Incredibly, it looks like the immovable object and irresistible force that is the NFL may actually be finding a way to agree with each other, making a football season this year more likely. And if football is back on, then expect tens of millions of distracted workers over the next 5 months because fantasy football is back!
I can’t remember exactly when I first was “sucked in” to the world of fantasy sports, but it’s blindingly obvious to me now why I took to it so well. I’m an avowed lover of baseball, especially in those days when The Sporting News was a real newspaper. Filled with stories from every major league hometown and including every single box score (big enough to read, unlike today), along with a multitude of statistical information for a hardcore fan to salivate over (though not on the paper itself…water and newsprint don’t blend too well). Mix in a deft mind with numbers (remember: half accountant, half creative) and you have the perfect storm of characteristics for fantasy sports.
Oddly enough, it was football that first snagged me into fantasy, though I can’t recall why. Soon after, I got caught up in baseball and I was lost. Awash in all those statistics and comparisons, multiplied by daily transactions…ah, a statistical nerd’s bubble bath!
And yet, I was never fully “assimilated” into fantasy sports as much as simply enjoying the ride. In the roughly 10 years I’ve been involved with leagues, only once did I join one that required (and paid out) money. That was a particular eye opener to me about how serious people were about this thing and why I always kept my distance from “serious” players. It also makes for a tale for the bulk of today’s post.
During my time at my last company while I was still in Accounting, I worked with a young woman (about 10 years younger than me) who also had graduated from the University of Florida. That ultimately led to getting together with her and her husband (another Gator) and more Gator grads during a variety of college game days.
A few years into our time together, she said her husband had asked her to find out if I played fantasy football. Apparently one of the managers in their regular league was not going to be able to play that year and he wanted to know if I could step in.
Until then, I had simply been playing the free leagues online and one “keeper” league (non-pay). By now, I was heavily into fantasy baseball, so football became less important to me, although with only 1 game a week, it was also a lot less commitment. I told her sure and that’s when life went weird.
For them, fantasy football was more than an idle pasttime on the computer. It was a real event, combining long-standing friendships and competitiveness with a whole lot of trash talk. I was told they actually held a live draft. Not online, but at my friends’ house! Oh, and there was a buy in. I don’t remember how much, I think maybe only $60, certainly not more than $100.
The day I got there, I brought some food along. Good thing, because everyone brought some food or drinks. And there was this huge classroom sized board with all the names and rounds listed. And stickers to put the players up on the board; color-coded, no less, so you knew that player “x” was a wide receiver because he was purple (or whatever). And these guys had magazines and charts and articles and stuff. I had four pages I had printed off from my usual online game…basically just a list of players ranked by whatever arbitrary process that company used.
Everyone got two minutes to make their choice. Anyone who took longer than two minutes had to take a shot glass of some nasty stuff. Since I didn’t take the league that seriously, I never had a problem finishing in the allotted time; good thing, since I don’t drink alcohol. Better thing, since the expressions on the faces of those who didn’t make the timer suggested no one invested much money on the quality of the punishment.
Fantasy sports taught me interesting things about human behavior. Like, how some people would actually root against their own real life teams in hopes their fantasy teams would win. Or how the existence of a money payout could put an edge between friendly conversations (something I had seen in bowling leagues I had been part of many years before). And for me, well, I kept my personal rivalries intact: no matter how much it might help my team, I refused to add any player who was on the New York Jets. A man has to stand up for his principles, now.
Well, we all know how these things turn out, right? My team was pretty much a stinker for about half the season and then, because of a couple lucky pickups off the waiver wire, I end up making it all the way to the championship game and – you guessed it – won the whole kit and caboodle. Heh. Nice payoff and, if you had any doubts how seriously they took this thing, they had a life size trophy that they engraved the name of each season’s winner.
I never got invited back (I was just an interim, after all), but my name is on that trophy forever…a one hit wonder!
Perhaps it’s my departure from that bastion of online gaming, the corporate working world, but this year I actually didn’t join up for any fantasy baseball. If it weren’t for my long-standing membership in two leagues, I would probably drop fantasy football, too. Maybe it’s the writing. Maybe it’s just I’ve finally tired of the shtick. Whatever the case, it’s possible this will be my last year of fantasy sports altogether.
And maybe this year, my real life hometown football team can make me think getting to the playoffs isn’t just a fantasy.