Calls to the police reporting men's assaults on their wives or intimate partners rose 10 percent in areas where the local National Football League team lost a game they were favored to win, according to an analysis of 900 regular-season NFL games reports researchers in a paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.
Football games are emotionally laden events of widespread interest, typically garnering 25 percent or more of a local television viewing audience. The disappointment of an unexpected loss, the researchers concluded, raises the risk that football fans may react inappropriately.
In contrast, co-authors David Card, Ph.D., and Gordon Dahl, Ph.D., found no decrease in reports of violence following an unexpected win by the local team or by the team's loss in a game that was expected to be close.
"Our results suggest that the overall rise in violence between the intimate partners we studied is driven entirely by losses in games that matter most to fans," Card said. The timing of the calls to police also indicated that violence occurred within a narrow window roughly corresponding to the final hour of a game and the two hours after.
Card and Dahl say their findings confirm earlier work suggesting that unexpected disappointments affect us more strongly than pleasant surprises. "This is not limited to football," Card said. "Someone who gets a speeding ticket on the way home, for example, might also be more likely to act out in a way he would later regret."
Card and Dahl compared the pre-game betting odds to the game results of regular-season games for six NFL teamsthe Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titansbetween 1995 and 2006. This information was matched to records collected from 763 jurisdictions in the relevant states from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), a database of local police reports.
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Oxford University Press