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Why American football players have black stripes under their eyes

Weird practices sometimes prevail overseas. In American football, for example, the leather is not round, but egg-shaped, and when it is kicked, it is through two poles without a lath and net. But that's not all. Anyone who recently watched the playoffs will have observed another common practice in the National Football League (NFL) by star quarterback Tom Brady: black stripes under the eyes. What is a bit reminiscent of the Indians from the old Winnetou films is called Eye Black in technical jargon - and is even said to have a use.

Paint or tape

The stripes under the eyes are supposed to prevent the players from being dazzled by glaring sunlight or floodlights. How it works: The black color is supposed to absorb the light and thus enable a better view - a kind of sunglasses light.

Deodorant roller or tape

However, it is not really certain whether it really works in this form. Because there are differences: There are deodorant rollers with the color, which consists of beeswax, soot and the paraffin also used in candles. On the other hand, some players just use a black tape that is stuck under the eyes.

According to a study by Havard University, only the color mixture and not the adhesive tape should achieve an effect. However, the study is also criticized, which is why there is no complete evidence.

Tom Brady as a prominent example

But that doesn't stop footballers from continuing to use the black stripes - like Tom Brady, who made it into the football final with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On February 7th (0:40 a.m. / Pro 7) he will play in the Super Bowl against defending champion Kansas City Chiefs with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Also common in baseball

The practice of painting or sticking stickers is not exclusive to American football. In baseball and lacrosse, too, players use the form of paint. Baseball icon Babe Ruth is said to have been one of the first athletes to use a black paste for the first time in the 1930s to protect themselves from sunlight. The first mixtures are said to have consisted of burnt corks.

Modern war paint

The journalist Paul Jake, who worked for the American sports broadcaster ESPN, found another explanation for the black painting. “Honestly, the real reason everyone uses Eye Black is because it looks cool. Like modern war paint. "

Björn Werner is not convinced of this

Björn Werner, one of the few German players who made it into the American professional league, sees it similarly.

“Originally it was used to absorb sunlight so that you were less dazzled. Most players use it nowadays because of the 'swag', i.e. more for fashion reasons. I don't mind if someone wants to do that, they should just do it - each to their own, ”explains the ex-professional and today's TV expert.

He himself wasn't convinced of it. “I tried it at the very beginning of my career, but then quickly stopped,” he explains when asked. The reason? “Because I found it rather annoying and it didn't bring any benefit to my game,” said Werner.

The fact is: The black stripes are mainly used in the US or have at most been adopted in the typical US sports in other countries. Neither European footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo nor rugby players stick or smear anti-glare protection under their eyes.

Duel of the star quarterbacks

The sports are not only comparable, they also take place in bright sunlight and floodlights. That could at least be a clue that the effect of the Eye Black should only be minimal, because in professional sport no advantage goes unused.

The quarterback duel in the Super Bowl between Brady and Mahomes could perhaps also bring clarity. In contrast to Brady, the latter does without the war paint.

Published in the Sport section