The Super Bowl Home Field Curse

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The Super Bowl Home Ground Curse or Host Curse is a limitation that is believed to affect teams in years when their home stadiums are picked to host the Super Bowl. It is one of three major afflictions connected with the Super Bowl, the others being the Super Bowl Winners Curse and the Super Bowl Losers Curse.

Since the beginning of the Super Bowl, no team has ever reached the grand event in a year when they were chosen to host. In fact, just five teams have ever made it to the playoffs in a year when they were hosting the Super Bowl. Generally, teams that host the greatest showpiece in American football experience decreased performance the season after. The NFL has many curses but this is perhaps the most stubborn of them.

Who has been Affected?

The first team to suffer the Host Curse was the Los Angeles Rams who hosted Super Bowl I. They also hosted Super Bowl VII. The combined record for the two seasons was 14-13-1, considerably lower than other seasons. The combined record for Super Bowl hosts since the beginning of the event all the way to 2014 was 281-383-4, for a win percentage of .417. In the year before hosting, the combined record was 315-339-4. Host teams have suffered 26 losing seasons in the year of hosting as opposed to 20 the year before. The number of winning seasons is just 12 during as compared to 20 in the year before.

The latest victims of the Host Curse apparently are the Arizona Cardinals whose home, the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale hosted Super Bowl XLIX. At the start of the 2014 season, the Cardinals played impressively, putting together a 9-1 record. However, the team lost their starting quarterback Carson Palmer to a knee injury and their season unraveled from there and they were reduced to mere spectators as the New England patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks in their backyard. Another recent victim of the curse is the Indianapolis Colts whose stadium hosted the 2011 showpiece.

Quarterback Peyton Manning, who had never missed a game in his NFL career, suffered an injury that kept him out for the entire season. The Colts plummeted to a 2-14 record from 11-5 the previous season. During the first decade of the Super Bowl, Miami hosted the event five times. In those years, the Miami Dolphins made the playoffs just once, yet they made consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl in 1972 and 1973, when they were not hosting. With ten Super Bowls, the city of New Orleans has hosted the Super Bowl more than any other city, followed by Tampa with four and San Diego with three. The three cities combined have hosted more than a third of all Super Bowls yet their respective teams, the Saints, Buccaneers and Chargers have lifted the Lombardi Trophy a mere three times.

Four teams have posted NFL worst records in the season in which they were hosting the Super Bowl. These are the Indianapolis Colts in 2011, the Houston Oilers in 1973, the New Orleans Saints in 1980 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1983. The Home Field Curse has also been implicated in the misfortunes of Sean Payton, then New Orleans Saints coach, who was suspended for one season due to the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal in the same year the Mercedes-Benz Superdome hosted Super Bowl XLVII.

Seven Super Bowls (VII, XI, XIV, XVII, XIX, XXI and XXVII) were played in stadiums that were not home stadiums of any team. Super Bowl XIX, hosted at the Stanford Stadium and Super Bowl XIV, played at the Rose Bowl in LA were the closest teams, in this case the San Francisco $49ers and the Los Angeles Rams respectively, have come to playing the Super Bowl at their home stadium.

Whatever the explanation, the Host Curse seems to hold water as opposed to other curses which are easily explained with simple regression processes. The probability of host teams amassing the number of losing seasons they have since the beginning of the Super Bowl has been calculated at just 7.69% which makes the scenario much more interesting.

Despite the very real possibility of an under par performance as postulated by the Host Curse, teams and fans consider hosting the Super Bowl a thing of honor and fight tooth and nail for the privilege. The financial windfall that befalls teams and cities hosting the event is undoubtedly the main motivation.