The Bad Thing about Good Games: The Relationship between Close Sporting Events and Game-Day Traffic Fatalities
For sports fans, great games are the close ones—those between evenly matched opponents, where the game remains undecided until the very end. However, the dark side to sporting events is the incidence of traffic fatalities due to game-related drinking. Here, we ask whether the closeness of the game affects the number of fatalities that occur. Two opposing predictions can be made. Games that are not close (“blowouts”) may be less engaging, thus increasing drinking. Alternatively, close games may be more dangerous, increasing competition-associated testosterone that spills over into aggressive driving. An analysis of major sporting events (2001–8) shows that closer games are significantly correlated with more fatalities. Importantly, increased fatalities are observed only in locations with winning fans (game site and/or winners’ hometown), congruent with a testosterone-based account. Ultimately, this finding has material consequences for public welfare on game days and suggests that one silver lining for losing fans may be a safer drive home.
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