Football games make us angry

Some people at least.  Daniel Rees writes to me:

…we find that college football games are associated with sharp increases in crime.  For instance, assaults increase by about 9% when a community hosts a college football game, vandalism increases by about 18%, and DUIs increase by about 13%.  We also find evidence that upsets result in larger increases in crime than games that do not produce an upset.  For instance, an upset loss at home is associated with a 112% increase in assaults and a 61% increase in vandalism.  We discuss these results in the context of psychological theories of fan aggression.

Here is the paper.  I guess those people should have gone to see a violent movie instead!

Addendum: Here is some outside coverage, see also Justin Wolfers at Freakonomics blog as well.


Is it possible to arrive at this conclusion
based on these statistics alone? Higher
incidences of such events may be the result of
increased levels of human interaction and
public activity. Anger felt in the home is
more difficult to guage for the purpose of
a survey. Also, there are various motivations
for this type of behaviour
I suspect that football makes a few of us
angry. Even fewer of us will take actions that
mean our anger can be accounted for. The rest
of us are probably either happy or disappointed.

Football games make us drink alcohol. Lot's of it. Alcool leads to crime.

Don't forget alcohol. Sports events are drinking events, and drunk people are more prone to assault, vandalism, and obviously DUIs. There may be a causal effect but not from anger.

I agree with Hovie's point, and here's my version: Football fans will be divided into "winners" and "losers" after each game. The losers frequently feel that their team deserved to win, and their frustration turns to violence. (Even winners can be violent if they feel that winning has made them invulnerable/justified in dominating the world.) Violent movies, in contrast, almost always have victims and villains -- people who are watching are more likely to identify with the victims and regret the violence inflicted upon them. Hotel Rwanda, Alien, Kill Bill -- all of them are violent, but all of them have clear(er) definitions of right or wrong. Football fans have no such clarity (in many ways :)

On the other hand, what becomes of life if people are denied outlets for their love of rowdiness, and for their (apparently innate) drive to cheer for a team?

Have experiments been done on the long-term effects of taking away violent, crowd-stirring entertainments from populations? Seems to me that until this has been done, conclusion-reaching ought to be put on hold.

So maybe Aristotle was right about catharsis. Pp. 19-20 of the paper and the comparison with movies certainly suggest that stories, plots, matter to people. See also Geertz's famous cockfighting essay, both on the meanings of matches and the question of well-matched versus unevenly matched opponents.

Perhaps I am oversimplifying this, but this appears to be basic common sense and the law of averages. I would argue that similar percentages could be found in any town/city across the U.S where NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and/or NASCAR events are held. Moreover, any situation where the following variables are found would also result in the same statistics: 1) population influx 2) predominantly middle-aged men 3) competition and/or rivalry and 4) alcohol (mix and serve).

It’s hard to agree that college football “causes† crime and violence. It seems more plausible to argue that when large numbers of people gather to observe or participate in competitive-based activities where drugs and alcohol floe freely, you might see an increase in aggressive behavior (e.g. crime and violence)

And one last thought†¦ When the population of a host town/city swells (due to an event), the surrounding towns/cities experience a population decrease. Can the same be said for the crime and violence statistics?

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