Lessons from a former fantasy football junkie
Xs and Arrows
September 16, 2023
The NFL season has kicked off and the last few weeks I have had to hear about grown men and their "draft" parties. I am referring to their fantasy football drafts and the ongoing obsession many people still have with their "teams." I saw a great Instagram post recently that said, "Oh your husband's a doctor? Mine is the coach of an imaginary football team for the next few months." Think about it people, it rings true.
I am not knocking fantasy football (okay maybe a little), but I was once that guy. Working in sports radio we spent and wasted countless hours researching, drafting and managing our fantasy football teams. I had a work league with colleagues and listeners, I had a friends and family league, I was in leagues with strangers and friends halfway across the county. At one point about a decade or so ago I had as many as three or four teams each season.
Which then created a simple problem...I could no longer enjoy the game of football. I could not cheer for "my" on field team of choice because that quarterback was on the fantasy team opposite me, or I had the wide receiver on Team A in one league but the Team B defense he was opposing was also my defense in another fantasy league. It got to the point where watching the games were too stressful, too chaotic and just not enjoyable.
Then add in the management of people in your league, folks that trade too much, claim every player available on waivers, rebuild each week and simply take the fun out of it. One year I was the winner of my league and was due a handsome cash prize, except the fact that the league "president" skipped town while not only embezzling funds from his job, but taking our league purse with him. We found out later he would pay bills and buy things with our league funds each year and then spend the rest of the season paying back the "loan" he took out with our money. I am out here trying to draft a solid running back while "President Dirtbag'" of the league is booking a vacation on my dime. Welcome to the untold dirty secrets of fantasy sports.
It was one thing when I was in my 20's and did not have much of a career, life or anything else to do on the weekends but watch football, hope for a fantasy win and load myself up for the trash talk at work the next few days. But those days are gone, as is my desire to "draft" anything but the glass of pilsner that accompanies my football watching. I do not get it anymore, I guess I have outgrown it.
Plenty of people have not however as fantasy sports, specifically football, continues to be popular in the United States. Although some studies have shown that legalized sports betting in most states and "daily fantasy sports" games with cash prizes (gambling but not really), have replaced the desire to sit through a 19-week long season while waiting for a $400 payout and some bragging rights at the end of the year. Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other. I get to hear about someone's great "fantasy football win" or someone bragging about taking home a whopping $4 via DraftKings each Sunday.
Remember when kids used to brag about how strong their dads were? Can you imagine the school yard conversations now when Junior brags to his buddies about how good his dad's fantasy football team is while kicking it by the swing set? At least my kid will only tell stories about me yelling at the TV when my team makes a terrible third-down call like a proper American.
Part of me is kidding so please do not take this personally, part of me is slightly annoyed when I must hear about or see fantasy football stuff on social media. I will say this, if you are still one of those fantasy football geeks...er, I mean players, enjoy your season, do not let my criticism ruin your fun. But as a simple reminder, none of us care one bit about your fantasy wins/losses/drafts/ or league drama.
Unless the drama is really juicy, then I might be able to suspend reality long enough to engage.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter, broadcaster and athletics administrator. He advocates for the value of athletic competition and serves as the President of the Tehachapi Warriors Booster Club. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.