrigley Field dugout after being ejected from a game. The dispenser pressed charges, and Carlos was found guilty and sentenced to three more years of playing for the Cubs. Zambrano appealed the sentence on the grounds that it was “cruel and unusual.” His appeal was denied, but the presiding judge informed Carlos that if he behaved himself he’d be allowed to retire before the 2012 season.
These overt displays of hostility against Gatorade dispensers are just the tip of the iceberg, says Terry, a cooler who has been in the business for over 15 years. “Yeah, you get thrown around a bit when a player gets ejected or is mad about something, and you’ll be sore for a week afterwards, but it’s the humiliation that’s the worst. Players don’t respect us. We’re always props in their little jokes, like that time when Derek Jeter told [Yankees pitcher C.C.] Sabathia that I was a giant burrito. That fat son of a bitch took three huge bites out of me before he realized he’d been had. Oh, and they all laughed about that one. Jerks.”
|C.C. Sabathia after the "burrito" incident|
There have also been accusations of discrimination against dispensers in baseball. Another anonymous source tells of a time he was disciplined for possessing contraband beverages when working a game in St. Louis a few years back. “Yeah, apparently the batboy took a few drinks out of me and got sick, so they suspended me because they said I brought booze into the ballpark. Everyone saw Scott Spezio pour half a bottle of vodka in me during the first inning. But who ends up taking the fall? The guys in orange. Every time.”
Having been snubbed by the NFL, NCABD reps will vote Tuesday on whether or not to strike. “We feel we’ve been reasonable up until this point,” says Frank the Gatorade Cooler. “We thought we could count on the NFL to repay us for everything we’ve done. Maybe after the next Super Bowl when we’re not there and the winning coach gets a huge urn of hot coffee dumped on him instead, someone will finally appreciate us.”