Those Mysterious Vats on NFL Sidelines? They’re Full of Chicken Broth

NFL players, coaches, and reporters gotta stay warm somehow.

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Screenshot: Sports Man (Fair Use)

I’m not a lifelong football fan. I grew up in a baseball family. I like Cracker Jack and seventh-inning stretches and leisurely paced athletics, dang it. But I’ve got a newfound enjoyment of televised sports thanks to pandemic boredom, so I’ve been keeping up with the ol’ pigskin. (?) As you might’ve guessed, there’s still a lot I don’t understand. I’ve spent many a game poking my boyfriend to ask questions like “What’s a doink?” or “Are they gonna kill that guy?” Most recently, I was mystified by a series of large coolers on the sidelines at a Bills game—coolers that turned out to be full of chicken broth.

I first noticed the coolers during the Pats/Bills game on January 15. In this video, we see a sideline reporter chugging the stuff—which probably felt great, as temperatures were in the low single digits that day. (As one YouTube commenter pointed out, “dude chicken broth is great its literally drinkable chicken lol.” So true, my man.)

Turns out, the NFL has a long history with chicken broth. Deadspin writer Jesse Spector pointed me to the 1979 Cotton Bowl Classic, popularly called the Chicken Soup Game. The game took place in Dallas on the day after a terrible ice storm, and quarterback Joe Montana, who also had the flu, rallied Notre Dame to victory in the second half after eating a bowl of chicken soup at halftime.

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Chicken broth is still in rotation today. A few years back, the Indianapolis Colts made headlines for offering broth to keep players warm. On the college side, the Utah Utes are also known for the practice. (Let it be known that I scrambled to get in touch with reps from the Utes and the Bills and never heard back from either team. Too busy drinkin’ broth, boys?!) ESPN staff writer and former collegiate player Matt Bowen has also spoken out in favor of sideline broth. “Drink hot chocolate while you are getting dressed for the game and refuel on the sideline with some chicken broth,” Bowen recommends. “It’s a great way to keep your body temperature up.”

Warming effects aside, chicken broth packs a pretty serious nutritional punch. (And makes a great cocktail, if you’re into that.) It’s rich in fatty acids and protein, making it a great candidate for quick-turnaround sideline recovery and electrolyte restoration. Plus, I’d imagine it’s more fun to consume than a bone-dry protein bar.

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Rest assured that I’m going to keep hounding NFL and collegiate team leaders about the broth. I mainly want to know who provides it. Is it store-bought? Whipped up in a special football kitchen? Has the NFL contracted with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, who spends most of his time with his beloved chickens? I’m on the case.