The Demise of the American Football Fan

Starbucks is cranking out pumpkin spice lattes, the school buses are clogging the roadways, and that means grown-ass men all over the country are geeking out harder than even the biggest comic book fan over a Marvel movie’s post credits scene. What can make even the “bro”-iest of “bros” bury themselves into their laptops, cellphone text alerts, and obscure deep dive twitter feeds? Why, Fantasy Football of course! Now who would ever poke fun at spending endless hours of time, mostly in front of electronic screens, to play a fantasy game, besides of course some of Fantasy Football’s biggest proponents? Truth be told, I’ve played Fantasy Football and Fantasy Baseball. I’ve played head to head leagues and I’ve played roto leagues. I’ve played public leagues. I’ve played one day leagues. I’ve done auction drafts, snake drafts and auto drafts. I’ve won leagues. I’ve lost leagues. I’ve won leagues, and gotten screwed out of the prize money. Now, however, I don’t play fantasy at all, and here’s why.

Image from BustedTees.
Image from BustedTees.

First and foremost, and I want to make this point really clear, you are the only person who cares about your fantasy team, your draft, trades you’ve made, or how many points Josh Gordon needs to score for you on Monday night. Talking about it will annoy your friends.  Talking about it will definitely annoy your wife. Unless of course either of those people are in your league, then talking about it with each other will be savagely annoying to anyone else in the room.

Second, Fantasy Football taints your fandom.  Everyone says the first rule of Fantasy Football is allegiance to your team. You root for your team above all else. If you’re a Packers fan, the Packers winning on Sunday should be your primary concern, and everything else that helps the Packers reach the Superbowl should come second. Fantasy Football should be a distant third, but, you know how it is, Lions, Bears and Vikings tend to find their way onto your dumb cheesehead team. Now you kind of have this pull deep down that has skewed your perspective on things and you say completely inane stuff like, “I want the Packers to win , but I want Jay Cutler to throw for five touchdowns.”

Image from snorgtees
Image from snorgtees

Third, much like the morons I see at Disney World watching the fireworks through a 4 inch I-Phone screen, I just got tired of watching my Sundays via an app, or even worse, attending a game but always checking in on my phone. Just as those Disney dads can simply go home and YouTube a professional video of the exact same fireworks display, I can wait until games are over to check scores, but I could never stop myself.  

Fourth, winning a Fantasy Football league doesn’t do what you want it to do. Sure, usually it’ll win you some dough, or bragging rights, or corny trophy, but why do you really play Fantasy?  You play because you want to prove you know more than your buddies. That you’re smarter, that you’re more cunning, that you can buy low and sell high. The problem is that Fantasy Football relies a lot on luck, more so than the other Fantasy games. Don’t take my word for it, here’s an except from a 2010 WSJ article on the subject:

“Dr. Taleb, a best-selling literary essayist, writes and lectures on the idea of luck masquerading as perceived genius. By that theory, fantasy football is a game based on the whims of coaches who hide pertinent facts about the game, players who can fall to injury with the slightest twist of an ankle and a slew of other unpredictable elements. Skill certainly plays some part, but very little of it belongs to the fantasy owner.

If you want to guarantee a fantasy football title, Mr. Taleb says, the best bet wouldn’t be to read every magazine, crunch numbers all night or befriend a fantasy football expert. Instead, he suggests treating the game like a scratch-off lottery ticket and shopping in bulk: A player serious about winning a title should create 100 teams in 100 different leagues with 100 different combinations of players. Mathematically, you have some shot to win at least one title.

“So to one group,” he says, “you will look like a genius.”

Finally, there are way too many Fantasy players out there taking the game way too seriously who play in leagues with less than 10 teams that snake draft. You’re effectively playing high stakes Candyland. Good luck getting through that molasses swamp.

Overall, I’d rather hang out with someone who isn’t playing Fantasy than someone who is. I know that when watching a game, we’ll be in the moment together. Our loyalties will be unquestioned. Our knowledge will be measured by picking against spreads and calling underdog outright wins. Please, don’t let me stop your fun, by all means join a league, but I don’t want to be the one drying your tears in late December when Colleen from the office has your league sewn up with her autodraft team.

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