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Home --> Sports --> Football --> Super Bowl Legends

Super Bowl Legends

Over the last few decades football's championship game, the Super Bowl, has surpassed baseball's World Series as America's premiere sporting event. In fact, the Super Bowl has now transcended its status as a mere athletic contest to become a great national celebration on a par with many of our political and state holidays. A two-week build-up of massive media coverage leads into a day of partying, overeating, drinking, wagering, and the (anti-)climax of a football game itself. As we should expect, an event of such tremendous national importance has engendered its own unique set of legends, legends that express a number of our national values. Anthropologist Alan Dundes has noted that "Super Bowl legends usually involve numbers and a sense of enormity. The idea of big numbers, of being bigger than other people, is very American."

We now present a review of some of the more commonly-known legends associated with the Super Bowl:

Claim:   Sewage systems of major cities have broken due to the tremendous number of toilets being flushed simultaneously at halftime.

Status:   False.

Origins:   Rumors of the havoc wreaked by widespread simultaneous toilet flushing after popular broadcast events (such as the final episode of TV's M*A*S*H in 1983) have been spread for decades, dating as far back as the 1930s Amos 'n' Andy radio program. All such rumors are overblown — toilet use during breaks in large-audience programs is certainly much higher than average, but so far never to the point of causing serious damage to a large municipal sewage

The rumor is based on an unfounded assumption, that millions of people will sit through the entirety of an hours-long program and only get up to use the bathroom at its conclusion. As noted, the same reports of massive toilet-flushing were attributed to the heyday of the Amos 'n' Andy radio show (which employed a serial format and attracted huge audiences when particularly compelling story arcs approached their denouement), even though the program was broadcast in daily 15-minute segments. How many people really have to rush off to the bathroom after sitting still for a mere 15 minutes? The last episode of M*A*S*H was a two-and-half-hour movie with numerous commercial breaks, and the three- to four-hour Super Bowl program features almost as much advertising time as actual football action, affording those needing to heed nature's call many opportunities to take care of business long before their conclusions. Only the chronically sedentary or those who need more than a couple of minutes in the bathroom and steadfastly refuse to miss even a few seconds of programming need to wait until the very end of a multi-hour event to relieve themselves.

The breaking of a 16-inch water main in Salt Lake City on Super Bowl Sunday in 1984 is often cited as affirmative proof of the "massive toilet use wreaks havoc" phenomenon, but no causal link between this occurrence and the Super Bowl was found. Salt Lake City's sewage infrastructure is quite old and breaks in its waterline are far from uncommon; that one such break occurred on a Super Bowl Sunday was nothing more than an amusing coincidence.

Claim:   More women are the victims of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year.

Status:   False.

Origins:   This item is covered in detail on our Super Bull Sunday page.

Claim:   Two-thirds of all avocados sold in the USA are bought within three weeks of Super Bowl Sunday.

Status:   False.

Origins:   No doubt about it, thanks to the influence of our Hispanic countrymen and neighbors, we've become a guacamole-loving nation. And Super Bowl Sunday, like other important celebrations, has a strong association with food, particularly snack foods such as potato and corn chips that cry out for something yummy to dip them in. Super Bowl Sunday is also Super Guacamole Sunday, and so we naturally assume it must also be the time of year when sales of avocados, the primary ingredient in guacamole, skyrocket. Sales of avacados do shoot up around the time of the Super Bowl, but not to the levels claimed. Super Bowl Sunday accounts for about 5% of annual avocados sales, not the much larger figures often claimed (up to 67%), according to the California Avocado Commission. That 5% — about 8 million pounds of avocados — is a lot of avocados, but it still pales in comparison to the 14 million pounds sold annually during Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

Claim:   Super Bowl Sunday is a good time to visit Disneyland, because the park is virtually deserted.

Status:   False.

Origins:   No red-blooded American would miss the Super Bowl just to spend the day at an amusement park, right? Okay, maybe a few women who don't understand football might pass on watching the game, but women don't generally visit places like Disneyland without their husbands or boyfriends or children in tow, and most of them are watching the game. Must be a great day for the people who are so desperate to experience a rare uncrowded weekend afternoon at Disneyland that they'll risk ridicule and skip the big game in favor of the Magic Kingdom, eh?

Not quite. January does tend to be one of the slower periods of the year at amusement parks, a winter lull between the Christmas and Easter holidays, but crowds at Disneyland on Super Bowl Sunday are comparable to any other Sunday in January. (My personal experience is that Super Bowl Sunday did used to be a good day to visit Disneyland, but people have caught on to this trick in the last fifteen years or so.) If you want to spend a leisurely Sunday at Disneyland, you're better off picking a different weekend in January or February.

Legend:   Which team wins the Super Bowl is an indicator of whether the stock market will see an overall upward or downward trend throughout the year.

Origins:   This legend is explored at length on our Super Bowl Indicator page.

Claim:   Before Super Bowl XXII, a reporter asked Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, "How long have you been a black quarterback?"

Status:   False.

Origins:   We tackle this perennial claim on our Quarterback Speak page.

Claim:   Rise in automobile accidents tied to aftermath of Super Bowl.

Status:   True.

Origins:   In a nutshell, wise people stay off the roads in the hours immediately following the Super Bowl, with the longer version to be found on our Crash Course page.

Last updated:   21 January 2011

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  Sources Sources:
    Perry, Tony.   "Myth America: The Legend of Super Sunday."
    Los Angeles Times.   31 January 1999   (p. 1).