I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.
~ Dr. Seuss
The cell phone vibrated against my leg as I sat watching ushers move down the center aisle of the sanctuary carrying plates for its tithes and offerings. It was communion Sunday – a service that often had a life of its own slipping past the expected time of dismissal. I was restless as I saw the LED light flashing through my thin wool slacks. If I could just glance at the…
A “don’t even think about it” Puritan laser penetrated my temple as I shifted ever so slightly away from my disapproving spouse to see if I could work my phone up to the top of my pocket. I was in the last seat of the aisle with a perfect defilade from everyone except my partner who was determined to save me from damnation – and winning my game this week.
I had travelled all week and had been unable to complete my fantasy football roster. I was waiting for text updates on certain injured players – attempting to gain any insights from the NFL hot stove of experts who would recommend a starter. One of my running backs had suffered a concussion the previous week and I was desperate to find out if he had passed his cognitive readiness tests. I was undecided between two receivers and was trying to find out if a certain all-Pro corner would be returning from injured reserve to defend one of my two wide-outs. Earlier in the week I had begun following two of my players on Twitter hoping I might decipher their castrated missives to divine whether they were going to start.
It is called Fantasy Football because those who play it live in a parallel reality. At times, I prefer this reality to my real one. To enable my addiction, the NFL launched Red Zone, a single station airing only seven hours a week on Sundays — dedicated to tracking every score across fourteen games. On any given Sunday, a total of 60 touchdowns might be faithfully recorded and shared with viewers while a masthead of Fantasy Football statistics by position and player streams live across the base of one’s television. Just thinking about it makes me shiver with delight.
Each week, my fellow owners and I drown ourselves in statistical minutiae seeking any advantage the way a stock analyst might rummage through the footnotes of a 10-Q filing. If a player is a rookie, they want to know how fast he completed the three cone drill during the combine? What was his vertical leap? How fast did he run the 20 yard shuttle?
Part of FFL addiction is bragging rights. In a time of political correctness, we are less courageous at home or at the office and less inclined to dish insults or speak our minds. Men need outlets. Each week, I look forward to abusing my fellow owners for their missteps that may lead them to start an injured player or not understand the historical significance of how travel and time zones effect west coast teams that travel east to play away games.
When a fellow owner’s player is arrested in a pink ballerina outfit, driving the wrong way on an interstate in a car loaded with cans of Red Bull stolen from a Green Bay convenience store, it compels me to write my fellow owner a note of condolence. I’m sure he is feeling disappointed in his player and like a parent, only wants what’s best for his 22-year-old wide receiver making $22M. The fact that the player brought to the NFL a rap sheet longer than Eminem, and was acquitted for manslaughter while in pre-school is of no concern. Can he score touchdowns?
A recent NYT op-ed by CD Carter complained that Fantasy Leagues dehumanize players – essentially turning them into cattle to be bought and sold without regard for them as people. The author was deeply concerned. “Instead of a young running back on the verge of a contract that would mean financial security for his family, we see glistening yards per carry. Instead of an aging quarterback making one last run at glory, we see completion percentages and red zone efficiency.”
Uhhh, yeah. I think he just summed up the entire universe of real franchise owners. If you think my lens is a tad jaundiced to the dehumanizing world of professional sports, try looking at players through the eyes of the media, owners hungry for a return on multi-million dollar contracts and coaches whose livelihoods depend on those dehumanizing factoids like completion percentages on third downs, yards after catch and a young man’s probability to avoid arrest for making sexual advances toward beer cart girls at off-season golf tournaments. Alas, there is no room for delicate sensibilities in either the real or imagined NFL. It’s brutal, degrading and dehumanizing — and then there is a bad side.
I realize some Fantasy Leagues can get really out of hand. One could argue the credit default market was essentially an unregulated financial fantasy league where buyers and sellers were promising to indemnify one another based on whether a third-party debt holder paid or defaulted on loans. That fantasy league turned out to have no commissioner and be all too real – ending with taxpayers, Lehman and the stock market taking a helmet to helmet hit on the chin.
Other fantasy leagues can get downright bizarre. Consider About2Croak.com – the too close for comfort fantasy league where you get points if your celebrity dies during that particular year. You pick 25 celebrities and get points based on a system that subtracts the dead celeb’s age from 150. Obviously, your portfolio must include a few sure bets like Betty White but you get more points if a dark horse celeb like Miley Cyrus or Lindsay Lohan choose to steer their Bentley into a telephone pole. Yes, it’s sick but hey, that’s why I like it. It is Schadenfreude on steroids. It’s not enough to revel in other’s misfortune or death, you want to profit by it. Wait, that’s what the insurance industry is for…
Sometimes you need to retreat into a world of fantasy. If medicating your difficult day with M&Ms and Manhattans does not move the needle, it may require disappearing into a parallel universe where you can manage a stable of warriors and win fame with shrewd trades and cunning insights. You can be king or queen for a day and the master and commander of your private cabal of friends. In my case, it’s an eight man, breakfast club that convenes most weekends to commiserate and compare notes on life, sports and trends that make life worth living – like friends and Fantasy Football.
So I’m back in church and I am still distracted. Who should I start, Andre Johnson or Josh Gordon. Maybe I’ll sit Gordon and put in Chris Ivory as my flex player. What to do? I need a burning bush. Actually, I wish had Reggie Bush but someone else got him.
My minister reads a piece on world mission and discusses the riches of ancient times. Gold, silver, ivory…
Did he say, “Ivory”?
It’s a sign. I reach for my phone to add Chris Ivory of the Jets. My wife frowns and whispers.
“Put that away, right now.”
“I have to submit my line…”
She has a black belt in emasculating looks of disapproval. I roll my eyes and abandon the phone. I know better than to take on my commissioner.
After the service, my minister greets us. Knowing his passion for the Chicago Bears and the memory of my wife’s lingering disdain, I confessed my act of spiritual insubordination. He smiled and leaned in, “Go with Josh Gordon. Schaub is playing terrible and can’t throw the ball to Johnson. Besides Cleveland is up against Atlanta and they rank last against the pass. Both corners are injured.”
I pursed my lips and raised my eyebrows in approval. I knew I liked this guy. As I walked out to the Common Room. I heard him call behind me.
“But remember, God is a Bears fan.”