Skip to content

The Glorious Rise of the Pigskin Empire

January 19, 2022

Yes, it’s a weekend for NFL football and high-anxiety over Ukraine. Some things never change. From the Archives, a disturbing September 2014 hallucination about point spreads, Vladimir Putin, and—what?—pro football in Vegas

By Greg Blake Miller

IT IS SEPTEMBER, and all of world culture—the painters and poets, sinners, saints and stock traders— have turned their eyes to the gridiron. Since my childhood, the word has summoned up images of a heavy black metal device used for cooking chicken, sort of a proto- George Foreman Grill. Alas, the word actually means “beer.”

In Europe’s smallest nation-state, the red-capped cardinals of the Vatican sit down to watch Arizona play New Orleans, wondering how to aim their prayers, because as any NFL player can tell you, God answers all football prayers, and because it is difficult for a cardinal to choose between a Cardinal and a Saint. If only Notre Dame were in the NFL, all would be clear.

In the gilded hallways of Moscow’s Kremlin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev can be spotted, huddled close in a shadowed corner, heads tilted downward, voices low, discussing the Tampa Bay- Jacksonville spread before getting Barack Obama to bite on the Jaguars minus-4 1/2, with all of Ukraine hanging in the balance. We should undertake to resolve all of our conflicts at the betting window.

In Germany, Angela Merkel declares that the immense global power of football resides in its counterintuitive use of “foot” to describe a game played chiefly with the hands. In an attempt to restore the flagging popularity of soccer from Bonn to Berlin, she issues an edict that the beautiful game will henceforth be known as handball. This angers two greasy guys playing old-school handball against a graffiti-covered wall in 1970s New York City. No one else, however, seems to mind. Except for one little kid who likes to run around telling his friends, “I’ll cut you so low you’ll play handball against the curb.” He has 37 years to come up with a new put-down.

Back in the present, Obama is trying to figure out how he got hoodwinked into laying 41⁄2 on the Jags. Ukraine is now fully under Russian control. Putin’s first move is to legalize sports wagering in Odessa, where football odds quickly become more popular than handball odds. The Donetsk Destroyers of the new UFL will soon travel to Las Vegas to challenge Vince Neil’s new indoor/outdoor coed lingerie team, the Outlaw Ace Silver Gamblers. It is a marvelous attempt at pigskin diplomacy, but it falls short when Valeria Mazza intercepts Colonel Igor Strelkov’s Hail Mary pass to secure a last-second victory for Neil’s team. Putin immediately declares sanctions against all Las Vegas-produced fuzzy dice—an ineffective measure since fuzzy dice, as everyone knows, are made in China. The U.S., however, responds by banning pigskin exports to the former Soviet Union.

“This does not concern us,” Putin grins, cool blue irises sagging low in the eye socket. “Pigs, we have.”

“Nothing,” he says, “will deny our people their football. And by that I do not mean handball.”

Of course not. He means beer.

Originally published in Vegas Seven, September 11, 2014. Greg Blake Miller is the director of Olympian Creative Coaching & Consulting—personal training for the creative mind. Visit

Images and original page layout by Cierra Pedro for Vegas Seven.

For Miller’s less flippant essays about Russia and Ukraine here on, please see:
“Russia, Ukraine, and the Battle of Yesterday”
• “Harvest of Grievance”
“Diplomacy’s Final Exam”

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: