National interest in football skyrockets every year during the Super Bowl — and so do myths, urban legends and general misinformation surrounding the event. As the Philadelphia Eagles get ready to square off against the New England Patriots, let's see how much truth there is some of the most common Super Bowl myths that circulate this time of year.
From a numbers standpoint, the Super Bowl is a truly extraordinary event. The game regularly brings in upward of 100 million viewers — that's about double the population of England — and 30 seconds of ad time during the event costs more than $5 million. More than a million people are expected to flood Minneapolis for this year's game, and the NFL will drop $750,000 on Super Bowl rings for the winning team — some which could easily fetch upward of $100,000 on the second-hand market.
There's no U.S. event quite like the Super Bowl. But there's also a lot of misinformation about the games, much of which gets recycled from year to year. In the name of truth and accuracy, let's look at some of the most common urban legends surrounding the games, and whether or not they're true (Spoiler: A lot of them aren't).
Janet Jackson Is Banned From The Super Bowl
During the 2004 Super Bowl halftime performance, Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson's clothes, exposing one of her nipples on live television for less than a second. What followed was a full-fledged cultural freakout, with just about all of the blame unfairly placed on Jackson.
Despite publicly apologizing for the incident — which again, wasn't her fault — Jackson was banned from performing at the Grammy's that year. But despite what is sometimes claimed, Jackson is not banned from performing at Super Bowl halftime show, a spokesperson for the league confirmed in 2017.
Domestic Violence Occurs The Most During The Super Bowl
This is the kind of myth that has been going around for a while. But does domestic violence really happen the most on Super Bowl Sunday out of every other day of the year?
The claim was first made in 1993, but it's since been debunked by Snopes, The New Republic, Fox News and several other organizations. Domestic violence rates continue to be horrifically high, but it doesn't necessarily peak on the day of the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl Predicts The Stock Market
The "Super Bowl Indicator" (SBI), as it's sometimes referred to, is the idea that the stock market's behavior over the next year can be predicted based on who wins the Super Bowl. If an AFC team wins, so the legend says, the market will decline; if an NFC team is the victor, though, it'll be a good year for investors.
Surprisingly, this isn't as much as a myth as you might think: It's been correct 80 percent of the time over the last 41 years, according to Snopes. This is probably just a coincidence, though — and it's worth noting that over the past decade, the SBI has only been right 60 percent of the time.
Toilets Break Due To Flush Overload During Super Bowl Halftime
This legend also makes a degree of intuitive sense. It's true that many football fans, not wanting to miss any Super Bowl action, wait until halftime to use the bathroom. However, this doesn't cause sewage systems throughout the country to malfunction due to an abnormal amount of simultaneous toilet flushing. It's funny to think about, but it's not true — thankfully. Because nobody wants a broken sewage system.
The Super Bowl Brings An Increase In Sex Trafficking
Greg Abbott, then the Attorney General of Texas, claimed in 2011 that the Super Bowl is "the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States." More generally, it's often said that Super Bowl host cities are flooded with sex trafficking victims on game day, presumably to appeal to the influx of tourists watching the game.
Abbott's claim is not literally true, but it's not entirely wrong. Rachel Lloyd, founder of the anti-sex trafficking organization GEMS, wrote in 2012 that the statistics "just don’t bear out this claim." The Village Voice came to the same conclusion, and so did a 2017 study from the University of Minnesota.
But although the Super Bowl may not be the absolute biggest day of the year for sex trafficking, it does produce an uptick, according to that 2017 study. More broadly, the study found, sports events in general regularly bring sex traffickers to the cities in which they're hosted, as do trade shows and other highly-populated events. That itself is a harrowing fact — as are the first-hand accounts from survivors of sex trafficking.
Super Bowl Fans Will Eat 14 Billion Burgers During The Game
This number has been repeated by news organizations, despite the fact that it's self-evidently ridiculous. If 14 billion hamburgers were consumed during the Super Bowl, that would mean that every single American — including babies, vegetarians, and people who aren't watching the game, — is devouring more than 40 burgers on game day.
There's A Baby Boom Nine Months After The Super Bowl
Super Bowl babies is one of the most famous myths about the game, and was even the subject of a commercial during the 2016 games. But despite the claim's logical appeal, there's no hard evidence that births spike in the city that won the Super Bowl nine months after the big game. Moreover, as Bustle's own Emma Lord has noted, the Super Bowl generally takes place very close to Valentine's Day, meaning that any potential "Super Bowl baby" might actually be a Valentine's Day baby.
There Are More Car Accidents After The Super Bowl
Now here's an urban legend that's actually true. A 2003 study from the University of Toronto found that between 1975 and 2001, car accidents increased by 41 percent in the few hours after Super Bowl games. This included a 70 percent increase in vehicular accidents in the first hour after the game, and researchers additionally discovered that the accident rate was higher in the home state of the losing team. The study also found that during the game itself, car accidents across the country fall by 10 percent.
So, to recap: Stay off of the roads right after the big game, but feel free to use the bathroom during halftime.