No, Mexican Soccer Fans Didn't Just Trigger An Earthquake

The media went looking for an earthquake and unleashed an avalanche of bullcrap.
No, Mexican Soccer Fans Didn't Just Trigger An Earthquake

As you're probably aware -- mostly because everyone is reporting on it -- soccer (or "football" as they erroneously call it) fans in Mexico celebrated a match-winning goal by triggering an artificial earthquake with their crazed jumping and partying. Or at least, that's what SIMMSA, the country's earthquake monitoring team, believes. And who's going to argue with those guys?

We are, because "artificial earthquake" is a super-BS term for what the fans caused.

As SIMMSA later clarified, the quake didn't register on the Richter scale, wasn't felt by anyone on the surface, and didn't affect the area's geology in any way. Their sole justification for calling it an "earthquake" was that the fans created subsurface vibrations that SIMMSA's seismographs were able to register, just like earthquakes do. As explanations go, that's like saying because you set off your fire alarm at 2 a.m. by drunkenly trying to fry bacon, your blotto ass started an "artificial wildfire." It's technically correct, but it relies on such tortuous wordplay that SIMMSA should be hauled in front of the Hague for crimes against language.

It's not just SIMMSA. If the media is to be believed, sports fans are the closest thing we have to real-life supervillains, what with how they've successfully triggered earthquakes in Barcelona, Leicester, Peru, Seattle, Napoli, Ohio, and Louisiana during the infamous 1988 LSU-Auburn showdown. As a research scientist at ICTJA -- the institute that recorded the fanquake in Barcelona -- pointed out, however, any major event that takes place in the vicinity of a seismograph is guaranteed to "create" an "earthquake," because big events generate a ton of vibrations. In Mexico, for instance, the seismographs that recorded the "earthquake" were located in the same places that the soccer fans were gathered, so there was no way that they wouldn't pick up a disturbance.

So why do journalists keep making this comparison? We're not sure, although we have a hunch that it's because "fans create earthquake" makes for more exciting copy than "sports match goes well, if you're one of those types who cares." Besides, it's not like there are any actual earthquakes to report on-

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CBS News


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