At halftime of this weekend’s conference championships, Dr Pepper will give a handful of lucky college students the chance to win enough tuition cash to make a decent dent in their educational costs by throwing a football into a giant soda can. Let’s not think about how existentially strange that is; instead, let’s focus on the mechanics of the contest itself.
At each of the five games, four students will throw as many footballs as they can sling in 30 seconds into the can. The winner will get $100,000 in tuition, the first runner-up, $25,000.
And each student — unless they’re very daring or very foolish — will chest-pass the football, like they’re inbounding a basketball, rather than spiral-pass, as has been the style since time immemorial. And as these students chest-pass their way to tuition riches, the howls will go up in sports bars and on Twitter and in man-caves around the world:
“That’s not how you pass a football! That’s just not right!”
DOUBLE CHEST PASSES
(It was a blowout) pic.twitter.com/h1Edg4O22D
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) December 1, 2018
To which we say: zip it. Yes, this is not the preferred way to pass a football, not even if you’re playing for Vanderbilt. But it is the preferred way to win the Dr Pepper contest, which is based on speed, accuracy and repetitiveness. In the end, it all boils down to a simple mantra, one that’s perfect for 2018 America:
Go. Get. That. Money.
Seriously. Go get that money. Somebody’s offering you the chance to make $100,000 for 30 seconds of work? Go get that money. People are sitting back and carping that you’re not Playing The Game The Right Way? Hell with ‘em. Go get that money.
“But Dr Pepper should make chest passes illegal!” you complain, because you’re not on the field with a chance to win that sweet, sweet soda cash. Perhaps the good doctor should. Or perhaps, the public relations sharps at Dr Pepper know that by not banning the chest passes, they’re spurring outrage, which leads to content (like this story right here), which leads to awareness, which leads to revenue. It’s Marketing 101 in the social media age: just get ’em talking about you, no matter how silly the topic.
The controversy over the Dr Pepper chest pass hit a high-water mark a couple years back when ESPN sideline reporter Sam Ponder tweeted that she would “shame any chest passers on TV.” But Ponder was inexplicably absent from the competition, and we later learned why:
I was asked to delete it by DP, so I politely declined to host the segment. All good.
— Sam Ponder (@sam_ponder) December 4, 2016
Awful Announcing, citing multiple anonymous sources — all this for chest-passes! — indicated that Dr Pepper was “absolutely furious about the tweet” and that Ponder’s removal from the broadcast was not entirely voluntary. Don’t make fun of the sponsors, folks.
Fast-forward to this year, when ESPN’s Ryan McGee gives us insight into how the chest pass developed in the first place. Briefly, the story runs like this: Nikki Boon, a sophomore at a small college in Minnesota, had watched the first two incarnations of the Dr Pepper challenge and, in 2010, decided to push the boundaries. Far more accurate with a chest pass than a spiral, she checked with Dr Pepper and the contest rules, which are as follows:
Passes must pass from contestant’s hands, fully through the Target in the Can Replica, without touching the ground or any object or surface other than the Can Replica, all as solely determined by Sponsor or its judge, in order to be considered a “Successful Pass.”
You can read that as well as Nikki did. You can spiral it, you can chest-pass it, you can granny-style it, you can throw it behind your back and it’s all legal. And that’s what Boon did, winning the $100,000 and setting herself up for a career in the music industry. She knew she’d get abuse from the entire country, but she decided to — say it with me now — go get that money.
So as you take a break from what’s sure to be a riveting series of championship games, sure, you can mouth off about what a travesty it is that these kids today can throw chest-passes instead of good old-fashioned American spirals. But if you have a lick of sense, friend, you’d do the exact same thing.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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