Sports Illustrated Jinx Case Study

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THE “SI JINX”: A CASE STUDY A good “everyday” example of the debate between correlation and causation involves what has come to be known as the “Sports Illustrated Jinx.” This jinx, so the story goes, is that if a well-known athlete is featured on the cover of the magazine one week, sometime soon that same athlete—often being celebrated for his or her accomplishments—will lose the big game, get injured, or otherwise have some hardship or disaster befall them. And, for a magazine that goes all the way back to 1954, one can imagine that “bad things” have indeed happened to people featured on the cover. One of the more graphic examples: in 1958, after SI put a promising Olympic figure skater on the cover, the entire U.S. figure skating team died in a plane crash. More commonly, of course, the issue involves an athlete…show more content…
SI’s January 21, 2002 issue included a black cat on the cover, with the question, “Is the SI Jinx for Real?” The cover story, written by Alexander Wolff, was the product of a rather ambitious project. Two Sports Illustrated researchers took over six months to analyze all 2,456 covers of the magazine, going all the way back to its first issue in 1954. Then, using some fairly reasonable criteria, they attempted to determine how often someone who was featured on the cover had some sort of “misfortune” soon thereafter. The result? They determined that “of the 2,456 covers SI had run, 913 featured a person who, or team that, suffered some verifiable misfortune…a Jinx rate of 37.2%.” Further, they noted that the majority of those “misfortunes” were “bad losses or lousy performances by a team, followed by declines in individual performance, bad loss or lousy performance by an individual, postseason failure, injury or death, and blunder or bad
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