Finding Reality in Fantasy Football
I'm writing this post to talk about my addiction. This addiction isn't to alcohol or any form of narcotics. Rather, this addiction is to fantasy sports. Specifically, fantasy football.
I did my first fantasy football season back in 2007, a year where I also made the bold claim to my friends that the Giants would win the Super Bowl that season, despite their 0-2 start. I had next to no logic behind this claim, other than the fact that I thought their defense led by defensive end Osi Umenyiora looked unstoppable. Why I never took this bet to Vegas I'll never know, as I'm sure the odds were astronomically low.
The Giants ended up beating the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII that year, costing the Nevada sports books a record $2.6 million with the Giants as 12 point underdogs. In terms of my fantasy football season that year, the outcome wasn't nearly as impressive. However, the real victory was winning $5 from my friend who I made that bold prediction to.
Surprisingly I didn't get back into fantasy sports again until 2011, when I was asked to join the SVSU XC league with my fellow Cross Country teammates at Saginaw Valley (a league I'm still very involved in today, and is a primary source for us all staying in touch with one another). From there, I began to become hooked once again, and my obsession has swelled to managing four fantasy football teams today.
Six years ago I wrote an editorial for my school newspaper at Saginaw Valley regarding my addiction to fantasy sports. Within the article, I refer to myself as a "statistical junkie." Not much has changed in those six years. While I'm at work I'll listen to Dan Harris and Mike Tagliere give their latest insights on players in the FantasyPros Football podcast. After work I'll scour the waiver wire in my four leagues, paying close attention to bye weeks, matchups, injuries and other relevant data. I'll obsessively check the rankings of players by position, and will take note of anyone trending up or down, reading any bit of information on what's causing the fluctuation. Even after the waiver claims have been processed, I'll find myself up at 5AM reviewing the latest transactions, and nabbing any underrated player other teams missed in their claims. I'll be the first to admit that my obsessive habits regarding the management of my pseudo teams has only gotten worse over the years.
Within my previously mentioned editorial, entitled "Addiction to fantasy football can fumble your fall entertainment," I put my micro-managing obsessions on full display. As the years have progressed the line between statistical analysis and reality has only become more well-defined. I've become so caught up in projections and statistics that I constantly have to remind myself that I'm still dealing with human beings, not commodities. When Sunday rolls around, I'll become so fixated on my players hitting projections, that I'll conjure ridiculous scenarios in my head that would work best in the favor of my team and against the one that I'm playing that week. Any raw team dedication regarding the actual outcome of the game taking place on the screen is pretty much out the window if it doesn't have any relevance to my fantasy teams.
It unfortunately takes something more major than a player not hitting their projected weekly value to get me out of my analytic state of mind and back down to planet Earth. That rattling situation came last week with the injury to the Cowboys starting quarterback Dak Prescott. I received an update on my phone that Prescott was questionable to return to the game. My initial reaction to the push notification was frustration, as I needed all the points I could get from Prescott in the tough matchup I had in my DCFFL - Snake league (it's okay if it becomes hard to keep all of my leagues straight, sometimes I have an issue with it too). I soon after received a notification that my friend Gareth from the SVSU XC league I mentioned previously picked up the backup quarterback Andy Dalton. That immediately told me that the injury to Prescott was a bit more serious than I initially thought.
Prescott ended up suffering from a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle and had to go in for surgery that night, ending his season. This is a player who was in the discussion for MVP this year, leading the league in passing yards with 1,856 through the first five weeks. I had to deal with the inconvenience of finding a replacement for Prescott in one of my leagues, an inconvenience that was miniscule in relation to the estimated four to six months of recovery Prescott is facing. All of that hard work, preparation and training, all over after a single play. The 27 year old had his monumental fifth season unexpectedly cut short, and all I had to do was scour the waiver wire once more in order to try and fill the QB slot on my team.
I have a very complex love-hate relationship with fantasy football. As often as I tell myself that I'm going to scale back, my obsession only continues to grow over the years. As often as I tell myself I'm going to be productive and focus on catching up on other important things, I always find myself glued to the TV on Sundays, hoping someone in my lineup will break away for a big play.
With all of the time I spend researching and analyzing different players and matchups, it only makes my frustration that much greater if a player doesn't hit projections or things don't pan out the way I thought they would for the game script. I've become so addicted to the feeling for when one of my underrated players bear fruit that it keeps me coming back.
I have to keep reminding myself that not everything in life can be quantified. The world is a chaotic place with an endless amount of variables that determine an outcome. Fantasy football is no different, just on a much smaller scale. I need to keep reminding myself that fantasy sports should be taken at face value, and should serve primarily as a source of entertainment for avid fans. I'm incredibly thankful for the bonds that I share with those in the SVSU XC league, and how we've been able to use fantasy football as a way to keep in touch over the years. That aspect means more to me than any championship could.