16 September 2012

The NFL, and Russia

I like American football (NFL).  It is a complex and rich sport.  The 2012 season has barely started, this Sunday marking this second of seventeen weeks.  Dynasties - team empires - are in the process of being made and dismantled every week of this football season.

Joe Montana and the San Francisco Forty-Niners:  An Empire Eventually Lost

 Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers:  An Empire In the Making

To the uninitiated, the American football game looks like bunch of big, fat, armored men colliding into each other at full speed while some egg-shaped object moves around the field in strange increments.  In fact, it is a microcosm of a military battle being played on the field, where strength, agility, precision, strategy, and tactics come together time and again over a one hour (play time) period to determine a winner.  Extrapolate this over a season, and the team coach is a general commanding an army to win most battles and, ultimately, the war in the Super Bowl.  Luck plays a part, but luck favors the prepared:  those who have the more potent combination of strength, agility, precision, strategy, and tactics.  Over a multi-season timespan, how dynasties (winning football teams) maintain their edge or lose is akin to how empires are born and eventually dismantled.  It many ways, football has analogs the arc of human history being played out in the sports arena.

Like human history, football has its ugly underbelly:  In pursuit of speed, mass, agility, and durability, players sacrifice themselves in search of glory.  Week after week their bodies are pounded and abused.  Some of those abuses come on the game day on the field; much of the affliction is inflected off the field through voracious diets and what is drug abuse:  Asides from the constant medication needed to mask over injury symptoms, players rely on performance enhancement drugs  to keep themselves worthy of a cut-throat league where only the best of the best play.

The end result, according to a 1994 study of 7,000 former players, is an average lifespan of 55 years while the average american male lives over 75 years.  In other words, the average NFL player lives one generation shorter than the average American.   This is an American human tragedy:  A few men, in search of glory, shorten their productive lives by a generation.

This being said, my current surroundings - Russia - forces me to ask the following question:  Why is a country, potentially as developed and advanced as the one that I am living in now, only affords a 64-year lifespan to its men?

Could it be that half of the men in Russia are NFL players?  Are there empires being won and lost?  Or are there other significant life abuses that sap the productive life of the Russian man out of him, at least 10 years before his time?


  1. You are surrounded by Moscow, not Russia. Just 100km away from Moscow (and any other major city) there's real Russia, with its 64 year lifespan for men...


  2. Booze abuse shortens a Russian male's life significantly!