Many of us have heard the oft-repeated canard that Superbowl Sunday is the worst day of the year in terms of domestic violence. (More people have money riding on the game, and/or have been drinking, and if the wrong team wins, tempers flare and violence ensues, goes the conventional wisdom.) This conclusion hasn’t held up to closer scrutiny, and I don’t think very many people put much stock in it these days.
But what does cause a spike in domestic violence, according to a new academic study titled Family Violence and Football, is an upset in the NFL. Using Las Vegas spreads as an indicator of the expected outcome, economists David Card of the University of California Berkeley and Gordon B. Dahl of the University of California San Diego tracked reported incidents of family violence in areas loyal to a particular team. When the hometown favorite lost unexpectedly, reports of domestic violence went up 8 percent. And particularly wrenching losses, like in a playoff game, made it worse.
Sadly, the inverse does not seem to be true: unexpected wins do not decrease the reports of domestic violence significantly, the study found.
(While the Superbowl Sunday brutality may be a myth, the study notes that domestic violence does go up on holidays: Christmas Day +17 percent, Thanksgiving +22 percent, Memorial Day +30 percent, New Year’s Day +19 percent, New Year’s Eve +32 percent, and July 4th +28 percent.)