When I heard Dr. Robert Cade, the man widely credited as the inventor of Gatorade, died yesterday at the age of 80, I raised a bottle of Gatorade Fierce Grape in his honor. I've never told this to anyone before, but it was the subject of his possible death that led me to write the book, "First In Thirst: How Gatorade Turned The Science of Sweat Into A Cultural Phenomenon."
It was December 2003 and I heard that Cade was in failing health. Having been obsessed with Gatorade and the intricate story behind it, I wanted to write a book on the subject and knew that I needed Cade. I was luckily able to interview him three times over the next year and his fascinating story can now live on forever.
Robert Cade might have been one of my favorite interview subjects. He was amazingly smart, freely quoting lines from classic plays and talented (he played the violin) and obsessed (with collecting Studebaker cars).
He also loved being part of the story of Gatorade. Once rejected by the University of Florida for the price of $10,000 in 1965, bottles are purchased about 140 per second in the U.S. and the brand--owned by PepsiCo for the last seven years--now grosses more than $5 billion a year.
But it was not easy being Robert Cade. The first 10 years of Gatorade was marked by fighting: first with the brand's first manufacturer Stokely-Van Camp over royalties, then a major battle with the University of Florida over the same subject. He spent the early 90s, fighting with Gatorade over inventing something he once referred to as a better Gatorade.
And there's been a sense that, although he continued to be a professor there through 2004, that the school--which has made some $150 million off the drink--didn't quite give him his due until the last decade. They've since honored him many times from presenting him with a jersey at halftime of a football game to recently erecting a Gatorade historical marker on campus.
I guess the greatest tribute in death is often the number of people that show up to your funeral or, if you are famous, the number of articles written about your life.
Well, he sure put every obituary writer on extra duty yesterday. Once news spread of his death, my BlackBerry--laying on a lounge chair next to me in Aruba--started filling with message after message.
I must end with this. Behind every person who is credited as being the inventor are other people who were just as integral to the invention's success. Without Dr. Dana Shires, Dr. Jim Free and Dr. Alex DeQuesada, I'm pretty confident Gatorade would not be where it is today.
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