Legends of the Super Bowl
by Howard Fienberg
Super Bowl Sunday is about more than football. It is about legends. Not just Joe Namath, Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, but also “Bloody Sunday” and “The Great Toilet Flush.”
Super Bowl Sunday was dubbed “Bloody” because wife-beating reaches an annual high the day of the game. “The Great Toilet Flush” refers to the tendency of sewage systems in major cities to break under the load of half-time toilet-flushing. But while the great quarterbacks are indeed legends, the stories are myths; there’s no truth in any of them.
The legend of “Bloody Sunday” dates back to1993, when women’s activist groups staged a press conference to declare Super Bowl Sunday “the biggest day of the year for violence against women.” The New York Times declared it the “Abuse Bowl.” Other news stories reported that victims flood telephone hot lines and women’s shelters following the game. A letter from public relations firm Dobinsky Associates warned at-risk women not to “remain alone with him during the game.”
So what was the evidence of this annual day of terror? Activists cited a
study by an
Ken Ringle, a reporter for the Washington Post, went beyond the press release and checked the facts. The author of the study, Janet Katz, told Ringle that the activists completely misrepresented her research. Katz said she found no association between increased emergency room admissions and “the occurrence of football games in general, nor with watching a team lose.” Several days later, a spokesman for one of the activist groups admitted to the Boston Globe that their representation of the study was “not quite accurate.”
Thankfully, not all Super Bowl Sunday legends are quite so serious. “The Great Toilet Bowl Flush” hit back in 1984, in Salt Lake City, when a water main broke on Super Bowl Sunday. Was it the collective flushing of toilets by Coors-addled football fans “flooding” the bathroom at half-time that overloaded the system? No link has ever been established between the main break and the toilet factor. Water main breaks, while uncommon, can befall areas with older infrastructure. We are lucky enough that most mains can handle mass flushing with ease.
Unfortunately, a TV ad for the local 11 o’clock news that Sunday
focused on the water story, transforming a falsehood into a legend. According
to Cecil Adams, writer of “The Straight Dope,”
The Super Bowl represents the pinnacle of American popular culture.
Despite the diversification of
But in the end, the game can leave us wanting. I’ve seen far too many abysmal Bowl games, of interest only to die-hard fans. They make the hours of pre-Bowl build-up look far more exciting by comparison to the game itself. Perhaps that is what drives these urban legends and compels us to share them with each other and to fall under their spell – the ongoing search for entertainment and emotional fulfillment.
Let’s hope this year, the game delivers all on its own.
Howard Fienberg, a Steelers fan, is Senior Analyst with the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), a nonprofit nonpartisan research organization.
See the original at http://www.americanenterprise.org/hotflash020128.htm
Also published in Brainwash at http://www.affbrainwash.com/archives/007475.php
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