Pop Versus Soda Debate Turns Deadly

Three dead and numerous wounded in vernacular war at small college.

January 23, 2001. Ferrell Wisconsin. Three students were killed and numerous others were injured when a brawl erupted at the Ferrell College commons during Tuesday's lunch. Names of the fatalities have not been released, but Dean of Students Vick Flanagan reported that two sophomores and one first-year student had died of injuries sustained in the cafeteria brawl at Chapin Hall. Seven other students and a food service employee were treated for injuries at the local hospital, too.

Flanagan was reluctant to comment of the cause of the fatal fracas, but several students spoke to reporters in the quad outside Chapin Hall.

"I was a couple of tables away when the melee started," Junior Rebecca Lasseter said, her voice still shaky twenty minutes after the incident. "There was a group of students sitting together, and suddenly I realized they were yelling at each other. One of them, a big guy with a Sigma Chi jacket on, stood up and yelled 'it's POP, you little shit!' and threw a glass at a smaller student. Within about ten seconds, ten or fifteen people were throwing punches, trays, and glasses at each other. Me and my girlfriends got under the table and hid," Lasseter said.

"I was right there," Jennifer Pasely added. "I was at the table where it started. One of the guys who was killed was my friend," she added. "He and I were talking about how we were trying to cut back on soda...soft drinks, you know. Well, this big brute who was sitting across from us for some reason, he interrupted us and rudely told us not to call pop 'soda'. Next think I know, he's attacking my friend." Pasely went on, "a whole battle broke out. Pop supporters attacked us, and the soda people were heavily outnumbered." When asked if she participated in the fight, Jennifer declined to comment, saying "...not until I talk to my daddy's lawyer."

"I saw two big frat boys stomping on another kid, chanting 'pop, pop, pop!'" Jacob "Smokey" McGhee remembered. "I didn't know what they were yelling about. Then some dude I know from Chemlab--he's from California, I think--he screams 'it's soda' and leaps off a table. I didn't know the dude knew Kung Fu, but he beat those to frat boys' asses. I think he might have killed one of 'em, and he would have waxed 'em both, but some other dude hit him over the head with a chair just then." Jacob also remembered seeing a cafeteria worker struck in the eye with a knife and another student impaled on the cereal dispensers. "I just got out of there, dude," he said. "I'm not into violence like that. That was fucked up."

"It seem there was a beverage-related altercation," Flanagan confirmed, but he declined to give further details. "We're investigating the incident at this time, and we will hold all students responsible for their actions." After pausing to think for a moment, the Dean added, "except for any Sigma Chi members, of course. Being the football fraternity, they are immune to disciplinary action by the school. We may be a piddly division three school, but we still coddle our athletes like a real university!"

"It's all just sad," Sophomore Todd Marks commented. "I mean, I'm from Missouri, and we're a border state, really. I've got friends in St. Louis who say 'soda' and ones in Kansas City who say 'pop'." When asked which he used, Marks responded, "I usually say 'soft drinks' so as not to offend anyone. I grew up with 'soda', though." He added, "my girlfriend is from Nebraska, and she's a 'popper', so I can go either way. It's nothing to kill over, that's for sure."

Marks' roommate, Scott Hobbes, added "Everybody here thinks I'm weird. I'm from Mississippi, and we just call it all 'coke'. I thought by coming North I'd get away from such intolerance, but I guess it's everywhere. People make fun of me, cause I say 'ya'll', too." Hobbes agreed with Marks that the whole incident was "sad".

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