This Year’s Super Bowl Controversy Will Be …

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… I’m not sure. We will see if anyone takes a knee, or if Pink has a wardrobe malfunction. I’m sure there will be controversial ads (there is already a controversy about the bro-osity factor being so large during a #MeToo year). My wife actually knows several people who will be performing during half time, but that is not a big surprise because Minnesota is a very small town, dontcha know. Hey, Jimm Fallon stopped by at the Salzers, up in Champlin, for hot dish two nights ago. Anyway, I don’t expect the Wayzata (not pronounced way zatt ah) dance team to do anything tricky.

I will be keeping an eye on one thing, though…

This is what the flu season looks like so far in the US. The red line in this complex graph shows that we are at a very high point right at this moment:

It is a big bad year for the flu, so one-point-five gazillion people moving across the landscape and hanging out here and coughing on each other can be a problem. But, if we look just at Minnesota, there is a more nuanced picture. Similar data for just the North Star State graph out this way:

Notice that here, the flu season appears to be rapidly going away. That red line is still up high, which means lots of flu around, but we are in a downward swing.

But also notice that it is not uncommon for a flu season to have a second, smaller but meaningful, bump on the way down, and sometimes (like last year) that can be a big bump. So, my question is this: Will we have another bump starting next week, and will that bump be because one-point-five-gazillion people showed up to contribute to our flu?

Or, since people who are really sick may not travel, maybe having one-point-five-gazillion non-flu-ridden people sprinkled around in the population will provide some sort of epidemiological buffer, a contribution to local herd immunity of sorts, to hasten the decline of our flu numbers.

Maybe all the flu will jump on the Eagles fans and they’ll leave with it.

Anyway, I think there is a small but not insignificant possibility that we will have a Super Bowl Bump in our flu statistics.

Watch this space. If it happens, I’ll post on it and crow. (If it doesn’t, I’ll delete this post!)

If this is a thing, a Super Bowl Bump for the flu, we would have seen it before. Unfortunately, different states keep and present their data in different ways. I’m sure there is some database out there I can mine, but since I don’t now where it is, we’ll have to use less than ideal data.

Have a look at Texas:

This is a graph from Texas showing the flu season, using an OK but not ideal metric, percent of medical facility visits due to a flu like symptom. Notice that there is a bump at the time of the Super Bowl in 2017, when it was in Houston. But the bump starts to happen before the Super Bowl and is that year’s main influenza event in Texas. And Texas is huge, so a Houston event would not show up. Conclusion: Texas does not inform, nor does it falsify. More study needed.

(By the way, yes, I’m aware that a venue-by-venue look does not show what happens when newly infected fans from out of state go home, it only shows the effects of an influx of people on that area.)

The 2016 Super Bowl was in Santa Clara California. Again (not bothering with the graph), California’s flu season tends to peak around Super Bowl time and it died that year. Also, it was not a very big year. But, again, this is a large state with way too much data watering down any effect, unlike Minnesota, where half the people here live in the Twin Cities and the Twin Cities is where the Super Bowl is being held.

New Orleans in 2013? Yes,there is a tiny bump so minimal I won’t even show you, and it was a low level year for the flu. Again, not an ideal scenario.

Really, the best case I can find among all the Super Bowl Sites for a flu bump in a state, i.e., bad flu year, the state on the way down and not at peak, and a concentration of population, is 2018, though Minneapolis had the Super Bowl in 1992. There are no reliable data that I can find for 1992. So, if this is ever a thing, this is the year that may happen.

Do feel free to look at the visiting team’s home towns over the last dozen years or so and report back if you see anything!

By the way, Pink a) will be singing the national anthem and b) has the flu, it is said. So, that should be interesting. Maybe that will be the controversy.

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12 thoughts on “This Year’s Super Bowl Controversy Will Be …

  1. “By the way, Pink a) will be singing the national anthem and b) has the flu, it is said.”

    Unless she is to sick to show up the flu won’t matter. She will not be singing, she will be lip-syncing.

    1. I couldn’t tell, but then

      – my comment was based on history: it’s rare for anyone to really sing at these things

      – before seeing the pre-game I could not have picked her out of a picture of performers: I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything by her

    2. She didn’t lip-synch, and the “gum” she took out of her mouth just before beginning to sing was a throat lozenge she apparently popped while waiting to sooth her throat.

    3. You’re right, though, many performers have lip-synched the national anthem, and a higher percentage are thought to have lip-synched their half-time shows (which are longer and don’t involve simply standing in front of a mic and singing)

    4. I don’t think we can tell whether she did or did not lip sync, and it doesn’t matter.

      I wasn’t upset with the lozenge thing — nothing in comparison to the players’ spitting and more on the field.

    5. Well, she’s known for not lip-synching during live performances, makes a deal of it, and said that she wasn’t going to (and didn’t) during the anthem. Which, after all, only lasts a couple of minutes, it’s not like she had to do an entire show with the flu.

      No reason not to take her at her words, particularly since no one would really complain if she did because she had the flu. But not lip-synching’s a point of pride with her …

  2. “…maybe having one-point-five-gazillion non-flu-ridden people sprinkled around in the population will provide some sort of epidemiological buffer, …”
    Interesting idea.
    I woulda thought epidemiologists would be all over this sort of thing a long time ago.
    People have been gathering in large numbers for all sorts of reasons for ever for sports, arts and religious reasons. Or sometimes for funerals or political protests. Or even just drinking ( octoberfest )
    If gathering made people sick, the data would be very clear.

    1. They are. There is an extensive literature, but it tends to focus on different kinds of diseases, such as measles.

      But there is a literature on “Mass Gatherings” and influenza. Another concern is bioterrorism at mass gatherings (like in that Tom Clancy book)

      But epidemiology is underfunded, and they do tend to focus on health effects that stand out more. So, a second mode bump in the Twin Cities because of the Super Bowl would probably be less important than the increase in morbidity and mortality associated with car accidents (we had over 400 accidents on highways alone on Superbowl Weekend, owing mostly to the weather, but there could have been a Super Bowl effect).

    2. “Another concern is bioterrorism at mass gatherings (like in that Tom Clancy book)”

      Apparently the super bowl security papers left in the seat pocket on an airliner were in regard to anthrax.

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