The Gisele Effect: Do celebrity relationships sink the success of athletes?
College Contributor Network
I believe a lot of irrational things as a sports fan. I believe that if I start following a game on the Internet, I need to stick to that outlet the whole way through because every time I switch to the television, something horrible happens. I believe that if I wear my Aaron Rodgers jersey and my "Jesus Loves the Packers" t-shirt at the same time, the team will have good luck (if I wear just one or the other, they have no effect). I believe in the Madden curse too (RIP Shaun Alexander). Indeed, I am really superstitious, but if you sat me down and held an intervention, chances are I would probably let go of all that. There's one thing that I would never break on, however, and that is the Gisele Effect.
This wild theory, in short, describes how high-profile celebrity relationships make athletes play worse. This is a pattern, this makes sense, and this is totally legit. Give me a chance here.
The conspiracy theorist in me resurfaced last Thursday, when actress Olivia Munn doomed the Green Bay Packers to failure against the Bills on Sunday. Munn, girlfriend to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, gave an interview on Bravo and discussed some very intimate details about the couple's sex life. It seemed very impromptu, it seemed very unwarranted, and it seemed highly inappropriate. The interview was really the first thing to thrust the Munn-Rodgers relationship into a negative public light, and just like that, the Gisele Effect took hold.
Rodgers played one of the worst games of his career Sunday, posting the first zero-TD, multiple-INT game of his career. He was off-target all day, appearing uncharacteristically out-of-sync with his offense, and missing guys left and right. Sure, some of that is certainly due to the Bills' top-ranked pass defense, but it isn't out of the question to claim that Rodgers was a little distracted by his girlfriend's contentious comments. That had to be in his head, right? Am I crazy?
Maybe, but I have more evidence that the Gisele Effect is real. Let's start with the woman who gave this phenomenon its name: Gisele Bundchen. Model. Superstar. Wife of Tom Brady. Patriot killer?
Consider this: Tom Brady started dating Gisele around Christmas of 2006. Prior to their relationship, he boasted a 10-1 playoff record and three Super Bowl titles, with the proven consistency and reputation to have a shot at many more championships. Since December of 2006? An 8-7 playoff record and no titles. Woah. What happened? The Gisele Effect happened.
Another example: Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson (truly, a classic). They dated from November of 2007 to July of 2009, and Romo went 3-5 in December and lost his only playoff game. Romo's 2009 post-breakup season? He ended the year with three wins in a row and won his first playoff game.
Outside of football, we saw Alex Rodriguez's streak of celebrity relationships (Kate Hudson from 2008-09, Cameron Diaz from 2010-11) coincide with a batting average over those four years of .283 and a homerun count that never topped 35. His career 162-game averages in both of those categories are .299 and 41, respectively, and this is all coming off of an AL MVP campaign in 2007, just the year before!
Matt Kemp of the Dodgers also saw his numbers drop during his relationship with Rihanna. During the 2010 season his strikeouts went up 22-percent and his batting average fell from .297 the year before to just .249. After the pair's breakup in December of 2010, Kemp would set career highs in 2011 for runs, homers, RBIs, and stolen bases. His batting average would go back to .324, and he would finish second in NL MVP voting.
So what's going on here? Well, first off, the answer is not that these women are detrimental to sports, or detrimental to athletes, or out to sabotage our favorite teams (hey Gisele, sorry I called you a "Patriot killer" earlier, that was out of line). However, it is clear that public relationships put a definite strain on our sportsmen and sportswomen.
Look at Tiger Woods. Had a "great" relationship with Ellen, kept their marriage life largely out of the public sphere, and then as soon as all of the cheating came forward and he was on the front page of the New York Post for 20 days in a row, his golf game imploded. Ever since, he's been fighting to stay relevant.
Aaron Rodgers had been dating Munn throughout all of his success this season, but as soon as their relationship was actively talked about on social media and invaded on television, he turns in a bad game. Relationships themselves are not damaging to athletes -- plenty have seen success while dating successful people. The problem would have to lie somewhere else . . . somewhere close by . . . somewhere here.
Who reports on these relationships anyway? Journalists. Who takes those hand-holding pictures and gives those prying interviews? Journalists. Broadcasters. The collective monster known as "the media." Gisele and Munn and Hudson and all the rest want their partners to be successful. Maybe the problem is us. Digging too deep. Vying too hard for the scoop. Being too quick to make snap judgments or wild accusations or . . . propose hare-brained theories.
Maybe we have to change the way we do things. Maybe we have to remember that behind the two pretty faces and two perfect bodies are two real people. I don't want to know about my neighbor's sex life. Why should I want to know about that of Munn and Rodgers?
It is natural that our relationships distract us from our jobs. It happens to you, me, and the sports figures we see on TV. Is there a correlation between a high-profile, celebrity relationship and a dip in performance? In some cases, certainly, but it would be wrong to generalize.
Munn should not have answered such a personal question, but the reporter should not have asked it. The click-happy Internet is going to pounce all over that, and it is unfair to ask public figures to tread so lightly. The Gisele Effect might be real, but the Paparazzi Effect might hit even harder.
If we as fans want our favorite teams to be successful, we should not hope for a breakup. Really, we should just butt out.
Tyler Daswick is a junior at Northwestern University. He is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, Indiana Jones, and writing stories about cowboys and banditos. Follow him on Twitter: @AccordingtoDazz