A recent study in Munich, Germany, found the number of heart attacks and similar cardiac-related emergencies doubles whenever that nation’s soccer team plays in the World Cup matches.

Although Europeans tend to get a little more worked up than the average American football fan — I don’t think the term “armchair quarterback hooligan” will ever become part of the English language — the fervor with which some football fans watch the big game can do more than just strain their vocal chords or frazzle their nerves. In the worst case scenario, it can kill them.

According to Dr. Gerhard Steinbeck of Munich’s Ludwid Maximilians University (which sounds difficult to pronounce, so it can’t possibly be a made up university), “It is reasonable to think that the number of heart attacks and similar cardiac emergencies would happen during America’s Super Bowl.”

Emotional stress, coupled with lack of sleep, overeating, and an overall sedentary (and typical American) lifestyle all contribute to poor cardiac health — compounded with junk food, cigarettes and alcohol, all are factors which can potentially trigger cardiac “events” under extreme emotional stress, Dr. Steinbeck reported.

Granted, few Rogers County residents are as emotionally invested in watching the New England Patriots and New York Giants fight it out as, say, the Cowboys and the Sooners. Still, the principle applies to both — bad habits and an inactive lifestyle mixed with sudden, extreme bursts of stress or activity can induce irregular heartbeats, cardiac events and even spontaneous human combustion.

(OK, the jury may still out on the spontaneous human combustion thing, but then, Dr. Steinbeck has never seen my Aunt Rita watching the Sooners play a game — the less said about that, the better)

Here’s the thing:

While I can hardly claim to be a huge sports fan, I can respect the ... exuberance with which some people get behind their favorite teams.

Having a passion for something, whether it’s the arts or the people around you or a sport is what enriches our existence. It adds life to our lives. However, we shouldn’t let those passions endanger the very lives they’re enriching.

I’ve no doubt that there will be Super Bowl parties and after-parties, and after-after-parties lasting late into the evening (employers be ready for workers to call in “sick” Monday), and the shared excitement and fellowship will certainly liven up an otherwise lazy Oklahoma Sunday.

Even the term “Super Bowl” has taken on a meaning larger than the competition itself.

Every sport has its own Super Bowl, from baseball’s World Series to hockey’s Stanley Cup to soccer’s World Cup.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s not a Super Bowl equivalent of cow-chip tossing, potato-sack racing and tobacco spitting somewhere (which I’d just as soon not see covered by ESPN). It’s less likely that any of those events would induce a heart attack.

“What was your husband doing when he had his heart attack, ma’am?”

“He was ... (sob) ... watching the World Competition of Long Distance Watermelon Seed Spitting ... I told him not to get so upset about it.”

All I’m really endorsing here is this: When watching Sunday’s Super Bowl, enjoy every minute of it — savor the company you’re with, the competition between two of the sport’s best teams and dig the half-time show (go, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers).

But no matter how badly things might go for your team, take it all in stride and don’t get too worked up, especially if you’re like me and you’re one of the people who don’t get enough sleep or exercise — like my roommate in college used to say, “I’m in no shape to exercise.”

Even a Super Bowl championship isn’t worth a trip to the hospital, unless you’re one of the athletes competing in it; then it might be worth a certain amount of risk.

Consider this: A 30-second commercial spot during the Super Bowl is at a record $2.7 million this year — $2.7 million for 30 seconds.

To break that down, $2.7 million for 30 seconds translates to $90,000 a second — $90,000 a SECOND.

If I worked here for the next five years without spending ANY of my paychecks, by the year 2013, I might be able to buy just enough time during the Super Bowl to say “Hi ...” and that’s it.

Now, THAT is enough to give anyone a heart attack.