Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I hope no-one minds a little thumb sucking today -- anyhow that's all you're going to get.

The rest of the world may already have noticed that Boston of late has become a paradise for aficionados of large men performing useless feats of physical prowess. I, shamefully, number myself among them. We have the Red Sox, World Series champions for the second time in 4 years; the Patriots, who are going through the NFL like a McCormack Reaper and are widely predicted to end the season undefeated; the New England Revolution are playing in the MSL championship game on Sunday -- and they need to win it just to get on the front page of the sports section. The Celtics, long a laughing stock, went out and acquired two superstar players in the offseason and now they are off to a 6 and 0 start. The Bruins are still mediocre but hockey is well on its way to second tier status anyway.

So, like it or not, I'm forced to pay attention to the role of sports in culture and society. I really haven't quite figured this out. What's it all about, anyway? Why do tens of thousands of people blow a week's pay to cram themselves into a giant salad bowl and yell at steroid abusers in plastic armor beating the shit out of each other?* Why is half of the reporting staff at a major metropolitan newspaper dedicated exclusively to these pointless endeavours? Why do people's spirits soar and crash with the thud of a ball to the right or left of an arbitrary yellow line, or the visual hallucinations of a cranky old man with a whistle?

When the Red Sox rolled down Boylston Street a couple of weeks ago in a caravan of WWII era amphibious assault vehicles (yes), we are told that a million people lined the sidewalks to yell and scream and faint for joy. The City spent tens of thousands of our tax dollars for police overtime, and closed down a major traffic artery for much of the day, but nobody would even have remarked upon it if they had spent 2 million dollars and closed down the whole city.

So what were the economic and public health consequences of the Red Sox winning the World Series? Well, it undoubtedly increased sleep deprivation, consumption of alcohol and empty calorie salty snacks, workplace and school absenteeism, and quite possibly acute cardiac and cerebrovascular events. The NFL has been moving all the Patriots games to night time, so we're getting the same effects every week now through January.

On the plus side, however. . . uhm. Hmm.

But you know, cities that don't have a major league sports franchise are second class, and their citizens feel deprived. I dunno. Can anybody explain it?

*I more or less stole that from somebody but I can't remember who.

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