Reality Wears Loser’s Jersey in Super Bowl Stock Theory

JAMES BATES <i> is a Times staff writer</i>

At some point during today’s Super Bowl, an announcer will undoubtedly babble that the performance of the stock market this year may hinge on the game’s outcome.

According to the Super Bowl indicator, promoted year after year by ink-seeking market theorists, a 49ers victory means the market will do better because that is what happens when a National Football Conference team wins. A Bengals win foreshadows a drop because that is what happens when an American Football Conference team wins. The theory has a remarkable record of accuracy--better than 90%--because lately two things happen almost every year: Stocks go up and AFC teams lose.

As with any goofy theory, there’s a catch. The theorists put the AFC’s Pittsburgh Steelers in with the NFC clubs, justifying it by noting that the team was in the old National Football League before it merged with the American Football League. A better reason is that the Steelers won four Super Bowls in years the market went up. So there’s no theory, or publicity, unless Pittsburgh is lumped in with the NFC.

Nothing like a good asterisk to make a theory work. If the Bengals win this year and the market rises, presumably the Super Bowl stock market theory will be amended to say that the Dow Jones industrial average also rises whenever the winning team has a left-handed quarterback named “Boomer” or a dancing running back named “Ickey.”


Still, the idea that the stock market is affected by a seemingly unrelated event such as a football game is an intriguing one that merits more study. Are there other, less publicized stock market theories waiting to be discovered? The answer is yes. Here are some of them:

1. The Geraldo Rivera factor:

There’s no disputing that bad markets start where Geraldo leaves off. The Dow falls an average of 13 points in the first day of trading after Geraldo stars in a major television event.

A look at market statistics shows that the Dow fell following five of seven major Geraldo programs over the past three years, beginning with a 24-point drop in 1986 after he burst, on live television, into Al Capone’s empty vault in a Chicago hotel basement.

Most recently, the market suffered an 8-point drop in November after Geraldo’s nose was broken during an on-camera brawl involving right-wing “skinheads.” The largest single drop was a 101-point drubbing the market took last year following an interview with mass murderer Charles Manson in which Geraldo said: “You’re a murderer and a dog, Charlie.”

2. The George M. Steinbrenner III indicator:

The market nearly always falls when New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner sacks a manager other than Billy Martin. When he fires Billy, it rises.

In the eight times George dumped a manager other than Martin, the Dow fell an average of 3 points the following day. The largest drop was in August, 1982, when Gene Michael was sacked for the second time.

Martin has a more positive effect on the market. In the five times Steinbrenner has dismissed him over the past 11 years, the Dow has climbed an average of nearly 5 points the following day.

3. The Yo, Adrian Theory:

It’s clear Sylvester Stallone has the most positive effect on the market. Every year a Rocky or Rambo movie is released, the market surges.

The Dow gained an average of 173 points during the years the four Rocky movies were released, beginning with a 152-point gain after the first one in 1976. The biggest gain was 335 points in 1985, the year of Rocky IV.

Rambo markets are even stronger. In years when Sly stars as the adventurous Vietnam veteran, the market surges an average of 245 points. The biggest gain: 335 points in 1985, the year Rambo went back to Vietnam in Rambo II.

By comparison, the “Feeling Lucky, Punk?” theory of the stock market shows that the Dow finished higher in four of the five years in which Clint Eastwood starred in a Dirty Harry film. On average, the market advances 95 points when Eastwood plays San Francisco cop Harry Callahan.

4. The Presidential Memoirs Influence:

The market performs the worst when Richard Nixon publishes an autobiographical book. In 1978, the year “RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon” was published, the market fell 26 points. Likewise, when “Six Crises” was released in 1962, the Dow skidded 79 points.

Other presidents fare better. Jimmy Carter’s “Keeping Faith: The Memoirs of a President,” was published in 1982, when the market climbed nearly 172 points.

The market also rose 34 points in 1979, the year “A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford,” was released. (But perhaps more telling is that the market fell in 1978, the publication year for “Seminar in Economic Policy with Gerald R. Ford.”)

Ronald Reagan’s memoirs are expected to be out soon now that he’s left office. If the past is any indication, the market should respond well. In 1965, the year his “Where’s the Rest of Me?” autobiography was published, the Dow rose 95 points.

Peter F. Johnson, a Times research librarian, contributed to this column.