Wondering what science makes of a football fan? The coincidental release of two unrelated academic studies helps unravel what researchers think about the psyche--or, at least, drinking habits--of the Sunday morning faithful. According to science: Fans are eternally optimistic about their favorite team and have a habit of trudging away from the stadium slightly buzzed.
Miller-McCune's Tom Jacobs reports on the "optimism" study conducted by a team headed by Yale University’s Cade Massey. Using a small cash incentive, researchers recruited "386 Pollyannaish pigskin prognosticators" to reveal their favorite team and then participate in a week-by-week survey of the winners and final point differentials of games on the NFL schedule. The results? Even when lured to be "clear-minded" with cash, "participants predicted their favorite team would win at least 60 percent of the time," even if their chosen team was consistently losing late into the season. The researchers wrote:
In the eyes of people who desire them, relatively unlikely events, such as teams winning when objective observers pick them only 30 percent of the time, become 50/50 propositions.
In essence, as Jacobs notes, football fans stubbornly adhere to a "sanguine attitude even in the face of unforgiving facts."
What could help assuage these "unforgiving" facts? Perhaps a drink or three. Another recently released study, reported by the Scientific American, finds that, yes, lots of people drink alcohol at sporting events. More specifically, researchers who measured the blood-alcohol content of fans leaving professional football and baseball games found that eight percent of them were over the legal limit for driving.
If these numbers, admittedly based on a small sample size, were extrapolated for an entire NFL stadium, "some 5,000 people over the limit could spill out into the streets and potentially [be] behind the wheel."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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