by Tommy Gimler (well, just the first paragraph) and thetop5five (pretty much the rest of it)
It’s a huge week for fantasy football dorks everywhere. Yup, even you. If you own a fake roster or two or six of real NFL players and root for garbage touchdowns just because you started Jason Snelling this week on “a hunch,” you’re a dork. We all are. But what is it about fantasy football that makes us ignore our wives and their purse dogs and make us come up with excuses to miss our kids’ soccer games? The “King of The Dorks,” The Top 5, stops by to break it down:
I have been playing fantasy sports now for a long time. Perhaps too long. Or perhaps not long enough. I remember back when I first started, people like Issac Bruce and Deuce McAllister were legitimate players. There was this kid in Minnesota who could out jump everyone, and he scored a lot of touchdowns. Some dude got drafted to the Chargers and had a really long, weird name so people just called him LT. And of course, people scrambled to pick up Tommy Maddox and Kurt Warner after Slash and Trent Green got hurt. We played for bragging rights back then and maybe like a $10 buy-in.
But, like the NFL itself, the game has changed drastically. In my keeper league, which is in it’s ninth season, people have played their entire careers while we fielded them in our league. Chad Johnson, Jamal Lewis, and Joey Harrington are all among those players. Dante Culpepper, Deuce McAllister, and Marvin Harrison were all first round picks when we started. And that was the day, sitting in my friend’s gazebo with pencil and paper for our draft, that I started the longest stretch of futility ever. I had only made the playoffs one season and I was bounced right away. But that didn’t matter. There was something more with that league. Something that, even though my team stunk of something awful, kept me involved and coming back.
Things like our live drafts we used to do. Back in 2007, we had our draft. But before that, my friend Stu and I took our then girlfriends to a water park. We told them that day that we had to be back for a draft. When the time came, we packed it up and headed back, much to the dismay of those two girls. God, they were so upset. But at the time, we were focused on one thing: that draft. That draft changed the fortunes of Stu’s team as he drafted Calvin Johnson and still haunts me, as I missed Adrian Peterson by one pick. In a league where you can keep talent from year to year, that hurt.
I was one pick away from this stud back in 2007!
Alas, this year, something has changed. I have finally had a stroke of luck and I am playing for the championship. This is my first time even advancing in the playoffs, much less making it to the final game. And, who of course am I playing, but the person that drafted Adrian Peterson right in front of me. It got me thinking why, this group of dudes, and people in general, play these “sports?” What makes these games so damn fun? Here is a quick list I came up with:
5. Gambling (money) – Playing fantasy sports is basically gambling. It is no more of a sure thing than roulette or bingo and you can’t really be any better at than a person could be at poker. Sure, you can play matchups and look at home/away splits, but when it comes down to it, sometimes Dennis Pitta will catch 2 TD’s to beat you. Nick Punto, in any game, could hit 2 doubles. Hell, Tim Duncan hits a three pointer every now and then. All you can really do is make your best educated guess as to what is going to happen. And when it works, you get the same high you do from rolling an 11 in craps or hitting black jack at the table. When it fails, you throw things against the wall and make spreadsheets showing how badly you got screwed! However, the end goal is the same for a lot of leagues: making money. Fantasy football allows you to do that in what people perceive to be a “safe” way of gambling. Fantasy football alone is estimated to be worth about $800 million dollars as an industry.
4. Better knowledge of the sport – I have often said that the best way to learn a sport or a league is to play the fantasy counterpart. There is no easier way to learn the players in a league and what is good and bad in each game. I have personally run two beginner leagues for fantasy sports. One was a football league this year. One was a baseball league last season in which almost no one played fantasy baseball before and most people in the league considered themselves to be “minor” fans of the game. What took place was a blossoming of knowledge for not only the fantasy world but also the real world. A girl that participated in the league developed a crush (as often times happens in fantasy sports regardless of your sexuality) on one of her players: Matt Cain. As a collective group, we ended up going to more baseball games and even started playing the sport in wiffle form. Same went for football. There is nothing better than hearing a person who “hated” football before, start talking about how Cam Newton is a bum and he would much rather have Drew Brees. Fantasy sports allows you to learn players on other teams and makes all games worth while. The Jets and Titans game yesterday was awful, but people watched it because they had Chris Johnson playing or, like me, started Tennessee’s defense against Mark Sanchez (thanks for those 5 turnovers, buddy), and that game decided who would be playing in the championship this week. Learning about the league and it’s players is super easy when you play fantasy sports.
3. Smack talk – Sometimes, there is nothing more satisfying that being able to beat someone with your fake roster of people. Some people will shout it from the rooftops and gloat. Some people post all over message boards laden with profanity. Some people keep a quiet calm and just sit and smile as the person they beat takes it out on a wall. No matter your form of smack talk, there is that element in fantasy sports that you just simply cannot replicate in other gambling scenarios. The reason is the head to head combat that you do in the league. When playing black jack, I am just playing for myself. But when I am playing fantasy football, there are repercussions for my wins and losses for everyone else in the league. And there is usually no better feeling than beating someone heads up when you know you are going to see them the next day…
2. Championship – Winning it all. This is a feeling I have not known since 2005 in any league. I have had a number of second and third place finishes, but out of 69 (hahaha, 69) teams managed in my lifetime, I have only won a league once. Eight second place finishes barely take the hurt out of losing. I feel sort of like the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990′s when they lost four Super Bowls in a row. But this year, I have a chance to win 2 leagues. It is a feeling that I have not gotten from playing other fake games, a feeling of accomplishment. I feeling of not being lucky, at least not in the same way as getting a 21 dealt to you. I mean, am I lucky that I started Jeremy Maclin that one game he did something? Sure. Am I lucky I got to face Doug Martin twice last week when he laid a complete egg? Of course. But this game makes you think that you have something to do with the outcome. That your coaching prowess helped you navigate the waters of uncertainty better than your opponent. And that leads to a sense of satisfaction. And earning the championship, proving you were the best in the league for a year, even if only for one year, is something worth striving for. Like Herm Edwards said, “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!”
1. Friendship – I have been in one league now for a long time. It is the league that I refer to as my keeper league. And although that league has changed in a number of ways, the people in it haven’t changed for a long time. Despite not one person living where we were when we started, and not one person doing the same thing, we have all stuck with this one thing. This league has been around longer than some of the men’s wives that they now have or once had. It has preceded the kids some of them have. A lot can change and happen over nine years, but for all the inconsistency in our lives, the one thing that has always been there is our league. For 18 weeks out of the year, we all start talking again. We catch up on each others lives and start the smack talk all over again. It is, of course, all in love. Having fantasy football, something that is so nerdy and certainly a little lame, has actually kept this group of 10 guys close when all other things interfere. I will wrap up this article with a great quote from a fantasy football analyst on Yahoo!:
“I also think it’s worth examining and re-evaluating why we play these games in the first place. I try to appreciate football on a weekly basis no matter how the results relate to my teams, rosters, picks and projections. And the community of fantasy football, on a macro and micro level, is a beautiful thing. We make friends in this game, we build relationships, we leave footprints. I hope I never get too far removed from that fact and perspective, and I wish the same to you.” -Scott Pianowski