Should winners drink milk?


It's an image synonymous with victory at the Indianapolis 500. For 80 years, driver after driver after driver have raised a quart of milk.

"The winner of the Indy 500 drinks milk. Of course!” said Dianne Moss, a race fan from Illinois.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) disagrees with the tradition. The group posted a billboard along west 16th Street on the way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway asking people to "Think before you drink. Cow’s milk is for calves, not drivers or other humans." A representative of the group said the dairy industry is "cruel to cows" and that there's "nothing healthy about drinking baby food of another species."

"Born and raised on a farm; I disagree with that. Winners should be drinking milk," said Jim Moss, a race fan from Illinois. "I've been drinking milk all my life. I'm 6'2", 285 so it stood well by me."

The tradition was born in 1936 when driver Louis Meyer drank buttermilk after his victory at Indy. His mother said it would be refreshing on a hot day.

"Evidently an executive within the milk industry said, 'Hey, that's great! Let's make sure that happens every year.' Kids think milk's a sissy drink. The winner of the Indianapolis 500 is drinking it, and so that's how the thing got started," explained IMS historian Donald Davidson.

And it became such a strong tradition that it was expected from every winner. Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi put that to the test after his 1993 victory.

"Now there's a first. Emerson, you're not going to drink the milk?" asked an ABC Sports reporter after the 1993 race. "Well, I'm going to drink the orange juice,” said Fittipaldi.

"He was one of the most popular drivers out here and in just 5 seconds, they were booing him and it was all over," said Davidson.

So it's hard to imagine that a single billboard could do much to change an icon of Indy.

"Tell the lady or the gentleman that coined that phrase to drink a glass of milk and they can become a winner!" said Jim Moss.

Race fans will be taking the tradition a step further on Sunday as 100,000 bottles of milk will be given to fans for what is expected to be the world's largest milk toast - a huge public relations event at the birthplace of an advertising icon.

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