The Constitutional Right to a Big Gulp

I was a fan of the late, great Andy Griffith, long before he became Sheriff Andy Taylor, and even decades before he left Mayberry, attended law school, moved to Atlanta, and changed his name to Ben Matlock.

I was a fan of Andy Griffith even before he was Private Will Stockdale in No Time for Sergeants. (“I ain’t never had R.O.T.C., but Irvin’ did! Close to a year. He is so ornery, I think he still might have a touch of it.”)

No, I first became a follower of Andy long before he was either Andy of Mayberry or Ben of Atlanta. I was a preschooler when my mom and dad bought a record of a comedy monologue by Andy called “What It Was, Was Football.”

The monologue was a description of a college football game by a country preacher who just happened to stumble into a stadium and was totally mystified by what he saw.

When I was a child, my mom and dad and I would listen to “What It Was, Was Football” over and over again and laughed until we almost peed in our pants.

My favorite part of “What It Was, Was Football” was Andy’s description of a large drink he enjoyed at the football game:

We were going to hold a tent service off of this college town, and we got there about dinner time on Saturday. Different ones of us thought that we ought to get us a mouth full to eat before we set up the tent. So we got off the truck and followed this little bunch of people to this small little itty bitty patch of woods there, and we came up on a big sign that says, “Get Something to Eat Here.” I went up and got me two hot dogs and an big orange drink, and before I could take a mouthful of that food, this whole raft of people come up around me and got me to where I couldn’t eat nothing, up like, and I dropped my big orange drink.

Later in the monologue, Andy described a conversation with a fan at the stadium:

About the time I got set down good I looked down there and I seen 30 or 40 men come a-runnin’ out of one end of a great big outhouse down there, and everybody where I was a-sittin’ got up and hollered! And I asked this fella that was a-sittin’ beside of me, “Friend, what is that they’re a-hollerin’ for?” Well, he whopped me on the back and he says, “Buddy, have a drink!” I says, “Well, I believe I will have another big orange.”

Well, I myself was a-thinkin’ about Andy the other day when I heard the news that the Mississippi legislature has passed a law guaranteeing that folks in Mississippi have a legal right to drink a Big Gulp or similar super-sized sugary drink. It occurred to me that if Andy Griffith were still around, he might want to move to the Magnolia State where he would always have the legal right to “another big orange.” If he lived in New York City, he might a get a-thirsty!

The new Mississippi law has been referred to as “the anti-Bloomberg” law as it came in response to Noo Yawk City’s recent ordinance banning the sale of super-sized sugary beverages in New York restaurants. That ordinance was the idea of noted Yankee Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is apparently hell-bent to keep all of us from enjoying Big Gulp Mountain Dews.

Mississippi State Senator Tony Smith, who is from (so help me) Picayune, Miss., was concerned about this Yankee’s “misguided attempt to battle obesity.” The Noo Yawk City ordinance had already been struck down by a Yankee judge, but Senator Smith and his fellow Mississippi lawmakers were taking no chances. They passed legislation prohibiting local governments from regulating the size of sodas and other sweetened beverages. And they didn’t stop there. Just to make sure that the good folks of Mississippi do not lose their right to get fat as pigs, the law also prohibits local officials from requiring restaurants to post nutritional information so that folks know how much fat they’s a-eatin’.

I’m sure this is just a coincidence, but Mississippi just happens to be the fattest state in the Union. That is to say, pound for pound, Mississippi citizens are the biggest in the country. To borrow a joke from the late great Henny Youngman, when folks in Mississippi sit around the fast food restaurant, they …“sit AROUND the fast food restaurant!” (Drum rim shot!)

But apparently the very large and good people of Mississippi don’t want Mayor Bloomberg or any other skinny Yankee agitators coming to Picayune or Oxford or Yazoo City to take away their supersized RC Colas and Moon Pies.

So far, to my knowledge, the Tennessee legislature has not weighed in (so to speak) on the Constitutional right of Tennesseans to a Big Gulp.

I admit it is a heavy issue, but personally I am pro-choice when it comes to Big Gulps. I don’t care for a supersized Mountain Dew or a Big Nehi grape belly-washer, but I do love my venti lattes. And I will give up my venti latte when they pry my cold dead hands off my Starbucks cup!

And now, if you will excuse me, in honor the late great Andy Griffith, I believe I will have another big orange.


Bill Haltom BILL HALTOM is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.