Win the Super Bowl or Lose Your Life?

Does a Super Bowl loss really cause death around the losing city?

Getty Images

Do you like football? Do you have a favorite team? Do you want that team to go to the Super Bowl? If you answered yes to those questions, prepare to die!

That's the word from a study presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Orlando, Florida. Doctors from the University of Southern California medical school found that watching your favorite team lose the Super Bowl puts you at a greater risk of death. Conversely, a Super Bowl win makes you less likely to shuffle off the mortal coil.

To come to this conclusion, a team from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, looked at death rates in Los Angeles County on the day of two Super Bowls that had decidedly different outcomes for the home team: 1980, when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Los Angeles Rams in what has long been considered one of the most competitive match-ups in Super Bowl history; and 1984, when the Los Angeles Raiders handily beat the Washington Redskins. The researchers also looked at death rates for the two weeks following each game. They then compared those statistics to death rates in the same county for the same period in the years between and after those Super Bowls.

As it turned out, they found that all-cause death rates rose significantly after the 1980 loss, and death rates declined after the 1984 victory.

To parrot MJD at Shutdown Corner, you have to wonder about the difference between correlation and causation. Los Angeles County has an awful lot of people to draw such broad conclusions about deaths from all causes (with no idea about anyone's fandom) for two weeks after a game. That's not to say that a particularly stressful loss for a team might not contribute to a heart attack or drunken mishap or what have you, but it seems like a specious bit of reasoning on the part of researchers. 

If this were true, wouldn't the Packers' loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII have led to a serious spike in the death rate around Green Bay? It's a much smaller place than Los Angeles, with a population that seems much more invested in the fate of the Packers. When you add all that artery clogging Wisconsin cheddar and bratwurst consumed during games, that should be a perfect cardiological storm.  

At the end of the day, this seems like a study designed to grab some attention without enlightening us to much that will actually help people stay any healthier than if the doctors just said to stop smoking, eat a balanced diet and avoid the third rail of the subway.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us