Do winners owe debt to being in the red?

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May 19, 2005. 06:43 AM

Do winners owe debt to being in the red?

Team colours found to impact performance

Scientists think it is linked to testosterone



OTTAWA?Science has finally explained why the Leafs can never win the Stanley Cup ? the players are sporting the wrong colours.

Wearing red apparently gives male athletes a slight competitive edge in both team and individual sports, two British anthropologists conclude in a study published today in the journal Nature. Blue was one of the colours of the losers in their research.

The scientists found that red could tip the balance between closely matched competitors by analyzing results from four combat sports in last year's Athens Olympics as well as matches at soccer's Euro 2004 championship in Portugal.

This red edge is probably somehow related to testosterone levels, said researcher Robert Barton at the University of Durham.

"In primates, birds and fishes, a greater display of red in the males indicates higher testosterone and that animal often dominates other males. In humans we get red in the face when we're angry and pale when we're afraid," he said.

Barton and colleague Russell Hill decided to test if the same thing happened when male sports competitors wore red outfits. The red might trigger a testosterone surge in the wearer, suppress testosterone in the opponents or do both.

"It was only a hunch. We were pretty bowled over when we started looking at the results," Barton told the Toronto Star in an interview.

The initial evidence came from four sports in the Athens Olympics last summer ? boxing, taekwondo, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling. Olympic officials randomly assigned red or blue outfits to the competitors.

Yet 16 of the 21 rounds had more red winners than blue winners. The same colour edge applied across all weight classes, with 19 of 29 having more red winners.

When Barton and Hill looked more closely at the results, they found that the colour advantage tipped the balance largely when competitors were relatively evenly matched.

Canadian wrestling champion Daniel Igali may be a specific instance of the winning red syndrome. He wore a red singlet when he won gold in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

But in Athens last August the blue-clad Igali was eliminated by a Cuban competitor who wore red.

The Durham researchers then tested their theory by studying the success of five teams in the European soccer championships last year ? England, Croatia, Latvia, Spain and the Czech Republic.

None had a home-field advantage since the games were in Portugal. All five played some games in predominately red jerseys and other games in white or blue tops. The researchers used a statistical technique that accounted for different levels of skill in the opposing teams.

The result? When these five teams took the field in red jerseys, they scored one more goal per game then when clad in white or blue.

The scientists are puzzled by exactly what drives this better performance. Further investigation showed that red-shirted soccer players weren't making more accurate passes, even though the human vision system evolved to detect red fruit against a green background.

Opposing teams took fewer shots on the goal of red-shirted teams, were "booked" more frequently by referees for infractions and made more tackles.

If further research finds the same red effect in other sports then governing bodies may have to regulate uniform colours to ensure a level playing field, said Barton.

Barton acknowledged another implication from the findings may be even more pressing.

"We're interested to see how the bookmakers react to these findings. It did occur to us that you might be able to make some money by betting on the colour."

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I heard about this earlier. Somebody was saying that whoever gets to wear red out of United and Arsenal in the FA Cup Final will have a slight advantage

I don't really believe it myself

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Interesting thought but until they have a defined reason, I won't worry too much about my "Buds (Leafs). I'd just go for some hockey right about now.

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if thats what you leafs fan would like to beleive then be it... but i dont see the Maple Laughs changing colours soon, just like how the Habs will never go Blue :)

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What about the Reds?


But how about the Red Sox and Red Wings

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Thats kind of funny. Can be argued in favor of in some leagues I think. ManU's history in EPL, AC Milan in Serie A, Montreal Canadiens in NHL, 49ers in NFL. Of course doesn't explain the Yankees dominance. How great would it be if a ton of teams start adding red alternate jerseys to their uniforms as a result of this? lol

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the cincy reds in baseball? didn't they win the world series less than 10 years ago?

it would explain the cubs though...

although i really don't buy any of what they are saying...

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I had to read that title twice, the word; debt and being in the red, got me thinking of something else completely.


The title in a bit of a pun (by the newspaper, not me).

It would help to explain the success of the NJ Devils (considering their fairly low payrolls)

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