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I Loathe Fantasy Football

August 12, 2017

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Fantasy Football is perfectly named. It’s surreal to the point of fun.

Football has 11 players on defense and 11 players on offense.

Fantasy football has one defensive entity that is judged by its stats – like a quarterback rating for for a whole NFL team’s defense.

Fantasy football evaporates 5 players on offense: all the linemen. The rest play for any team and have only the computer-aided stats to distinguish them.

There is no coach, no special teams, no character, no emotion, no reality other than stats. It’s a fantasy of those who follow anything, but do not have to understand it. Strategy, emotion, group love is the essence of sport, especially football – those are not found in the Fantasy version of football.

You just combine stats and make a “team” then you see how that does as the stats create their own stats. It’s very separate from the sweat, sound, noise and fear that is down there on every field. It’s literally a Safe Space of no consequence.

“Be a Boss!” declares NFL hype on the promotion of their Fantasy Football machine. You are not a player but you are their “Boss”. Now it’s just fun, it’s a way to go deeper into a natural affinity with football. But it’s a sham, and a misrepresentation.

Focusing on names, numbers, measurable is the antithesis of sport. The unspoken connection, irrational hope, deep interpersonal devotion is the unseen cause of those numbers, and in their absence, the reason those numbers are missing. Fantasy Football assumes all is equal, and absurdly reduced to sound bytes.

I do not conflate – you can chew the fun of Fantasy and yet walk the talk of being part of a transformative dedication to the sport: but for many it’s substitutional.

Many of my friends truly believe they display a deep connection with football by being able to know stats and guess results. Football is raw pain and consequence: stats are the froth atop its essential humanity. Fantasy Football is a distraction from the humanity that lives in the sport.

And within that human side there is the intellectual reality of strategy. The great stats, or the absence of stats are due to how these names are actually used on the field. I know great pass catchers receive fewer passes from not great quarterbacks – runners cannot run with ineffective linemen. The gifted Fantasy player will note that those tangibles are part of who you choose as your player. But the stats ignore their group generation – so Fantasy Football lives in sad ignorance of what makes the sport what is loved by those who played, coached or know the game.

But if you never played, had a loved one who played, let alone coached, the idea you could sense a connection to anything but the game of Fantasy Football itself is a sad delusion. The problem is pain hurts. Working out to get in shape is hard – it makes you sore, even injured. It controls your life. Then if you compete in practice, you hurt on the first contact. And you can be deeply embarrassed at your inadequacy. It hurts.

Games can hurt more. Strangers see you. You unadequacies wreck others’ hopes. Of course success elevates, inspires, validates. But, in sports, in music, in anything, real competition means real failure as well as success. Now ESPN will have a YouTube/Punk’d version of the consequences for the losers in Fantasy leagues: absurd simulated tortuous imposition for the lowest point getter in a group – the “Fantasy Fail” moment..

Maybe it’s just the inadqucy of life in a virtual, social media world, where I type this alone after working out alone, connecting with others alone that leaves so many with just a simulation of a larger connection. Maybe the overt substitution of pretending to be an epic loser, of being a “Fantasy Fail” on ESPN, gives a taste of the risk and pain football mandates – without the danger of actually being hurt.

Is being whole and inconsequential better than being broken and in the game? For most, I guess it is…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Pat Baldo permalink
    August 12, 2017 5:55 pm

    Well said; thank you. I, too, loathe it.

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