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Champagne and Sports Celebrations: A Marriage Made in Bubbles

Champagne and Sports Celebrations

Nico Rosberg had just clinched his first Formula 1 title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and while the press and fans stopped to ponder on Lewis Hamilton’s antics during the race, many of us knew what would follow during the victory celebrations.

Champagne popping and spraying, right?

It is not the first time we will see sportsmen and women spray themselves and spectators in celebration, especially after winning a major title. Most times it is like a competition of who is going to spray most.

Once the trophy comes out, and the athlete or athletes line up at the podium for their medals, the champagne bottles are rolling out, and soon it would be a galore of alcoholic fountains sprouting from green bottles.

What could be behind this age long ritual?

It dates back to the 1930’s when Fred Chandon started offering their champagne to the winners of French Formula 1 Grand Prix events on the famous Reims circuit in the heart of Champagne.

Usually, the winners will pop the bottle and swig bubbles of the sparkly wine, filling their victorious heads, or simply take it home for the after party.

Then came 1967, and the wonderful pair of Dan Gurney and A. J. Foyt won the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40. As usual, they were gifted bottles of Moët et Chandon, but Gurney did something different with his gift.

Not one who drank alcohol, Gurney did not do the customary swigging. Instead he placed his thumb over the open bottle, shook it hard and as the white effervescence burst out, he began to spray the crowd in circles – that was the day Champagne found a ritualistic role in sports.

Today, from Real Madrid players spraying Carlo Ancelotti in the press room after their UEFA Champions League victory in 2014 to the Cleveland Cavaliers champagne hurricane in their locker room after beating Golden State Warriors in the NBA Playoffs last season, champagne spraying has become a tradition for winners in sports.

Many have compared this ‘wasteful’ ritual to the expressive extravagance of the Belle Epoque of Europe, but for many of these sports people, it is the camaraderie that comes with the victory celebrations that they enjoy.

As with every tradition that comes into place, there have been regulations and rules formulated to guide it. In the US Major League Baseball, bringing of alcoholic drinks to the pitch has been forbidden: players are urged to celebrate with non-alcoholic wines. In Major League Football, victory celebrations with alcoholic drinks is banned.

The funny thing about these champagne celebrations is that in most cases, no one actually drinks it – and it’s sad when you think of the fact that these are not just expensive champagnes, they are actually the good stuff, the type we all want to smack our taste buds with.

However, these sportspeople don’t care.  A trophy won, peppered eyes, champagne soaked, and a bottle in hand to soak others with – it is a feeling many of these sports people will never give up for anything.

Apparently, the marriage between sports victory celebrations and champagne baths is still a long way from divorce.

 

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