Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
It’s that time of year again, when millions of people sit down at their computers and decide
which 15 grown men they are going to adopt into their lives for the next few months.
For many, the choices they make in their fantasy football draft will dictate their drastic mood swings, from elation to depression, over the course of the fall. We will worship backups with breakout weeks, yet curse them just as fast when they fumble the ball or throw an interception. Some players will become immortal and revered, others despised for years to come because of their underperformance in one key week.
America’s obsession with fantasy football borders on the pathological. We obsess over our players. We study the professional, and even personal, merits of each player and follow their progress through the season with a feverish devotion that could be classified as stalking in some states. We research not only their ability to simply catch or throw a ball, but weigh their capacity to gain yards after the catch and go so far as to dissect their coach’s goal line offense to see if a given player is more likely to get that extra touch in the redzone.
Each league regards itself as an elite fraternity. Everyone you talk to will insist that their league is the most competitive, as if there aren’t a plethora of nearly identical leagues, in terms of rules and size, which utilize the same exact pool of players to compete against one another. It’s odd that fantasy football brings both competitiveness and camaraderie. We compete against one another not only for points but also the most creative, and preferably offensive, team name. Even though we despise whichever friend we are matched up against in a given week and curse their position to claim a player off waivers before us, we still have a feeling of togetherness. We talk trash throughout the offseason leading up to the draft, yet simultaneously laud the group of gridiron geniuses we have been able to assemble.
It’s interesting to look back over the last 10 years and see how fantasy football has become a cultural symbol for this generation. There’s even a hilarious show called The League that profiles the lives of a group of fantasy fanatics who will go to incredible lengths to execute a trade behind another member’s back, and who hold the “Shiva” championship trophy in higher regards than their wives. Fantasy football fans salivate at the opportunity to watch an entertaining show that they can relate to, since they too had the smarts to take Arian Foster over Adrian Peterson, cried when Victor Cruz came out of nowhere in week three, and almost fainted when Demarco Murray went on a five-week tear. Outside of the actual football games being played, fantasy football is leveraged for its promotional power. Razor makers and deodorant brands empty their coffers for an advertisement block on your league’s homepage and ESPN interrupts Sportscenter highlights of the real football games so Adam Schefter can share with us his tips on how to win in your self-constructed league.
But would it be weird if we applied the overarching structure of fantasy football to something else in our daily lives? What if we drafted professors at the start of each semester? We received a point for each time the teacher lets class out early and five if it’s cancelled altogether. Bringing cupcakes or some sort of snack to class for students is worth three points, while not forcing students to buy the latest edition of a book that has three new pages but is $300 more is worth 10 points. We followed the professors throughout their lunch breaks to determine their mood and if we should start them this week. And in order to gain an upper hand we paid for a membership to a blog to break down the relative strength of schedule as dictated by the course’s syllabus. Just as if you might swap your quarterback for your backup the week in which he plays the Ravens defense, you wouldn’t start your history professor around the time senior theses are being passed in.
There are innumerable reasons why we love fantasy football. Maybe it’s because it gives us the chance to live vicariously through humans of superior athletic ability. Perhaps its because it gives us a feeling of control that upper management must experience on a larger scale with their stacks of Monopoly money. It might just be because we like beating our friends at anything. But aside from sports, it would weird to bring into any other realm of life. So in this case, it’s not bizarre that I know my team is leading the league in off-season arrests. Why did I take Kenny Britt….