Despite being blessed with a colourful name, Professor Christian End demonstrates that one can make significant discoveries by looking at unglamorous questions.
End, based at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, specialises in exploring the psychology of sports fans. In the year 2009 he blew past his professional competitors, who generally confine their interest to the living. Together with three colleagues, End published a study in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills called Sport Fan Identification in Obituaries.
They examined 1,101 obituaries in 19 American and Canadian newspapers. For each, they noted whether the deceased was identified as being a sports fan. (They give this example of a clear indicator: “She was a fan of the Red Sox”.) And they noted whether the individual was a man or a woman….
So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.