Debunking those Super Bowl myths

Special to the Daily
Keely Brown

When we think about Super Bowl legends, the names Elway, Favre, Montana, Aikman and Bradshaw immediately come to mind.

But this week, there’s another type of legend afoot ” the notorious Super Bowl Urban Legend, which takes its rightful place each year among all the other media fodder we’re slammed with during the Week Before the Game.

According to Alan Dundes, professor of anthropology and a folklore expert at the University of California, Berkeley, most of these Super Bowl legends are false ” although a few, surprisingly, have more than a bit of truth to them.

Here are some of my favorites:

1) Super Bowl Sunday poses a major threat to the water systems of major U.S. cities, thanks to so many simultaneous toilet flushings at half-time

This one gained a lot of steam back in 1984, when a 16-inch break in the water main in Salt Lake City occurred right smack dab in the middle of the Big Game. However, city officials reported that the break was due to the weakness of the water systems, rather than the over-use of area toilets. But that didn’t stop the national media with having a field day and running, so to speak, with this one.

However, water officials in major cities are telling us once again, as they do every year, that the nation’s systems are strong enough to support those record numbers of half-time flushes.

2) There are more pizza deliveries on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day in the year

Well, according to Internet sources, Domino’s has said that it expects to deliver more than 1.2 million pizzas this Sunday, which is a 30 percent increase over normal Sunday numbers. And Papa John’s is predicting a 50 percent increase, which adds up to 750,000 pizzas and more than a million chicken wings. So maybe this one is just a no-brainer. And, speaking of food…

3) Two-thirds of all the avocados sold per year in the U.S. are purchased during the three weeks leading up to the Super Bowl

While guacamole is a favorite football munchie, the California Avocado Commission tells us that avocado sales before and during the Super Bowl run to about 5 percent of the annual total ” which adds up to eight million pounds. In comparison, Cinco de Mayo chalks up 14 million pounds.

4) The Super Bowl outcome is a stock market indicator every year

Surprisingly, Forbes magazine tells us that the stock market actually does fluctuate according to the conference of the winning team. When an NFC team wins, it rises, and when an AFC team wins, the market is bearish. In fact, this phenomenon, known as the “Super Bowl Indicator” has an 85 percent accuracy rate. No one seems to know why.

Digging into these Super Bowl legends has caused me to recall some of the urban myths I grew up with. I decided to try to debunk them for good, with a little help from an enchanting website I stumbled upon, The Straight Dope.

The Straight Dope can answer such human dilemmas as, Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets, What does the “K” stand for in “K-Mart,” and If you keep your eyes open while sneezing, will your eyeballs pop out?

The answers to these and other burning questions can be found at While I was there, I checked up a few of my own childhood favorites.

1) Green potato chips are poisonous

I’m not sure that this one applies anymore, because for some reason, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a potato chip that boasts that lime-green edging, familiar to many of us since childhood. Supposedly you don’t see them anymore because potato chip companies are a bit more up on their quality control than they used to be.

According to Straight Dope, the green is usually caused by the caramelization of the sugar when a potato has been kept in storage too long ” although one correspondent said that an overabundance of chlorophyll plays a part as well.

Because of this, it may not be a good idea to root through every bag looking exclusively for the green ones to chow down on ” but, as with most things, a normal, non-obsessive amount won’t hurt you.

2) If you cut a golf ball in half, it will explode in your face

This comes from an urban legend telling us that something explosive and/or poisonous is used in the center of golf balls. According to our friends at Straight Dope, Titleist uses a mix of salt water and corn syrup. So golfers take heart ” if you hit the ball too hard, the only thing that can harm you is too much high fructose corn syrup.

3) Swallowing chewing gum will make your innards stick together

I recall that someone in my childhood ” I believe it was my mother ” told me that swallowed chewing gum stays in your stomach for seven years, to be joined, eventually, by other wads of chewing gum, causing your stomach to undergo a fascinating sort of homeopathic-stomach-stapling procedure. However, there’s no truth to any of it.

5) Chihuahuas are good for emphysema

Actually, this one comes from my grandfather. The original urban legend states that Chihuahuas are good for asthma, but my grandfather had emphysema, so he changed it to suit his needs. He went out one day and came home with a Chihuahua, which he and my grandmother named Tina.

Tina was the meanest, nastiest little mess of skin and bones that ever walked this earth ” and coming from me, this is saying a lot, since I’m the biggest dog lover in the world, ready to forgive and forget just about any canine transgression. Tina’s lips were curled back in a perpetual snarl, and the only time she wasn’t terrorizing you with her little pin teeth was when she was sleeping.

There are a lot of great Chihuahuas out there ” Tina just wasn’t one of them. If you want a Chihuahua, then get a Chihuahua ” but don’t expect it to cure your asthma or your emphysema, or reverse your stock market losses if you invest according to the Super Bowl Indicator.

And no, Chihuahuas can’t predict the Super Bowl outcome ” although I’ve no doubt there’s an urban legend out there saying that they can.

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