The Designed Rush, Week 12: Football Still Won't Make You Beat Your Wife

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↵Football detractors have tried seemingly forever to make hay on the claim that embracing a sport steeped in violence and brutality is harmful to our collective culture. Many attempt to do this by laying out the often debunked argument that there exists a link between watching football and heightened domestic violence. ↵

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↵One new study, however, may give renewed credence to some of those claims. Economists Gordon Dahl and David Card have found that instances of domestic violence do in fact spike in the home state of a team that has just experienced an upset in an NFL game. ↵

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↵⇥To assess the football-violence connection, economists Gordon Dahl and David Card collected 12 years' worth of NFL game histories, matching up the teams' records to data on "intimate partner violence" from the National Incident Based Reporting System. The NIBRS data, which include information on all crimes reported to the police, are often only available state-by-state. So the researchers focused on states where there is only one "local" team, to avoid confusion over what happens in California when, say, the 49ers win and the Raiders lose. After further limiting their analyses to states for which there's adequate crime data, the researchers ended up with six teams: the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans. ↵⇥

↵⇥How much grief would we expect each loss to give its fans? If the loss is entirely expected, probably not much: For this year's 1-and-8 Lions, each new loss is received with resignation. By contrast, last week's loss by the Steelers, favored by a seven-point margin over the Bengals, probably rankled many fans in Pittsburgh. To quantify fan rage, Card and Dahl collected the Vegas point spread, which provides an indication of which side was expected to win and by how much. A less-expected loss equals angrier fans. They classify teams with a spread of three or more points as favored to win. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Card and Dahl found that on Sundays during the regular season, losses by favored teams—that is, painful losses—are associated with an 8 percent increase in intimate partner violence. (For, say, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with a population of nearly 6.5 million, this translates into an extra seven incidents on a Sunday when the Patriots unexpectedly lose.) These extra cases appear in the hours immediately following the game—3 to 6 p.m. for games with a 1 p.m. start time, and 6 to 9 p.m. for those with a 4 p.m. start—further bolstering the case that postgame rage may take the blame. The spikes in violence are nearly twice as big in emotionally charged matchups between traditional rivals, like the annual Bears-Packers matchup, and also in games with lots of turnovers and penalties. ↵⇥

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↵To the credit of the Slate article that summarizes the study, the author is sure to note that correlation need not indicate causation. And even in these extreme environments most likely to elicit a response, there wasn't an overall rise in crime. It simply gave rise to domestic abuse that would have likely occurred anyway. It turned out that an agonizing football result was the trigger, as opposed to some other stimulus. ↵

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↵Perhaps I'm not completely versed in all the scholarly research on the social effects of sports, but why is it that these sort of studies always focus on the effects of football? I've been around enough sports environments to know that watching football isn't all that much more likely to incite a violent reaction than any other sport. I'm sure research exists regarding other major sports, but why isn't it as heavily promoted? Why is the country so intent to believe that football is bad for us? ↵

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↵Five Games to Watch Even if You Have No Rooting Interest or Fantasy Players Involved ↵

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↵New England at New Orleans (8:30 p.m., Monday) ↵

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↵The Pats failed to knock off one undefeated team on the road earlier this month, but they'll get a chance to bring down the NFC's lone unblemished record. Frankly, this wouldn't be a terrible game for the Saints to lose. Whereas the Colts, a team accustomed to regular playoff appearances, could reasonably deal with the added hoopla of a perfect regular season record, the Saints are still not particularly well acquainted with success. While a victory over a high profile team on Monday night would do a lot to convince the Saints that they belong with anyone in the NFL, it's not the end of the world if they happen to fall short. ↵

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↵Pittsburgh at Baltimore (8 p.m., Sunday) ↵

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↵Indianapolis and New England might be the most overhyped rivalry going in the NFL, but the Steelers and the Ravens is easily the nastiest at the moment. Pittsburgh registered what has been the biggest blow so far in their bitter history by beating Baltimore three times last season, the third time coming in the AFC Championship Game. The Ravens have been spoiling for a rematch since January, evidenced by two of their players (Frank Walker and Terrell Suggs) sporting shirts expressing hatred of the Steelers months before the teams were set to play. Neither team comes in riding high -- the Steelers have lost two straight, while the Ravens have dropped five of their last seven. Meanwhile, the Steelers are missing Troy Polamalu and the Ravens are without Suggs. Those likely won't be the only players on the injury list by the time this one ends. ↵

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↵New York Giants at Denver (8:20 p.m., Thursday) ↵

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↵Giants followers are crediting a coin flip with saving their season, while the Broncos foolishly threw Chris Simms out to struggle early in their loss to the Chargers, only to retreat to an injured Kyle Orton as the game turned ugly. The Giants secondary has been a prime weakness, though the lack of a Broncos deep passing game left them unable to exploit a similar problem with the Ravens defense. Unless Denver can break off some big plays, this could be another chapter in the Giants' efforts to get back on track. ↵

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↵Indianapolis at Houston (1 p.m., Sunday) ↵

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↵Were Kris Brown actually able to hit a clutch kick, the Texans could be 7-3 with an outside shot at catching the Colts for the division. At worst, they'd have an inside track to a Wild Card spot. Instead, to maintain any playoff hopes, they'll have to steal one from an undefeated Colts team, who the Texans have only beaten once in their franchise's history. On the plus side, Steve Slaton was able to go an entire game without fumbling. ↵

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↵Jacksonville at San Francisco (4:05 p.m., Sunday) ↵

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↵Even with them in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race, few are discussing the Jaguars as a real threat to claim a playoff berth. Part of that has to do with the fact that Jacksonville has the lowest point deferential of any team with a winning record, and their last four wins have come against the Rams, Chiefs, Jets and Bills. The road will get tougher to hoe down the stretch for the Jags, with games remaining against the Colts, Pats, Texans and Dolphins remaining. ↵

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↵NFL Player/Figure Tweet of the Week ↵

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↵"Is there anyone better than the swam doing football highlights. Hell to the No." -- Shaun Phillips, Monday ↵

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↵Why must you make me hate you, Shaun Phillips? I guess Chris Berman is great if you like spittle, camera mugging and song references even your slap-happy grandpappy will roll his eyes at. Someone introduce this guy to the NFL Network postgame show. Improbable though it may seem, Eisen, Irvin, Deion and Mooch actually make it work, without the grating theatrics on display at ESPN. ↵

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↵Truth in Advertising ↵

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↵ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵ ↵
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↵"Hey, get our credit card and suddenly the face shapes that you see in inanimate objects will change from resembling frowns to appearing as though they're smiling. Perhaps they're just delusions brought on by the anxiety caused by your mounting debt, but they are more pleasing delusions." ↵

↵Dispatches From Madden Nation ↵

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↵Veterans Day passed a few weeks back, but I'd be remiss not to highlight Sean Conboy's affecting recollection of the Madden games of his youth with a buddy who grew up to serve in the Marines and die from a roadside bomb explosion in 2006. ↵

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↵A Delicious Bundle of Gripes ↵

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↵-- Eric Mangini is letting out a hue and cry with claims that Lions players faked injuries to slow the Browns no-huddle offense at various points during Sunday's game. Mangini knows real injuries when he sees them. You would too if you let your players hit each other without pads in practice. In other Browns news, gymnast Alicia Sacramone has admitted that she's dating Brady Quinn. Has she never surfed the Internet before? ↵

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↵-- Announcer Ian Eigel got a few easy chuckles by throwing out the pun that Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker "ran out of gas" at the end of his long second-half interception return against the Steelers. Thanks goodness this guy doesn't play for the 'Phins, or we'd never hear the end of the classic car jokes. ↵

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↵-- With touchdown receptions of four and six yards on Sunday, Saints receiver Robert Meachem has had six of his 16 catches this season go for scores. Which really makes him the antithesis of Wes Welker (79 catches, four touchdowns), other than the fact that Meachem is not gritty, gutty and white. ↵

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↵-- The Wall Street Journal raised the hackles of Redskins fans this morning with a piece trying to show that the franchise's popularity has dipped dramatically, from No. 6 overall in the NFL in 2003 in a Harris Interactive poll to No. 17 this year. However, as a 'Skins fan notes, the argument gets a little dicey when the article claims the Nationals could siphon fans away from the Redskins. ↵

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↵-- If you ever find yourself locked up in the South Bay Correctional Institute, it's best to keep your Dolphins hatred to yourself. Sure, the aquamarine and orange offends every aesthetic bone is your body, but you'd like to keep those bones, wouldn't you? ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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