Wed, Aug 28, 2013 06:45 PM
Football season is about to start, which means that fantasy
football season is about to start, which means that it's time once
again to convince ourselves that we too can be
Jonah-Hill-in-"Moneyball" sports geek experts - savvy, systematic,
You are a genius; you just had some unexpected injuries last year.
Not your fault.
Like every other boring white guy in America, I've spent way too
much time over the past decade playing fantasy football. I've
played with the same group of people since 2006, when, according to
Yahoo's archive, the best players on my team - which finished in
fifth place out of eight - were Larry Johnson and Carson
Every year, I did my research, drafted carefully, and spent the
next several months shuffling my lineup around and watching the
waiver wire. I think this seemed "fun" to me: harmlessly
competitive (it's a game of wits that's both trivial enough and
random enough that you won't ever actually worry that your friends
are smarter than you if you lose), vaguely social, excitingly
This year, for the first time, I realized that I had no idea whom I
should draft, didn't care, and was sort of glad not to care. I
rejoined my league anyway out of a sense of social obligation, but
I am secretly hoping that someone from my group will read this
column and somehow put me out of my misery.
I'm the only two-time winner among my fantasy football crowd, but
no one ever remembers this except me. I remind my friends all the
time, and still they refuse to recall that I won in both 2007 and
2009. One thing I realized about fantasy football a while ago is
that, when you think you're sticking it to your friends, they're
entirely focused upon their own players' disappointing
performances, not your triumph. Nobody credits anyone else for a
victory; when somebody other than you wins, it's all just luck.
(Which is true, which is why fantasy football is altogether a waste
In fact, I can't even remember who won our league last year, or the
year before that. Maybe I'm not actually the only two-time winner
after all... But I guess it doesn't matter. Fantasy football may be
the only intensive, months-long contest where the winner gains
nothing in esteem.
Often, when people write articles decrying the increasing
popularity of fantasy football, they make an argument about how it
not only creates conflicts of loyalty but contorts the whole
football-viewing experience in unnatural and diminishing ways, the
idea being that here is this complex gladiatorial epic playing out
on the gridiron, and we selfish nerds are too busy checking on our
computer screens whether Brandon Pettigrew has accumulated more
yards than Martellus Bennett to give the entire game and it's
outcome (win or lose) the investment it deserves.
It makes more sense to me if the opposite is in fact true - that
football is itself really dull, lame, intolerable on its own, that
it requires the motivating force of an interactive additive to
compete with today's superior entertainment options. Do you guys
remember what it was like to watch some pointless Browns-Bills game
in the pre-fantasy era? The sole reason you did it was that the
only other diversions available to you were a rerun of "Home
Improvement" and your pogs.
I think the NFL probably puts forth a terrible product the majority
of the time: ugly, meaningless, barely competitive games, played
mostly by incompetent backups because all the talented starters are
injured, narrated by the stupidest people on the planet. But the
minimal amusement that our fantasy leagues provide contributes just
enough stimulation to allow us to remain "huge football fans" - an
identity that in turn allows us to spend entire Sundays sitting
around and drinking beer. The NFL is a product whose popularity is
directly attributable to our collective boringness and laziness -
like any other popular product, which is pretty sad.
Anyway, maybe I can win again this year.