Thursday, January 27. A news conference was called in Pasadena, California, the site of the forthcoming Super Bowl game, by a coalition of women's groups. At the news conference, reporters were informed that Super Bowl Sunday is "the biggest day of the year for violence against women." Forty per cent more women would be battered on that day. In support of the 40 per cent figure, Sheila Kuehl of the California Women's Law Center cited a study done at Virginia's Old Dominion University three years before. The presence of Linda Mitchell, a representative of a media "watchdog" group called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), lent credibility to the claim.

At about the same time a very large media mailing was sent by Dobisky Associates, FAIR's publicists, warning at-risk women: "Don't remain at home with him during the game." The idea that sports fans are prone to attack their wives or girlfriends on that climactic day persuaded many men as well: Robert Lipsyte of the New York Times would soon be referring to the "Abuse Bowl."

In this roiling sea of media credulity was a lone island of professional integrity. Ken Ringle, a Washington Post staff writer, took the time to call around. When he asked Janet Katz -- professor of sociology and criminal justice at Old Dominion, and one of the principal authors of the study cited by Miss Kuehl -- about the connection between violence and football games, she said: "That's not what we found at all." Instead, she told him, they had found that an increase in emergency-room admissions "was not associated with the occurrence of football games in general."

The shelters and hot lines, which monitored the Sunday of the 27th Super Bowl with special care, reported no variation in the number of calls for help that day, not even in Buffalo, whose team (and fans) had suffered a crushing defeat.

But despite Ken Ringle's expose, the Super Bowl "statistic" will be with us for a while, doing its divisive work of generating fear and resentment. In the book How to Make the World a Better Place for Women in Five Minutes a Day, a comment under the heading "Did You Know?" informs readers that "Super Bowl Sunday is the most violent day of the year, with the highest reported number of domestic battering cases." How a belief in that misandrist canard can make the world a better place for women is not explained.