Wednesday, May 18, 2005

RED IN VICTORY: So I'm listening to NPR talk about this story in Nature about how British researchers are floating a theory that wearing red gives athletes a slight but not insignificant advantage. They looked at combat sports in the Olympics--where the participants are assigned red or blue colors at random--and red-wearers won 55% of the time. So I was thinking, well, numbers aside, this is probably pretty silly, and then one of the British guys they were interviewing said this started as a water-cooler discussion, where it was noted that the long-term successful English football clubs Arsenal, Manchester United, and Liverpool all wore red. And then I was like, well, American sports teams don't really wear red, do they? I mean, there's the Red Sox, whose long-term futility is only exceeded by their fellow red-wearers, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cincinnati Reds have had moderate success, but not dominant success. The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks--the only World League of American Football team to never win a game, wore red. The only successful red-based American team I can think of is Indiana basketball. Oh--and, of course, the Red Wings, who were a dominant team (after decades of futility, I should mention) in a league that doesn't exist anymore. So there you go.

I'm guessing the red effect was some kind of statistical aberration--as whoever NPR brought in to provide the counterpoint suggested--and I would love to see who was wearing red or blue in each individual contest. One of the researchers is an evolutionary biologist, and he was trying to tie in redness as a sign of aggressiveness with redness having some kind of unconscious effect on those who wear it (or those who are confronted with red-wearers), but I'm thinking there isn't much there.

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