Unpacking The Superstition That Non-White Jerseys In The Super Bowl Are Bad Luck

All industries have superstitions. In health care, for example, many workers believe that if they utter the word "calm" or "quiet" or something adjacent, they've doomed themselves to an insanely busy shift, as Radius Staffing Solutions reports. For another, the invocation to "break a leg" originated as a superstition in the theater industry.

People who work in professional sports (to say nothing of the fans) also live and die by superstition, as Info Please reports. There's spitting on your hands before picking up the bat (baseball), and there's carrying coins in your pocket for luck in golf. Hockey players know not to leave hockey sticks crossed while not in use, lest they invoke some unspecified bad luck.

Football teams have their own superstitions too, including that there's an advantage to wearing white jerseys in the Super Bowl. According to NBC Los Angeles, the idea comes from a statistical fact. Out of the 56 Super Bowl games played from 1967 to 2022, the team in white has won 36 times. 

Root Root Root For The Home Team

NFL Football is one of the few major, professional sports where its championship game is played at a neutral site — which is to say, not necessarily at the facility where either team plays its home games. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is the league's desire to put the game either in a domed stadium or in a stadium in a mild climate where bad weather isn't likely to bedevil the game (or in some cases, both). Sometimes, that stadium choice is that of a team that plays its home games there during the regular season.

However, tradition and necessity both require one team to be the metaphorical "home" team, and one to be the metaphorical "visiting" team. As HITC explains, the winning teams of each conference alternate "home" and "visiting" each year. As in the case of all games not labeled "Super Bowl," the home team will wear their home jerseys — the "visiting" team their road jerseys. In 2023, for instance, the Philadelphia Eagles were slated to play the role of the "home" team, which meant the Eagles would don their usual green, according to NFL. And thus, says the superstition (and some math), their chances of winning dwindled simply due to the color of their jersey. 

History Favors The White Jerseys

According to the Boston Globe, as of the 2022 Super Bowl, the team wearing white won 15 out of the last 18 championships — or 83% of the games. That's not superstition, that's math. Of course, unless there's something about a uniform's color that has something to do with their victory on the field (as opposed to the athletes' skills), it's nothing but a coincidence. An extremely statistically-unlikely coincidence, but a coincidence all the same.

According to NBC Los Angeles, there have been two stretches of six Super Bowl wins in a row for teams in white so far this century. The first started in 2005 and lasted until 2011 when the Pittsburgh Steelers in white lost to the Green Bay Packers, but 2012 started another winning-in-white streak for several seasons until the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots while wearing their green jerseys in 2017. 

Statistically, though, for the Eagles, the superstition about white jersey wins still holds true because, according to the NFL website, prior to their win against the Pats, the Eagles played in two other Super Bowls in 1980 and in 2004 — wearing green both times — and lost, so you never know.