How does the 2024 Jello Shot Challenge compare to last year?

How does the 2024 Jello Shot Challenge compare to last year?

OMAHA, Nebraska — Everything is better without LSU. Residents of north downtown Omaha are getting more sleep without the sounds of zydeco outside their windows during this year's Men's College World Series. And beer? There's plenty to go around this summer, as the defending national champion LSU baseball team didn't make it to Omaha.

“There's a lot less cleaning going on this year than last year,” said Pat McEvoy, manager of Rocco's Pizza and Cantina, a restaurant located about 50 steps from MCWS. “It's not as noisy, no.”

Rocco is home to the “CWS Jell-O Shot Challenge,” and last summer, LSU made the event and the establishment famous. Tigers fans bought 68,888 purple and gold Jell-O shots during the 2023 MCWS and turned Rocco's into an 11-day party. They danced and drank while chanting “LSU” as the leaderboards were updated four times a day. They even brought along a guy who played the trumpet.

It doesn't matter that there wasn't even a competition last year. Special “Jello Shot Champion” T-shirts were created to commemorate the accomplishment, even though LSU fans beat out the 2023 second-place contender, Wake Forest, by more than 60,000 jello shots.

Since 2019, fans of the eight MCWS teams have been competing in Rocco to see who can eat the most shots, which are color-coded for each team. Tennessee Orange is back this year, and the Volunteers are No. 1 in the country. They also currently top the Jell-O shot leaderboard with 11,592 and don't look to be slowing down with the Vols in the championship series.

Rocco's was crowded with Tennessee fans on Wednesday afternoon, lining up at the bar's new jello shot room. Scott Van Sant, a retired Air Force general and Volunteers fan, felt compelled to get a jello shot because of all the rumors.

“I was a virgin until today. I think it's pretty cool,” Van Sant said.

McAvoy said that as of Tuesday night, the eight-team point totals were on par with last year's totals. And it's a lot more competitive, with Texas A&M not far behind. But he admits it will be tough to surpass last year's point totals.

Todd Graves, the CEO and founder of Raising Cane’s Chickens, purchased 6,000 vaccines for Tigers fans last year, and Baton Rouge attorney Gordon McCarran purchased 8,888 vaccines.

McAvoy said, “If Peyton Manning comes into championship weekend and decides he wants to do what Graves did …” He indicated that surpassing last year's total is possible.

LSU typically draws a large number of diehard baseball fans in Omaha, regardless of whether their team makes it to the MCWS or not. McAvoy said he expected to see some of the Louisiana regulars, such as Tigers fan Bruce, and three guys named Larry, Darryl and Darryl, though he figured those weren't their real names.

This year, with LSU out, some of their fans asked the bar about including LSU in the shot leaderboard. But Rocco turned them down, as that is reserved for MCWS qualifiers. He thought if LSU fans were included, then Nebraska fans would want to be included too.

So Rocco encouraged Tigers fans to give money to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. A QR code was set up for donations, and McAvoy said more than $7,000 had been raised as of Wednesday afternoon.

The food bank was closed Wednesday for the Juneteenth holiday, and was not available for comment.

“Knowing LSU fans and our community, I wouldn't be surprised if they outnumber all other teams,” Mike Manning, president and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, said in a release on the food bank's website. “We are very proud not only of our sports teams but also of the difference they make.”

Each year, $1 of the $5 jello shots goes to the school's local food bank. Rocco also donates 50 cents of each shot to Omaha charities.

The night the LSU Tigers won the 2023 Men's College World Series, McAvoy's phone rang around 12:30 a.m. It was a call from George Cruz, the father of LSU outfielder Dylan Cruz. The party at the team hotel was winding down, and McAvoy said George and the Tigers wanted to get some jello shots.

McAvoy said he settled them in a party room and the group did a couple hundred shots. They smoked cigars — until management told them not to — and stayed until 2 a.m.

“Then we had to kick them out,” he said. “We thought, 'Hey, we love you, but, you know, this isn't Baton Rouge.'”

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