To the victors go the spoils.
But to the fans of losing football teams go unhealthy eating urges.
And that conclusion from a study featured in the current edition of Psychological Science offers another way out of weight-gain guilt:
If you’re fat, maybe you shouldn’t put all the blame on your parents for starting you down the wrong nutritional path, on fast-food joints for hooking you on their fat-filled fare, or on climate change for limiting your exercise options.
Maybe you also should blame the football coaches and players whose futility makes you dangerously ravenous.
And if you’re a fat non-football fan, maybe you could even blame your corpulence on the disappointments others have inflicted on your family life, work life, love life, preferred political candidates and/or favorite baseball, basketball and soccer teams.
Back to that football-fan study: Its co-author, Professor Pierre Chandon of the INSEAD business school (a global enterprise affiliated with the Wharton School of Business and Harvard), cited this data from NFL cities: “One day after a defeat, Americans eat 16 percent more saturated fat and 10 percent more calories. But on the day after a victory of their favorite team, then it’s the opposite. They eat more healthily. They eat 9 percent less saturated fat and 5 percent fewer calories. There was no effect in cities without a team or with a team that didn’t play.”
That’s bad news for fans of bad teams. Yet it’s good news for the ongoing mission to lower South Carolina’s deadly high obesity rate.
Win games, save lives
No, our state doesn’t have an NFL franchise, though the hapless, deceptively named Carolina Panthers are based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But this week, for the first time, both of our big-time college football teams are ranked in The Associated Press’ top six. They could rise further if No. 4 Clemson beats South Carolina State and No. 6 South Carolina beats No. 11 Georgia Saturday.
So, apparently, could many South Carolinians’ capacity to resist tasty temptations.
From that study: “Supporters tend to perceive their teams’ failures and successes as their own, which has a measurable effect on their self-regulation abilities.”
Since the start of the 2011 season, USC is 23-4 and Clemson is 22-6. That on-field success presumably has enhanced their fans’ ability to “self-regulate” food intake — the best defensive strategy against tailgate treats like ribs, burgers, hot dogs and wings.
That makes colleges’ big football spending a savvy public-health investment.
Sure, USC head coach Steve Spurrier’s $3.3 million salary sounds excessive. So does that $1.3 million salary for Clemson assistant coach Chad Morris.
Then again, ponder the obesity-rate consequences if USC and/or Clemson fumble back into football mediocrity — or worse.
Then again, many Citadel fans have looked relatively fit by Palmetto State standards through a long run of general football futility. Though the Bulldogs went 7-4 last year, that was only their second winning season in the last 15.
And though The Citadel started this season with a 32-29 upset loss to Charleston Southern last week, it can bounce back at 6 tonight in the Southern Conference opener against defending league co-champion Wofford at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
Of course, many USC and Clemson fans lack the dietary discipline of Citadel men — and Citadel women.
Thus, high-calorie stakes (and steaks) annually ride on the biggest of big games for the Gamecock and Tiger faithful.
That final regular-season score determines whether they can crow — or must eat crow — for the next year.
Adding to that weighty load:
The Clemson-USC showdown again comes just two days after Thanksgiving, when many folks are still bloated from holiday feasting.
And as those whose blood runneth orange know all too well, the Tigers’ current four-game football losing streak to the Gamecocks has a bitter — and prolonged — aftertaste.
Yes, Clemson’s 2-1 overtime men’s soccer victory over USC on Monday night was sweet.
But hey, that was futbol, not football.
So if you saw this Clemson grad wallowing in self-destructive gluttony last December, don’t blame me for that unseemly spectacle and the unflattering — though temporary — weight gain it induced.
Blame Dabo Swinney.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.