OMAHA, Neb. — Cheers rank. The Hotty Toddy chant swelled to its climax. Ole Miss baseball fans who’d made the pilgrimage to the College World Series hugged and high-fived.
The Rebs’ comeback was imminent.
Not on the diamond at Charles Schwab Field one block away. At Rocco’s Pizza and Cantina. In a competition to see which fanbase can buy the most Jell-O shots.
It was Saturday, just after 4 pm First pitch for Ole Miss’ opener against Auburn wasn’t for another two hours. But Rebels fans had plenty to celebrate. In a span of about six hours, Ole Miss fans bought 570 shots, more than tripling their weekend total to 805.
FATHER’S JOURNEY:2,000 miles later, Ole Miss baseball star Tim Elko’s family units in Omaha for Father’s Day
THE BIG WIN:Ole Miss baseball stays scorching hot, beats Auburn 5-1 in College World Series opener
HOT SEAT TO HERO:Ole Miss baseball Mike Bianco heard the critics. Here’s how he went from the hot seat to Omaha
By Monday morning, Ole Miss fans purchased 2,760 “SLRRRP” brand shots, just 205 short of the record set by Mississippi State fans at last year’s College World Series. Rebels fans will almost certainly shatter the Bulldogs’ record by Monday evening when Ole Miss takes on Arkansas.
The only problem? Arkansas fans already shattered the record. By Sunday night, Arkansas fans had bought 3,416 Jell-O shots. In four days. At $4.50 apiece, Rebels and Razorbacks fans have already spent a combined $27,792 on gelatin and vodka. Fans of the other six teams in the College World Series field have combined to spend about $7,800.
Setting the scene
The genius of the competition is the big dry-erase board at the center of the bar. Every time someone buys a shot, they tell a waiter or bartender which team they’re for. The staff keeps tallies. Two or three times a day, a manager will make a big show of approaching the board, erasing the values and updating them, starting with eighth place and building to the team at the top.
Show up to Rocco’s on an afternoon when Ole Miss and Arkansas aren’t playing and it almost feels quaint. Foot traffic this time of year is unprecedented.
Many of the bartenders are short-term employees making some extra cash for the busy season. The waitstaff won’t seat a table if the full party isn’t present. There are Ole Miss fans from Jackson sitting at the bar next to Oklahoma fans based out of Omaha. A Creighton student straggles in hoping to buy an individual slice, but the kitchen doesn’t do that during the College World Series.
Just after 2 pm, bartenders laugh about how empty the bar feels. “Everyone’s probably recovering from last night,” one guesses. It makes sense. On Saturday alone, Ole Miss fans bought 1,886 shots and Arkansas fans 2,057.
At 6.5 milliliters of alcohol per shot, that’s 25.6 liters of alcohol in one evening. That’s the equivalent of about 1,718 cans of Miller Lite.
Around 3:40 pm, the bar staff prepares to turn over and prepares for an onslaught of patrons. A manager walks behind the bar to tell her staff that they’ll be pooling all their tips this evening and they should close out any outstanding tabs. It might be Father’s Day and it might be a Sunday, but Ole Miss and Arkansas fans are competitive and pent up in a faraway city with nothing to do but watch baseball and drink.
Before 10 pm came, the “Woo Pig Sooie” chant was buzzing through Rocco’s. The Razorbacks fans had shattered Mississippi State’s record before their team even played twice. Mississippi State played seven games.
It’s all a matter of pride. Arkansas fans want to prove they can drink the most. Same with Ole Miss fans. . Whether you’re wearing powder blue or Razorback red, you don’t want your rival to beat you.
Rocco’s did something the SEC Network should’ve done years ago: it turned tailgating and pregaming into a competition with winners and losers. Stanford fans, who are still waiting to cross the 100-shot threshold, are the clear losers.
Ole Miss and Arkansas fans are about $30,000 poorer than they were before the weekend, not counting the costs of hotels, gas and tickets and merchandise and Omaha steaks and parking passes and sunscreen and, maybe, occasionally some water for safety.
But who cares? There’s a party to win.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.