Was I cheated out of winning a pickle juice chugging contest? An SB Nation investigation

Chelsea Manning. Edward Snowden. Reality Winner. American history is defined by courageous whistleblowers who refused to stay silent when they witnessed injustice. When I bought a ticket to watch the Portland Pickles, a collegiate wood bat summer league baseball team in Oregon, I never thought my name would enter into the history books.

On Saturday night, after taking my seat along the left field fence, two team staffers approached and asked if I’d be interested in participating in a friendly contest during the middle of the third inning. Feeling uncharacteristically up for it, I signed the paperwork and steeled myself for competition.

The Pickles, known for their eccentric social media presence and pickle-themed ballpark, are a cheap and popular draw in a city that embraces all things offbeat. Appropriately, the challenge I’d signed up for was a pickle juice chugging contest. For the fastest fan to down a full pint of brine was an illustrious award: a free ice cream sandwich.

At the top of the third I made my way to the press box/bar/party deck, and as the third out landed in an outfielder’s mitt, a staffer arrived with a table and four pints of neon green pickle juice. I sized up my competition and tried to let the hours of Badlands Chugs videos I’d watched flow through me. The vinegary scent of the pickle juice in the hot summer air twirled its way to my nostrils: by my estimation this juice was sourced from a jar of crinkle-cut dill sandwich slices. Not my preference, but still quaffable.

The contest was a blur. I was unnerved by the temperature of the liquid which I’d estimate to be about 60 degrees. Still, I was impressed by my speed and stamina, and as I dropped the glass to the table I noticed I’d been beat by mere milliseconds by the person to my right. Defeated, I shook their hand and purchased a consolation ice cream sandwich.

But upon reviewing footage of the event, I was shaken by several discoveries that call into question the integrity of the entire competition. I feel an obligation to defend myself in light of these revelations.

Observing a detailed photo of the table seconds before the juice was chugged, there is a clear problem.

Cup 2, belonging to me, is significantly more full than the other three. Cup 1, belonging to the eventual winner, is by my estimation about 85-90% filled, the liquid topping out at the midpoint between the lip and the ridge of the top of the cup. 3 and 4 are relatively the same. But the brine in Cup 2 is nearly touching the rim of the vessel. In a contest where fractions of a second matter, this is a clear disadvantage. Was this merely an honest mistake where I was the unlucky party, or was something more sinister at play?

Upon reviewing video footage, I was brought to my knees by another stunning discovery: the winner possibly jumped the gun and began chugging early. Review the footage yourself.

Upon spectral analysis of the audio waveform alongside video, you can clearly see as the word “go” is uttered, the eventual winner has already touched the cup to their lips. Even if they were able to time their sip start perfectly, humans have a natural reaction time that must be accounted for. Just last year hurdler Devon Allen was disqualified at the World Championships for a phantom false start just like this. In a fair competition, this is considered a disqualification. It is stunning the judges let this slip by them.

I don’t consider myself a hero. I’m just a regular, everyday citizen concerned with the integrity of one of our most cherished American traditions: chugging competitions. If normal people like you and I can’t feel confident in something as simple as this, how can we trust in science, our justice system, or democracy itself?