Thursday, September 29, 2005

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The Red Sox cause heartburn -- but do they save lives

It's going to be an agonizing/wonderful/intense final weekend of Major League Baseball's regular season. Whenever Major League Baseball has to post this kind of web page to explain the possible playoff permutations (link via David Pinto), you know there are some close races.

Naturally, the piece de resistance is the AL East, with the streaking Yankees a game ahead of the Red Sox, who are tied with Cleveland in the wild card standings.

I don't know how these games could top the drama of the last two years with these two teams -- but then again, I thought that was true right before last year's ALCS, and look what happened.

Intriguingly, the close series probably means an easier load for Boston's emergency rooms:

A couple of dyed-in-the-red-wool Fenway fanatics -- who, by day, specialize in analyzing trends in health-care use -- wondered what happens to emergency room traffic when the Sox catapult into the playoffs.

The result of their research: Last fall, while the Sox pummelled the Yankees in the deciding game of the league championship and, then, the Cardinals in Game Four of the World Series, business in the ER was as cold as Manny Ramirez's bat was hot.

''We knew if we were looking for any public event that would have an effect on health-care utilization, it would have to be the Red Sox championship games," said Ben Reis, inveterate Sox fan and Children's Hospital Boston researcher....

The researchers discovered that during the championship games, televisions were blaring in three of every five households in the Boston area, watching Curt, Johnny, and the rest of the self-proclaimed Idiots.

At the same time, visits to the emergency rooms plummeted, on average, by 15 percent when compared to historical trends for ER visits on autumn evenings.

Fewer ER visits and more babies -- you know the recent Red Sox revival has been good for New England.

[Sure, there are fewer visits, but do the Red Sox save lives?--ed. The reportage is unclear. On the one hand, it seems that people with chronic ailments might defer or postpone visits. On the other hand, "There was no evidence, the researchers from Children's report, of a surge in ER visits immediately after the game concluded." One has to wonder if there were fewer driving accidents, etc. while people were watching the games.]

posted by Dan on 09.29.05 at 10:25 PM


On the other hand, considering that a college student was killed by police during a post-game melee last year, it may all be a wash.

posted by: DonBoy on 09.29.05 at 10:25 PM [permalink]

Hey Baseball Traitor - why don't you post on your southside neighbors, the White Sox, for a change. For the True Hyde Parkers, the regular season is OVER! This weekend I'll be relaxing before the playoffs.

posted by: ghost of Veeck on 09.29.05 at 10:25 PM [permalink]

"The devil makes work for idle hands". Maybe a version of that is working here--baseball absorbs the mind so people don't focus on and obsess about their physical symptoms. It also provides a context for interaction with other people, which can also alleviate some symptoms. The effects only have to be strong enough to make a difference in marginal cases.

posted by: Bill Harshaw on 09.29.05 at 10:25 PM [permalink]

I think it's a matter of people staying home and thus reducing traffic accidents. Probably muggings, too, since muggers are mostly young males and therefore likely sports fans, and fewer of their targets will be out and about during games.

Some years back, there was a total eclipse of the sun in Norfolk, and I had to go out and shop just after totality. There was virtually no one else on the roads. When I lived in Tuscaloosa, the best time to go shopping was during Crimson Tide home games: again, everyone but me and the people who worked in the stores was either at the game or watching it at home, and the workers were all listening to the game (the grocery stores would switch from Muzak to game coverage).

Proviso: When there's a 'subway series' or some other sports event that causes intense feelings within households, groups of friend, and people who patronize the same bars, emergency room visits by people who've been beaten up for supporting the wrong team may well go up. But I imagine Boston fans are pretty near unanimous in the cases mentioned here, and that the few exceptions know enough to keep their mouths shut.

posted by: Dr. Weevil on 09.29.05 at 10:25 PM [permalink]

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