Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Welsh Grand Slams and Papal Health

I'm not in this year's Christmas BMJ (though I did have a piece published in last year's). This year's makes worrying reading for loyal Catholics. There is a study that looks at an urban myth:

In recent times, an intriguing urban legend has arisen in Wales: "every time Wales win the rugby grand slam, a Pope dies, except for 1978 when Wales were really good, and two Popes died"


Objective: To explore the perceived wisdom that papal mortality is related to the success of the Welsh rugby union team.

Design Retrospective observational study of historical Vatican and sporting data.

Main outcome measure: Papal deaths between 1883 and the present day.

Results: There is no evidence of a link between papal deaths and any home nation grand slams (when one nation succeeds in beating all other competing teams in every match). There was, however, weak statistical evidence to support an association between Welsh performance and the number of papal deaths.

Conclusion: Given the dominant Welsh performances of 2008, the Vatican medical team should take special care of the pontiff this Christmas.

Only a few more days to get through, Your Holiness. Wrap up warm.

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