Thursday, November 18, 2010
THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE: And How Fantasy Football Has Ruined the Sport
For almost twenty years I’ve been in the damndest fantasy football league ever created. The league was created by members of a church for which I will never be a part. I was lured into the league by a friend who originally had been welcome as a prospect and later shunned for his Catholicism. Not to dwell too much on the religious aspects of being in such a league, but there is considerable irony in a devout individual “owner” in our league trading away one of his injured players to another unsuspecting owner that was unaware of such injury. In this league perhaps only fantasy football is taken as seriously by the owners as say the Ten Commandments.
One of the more peculiar aspects of this league is that it has always been referred to as a “keeper” league. What this means is that a certain number of players can be retained from season to season that no other league member can claim except by a trade or waiver. Yet this league has given the name “keeper” a full new meaning. Originally, the dozen team owners in the league could keep exactly twelve (12) players (thus placing 144 players off limits). Though I’ve been in the league since 1993, the founding members continue to have such significant voting power concerning any amendments to the rules that reducing the number of keepers has become virtually impossible. Once I made a motion that we reduce the keepers from twelve (12) to ten (10). What instead occurred was that the original owners decided to create an additional taxi squad for each team made up of three players. Thus, each team now has fifteen (15) keepers instead of twelve (12), and leaving 180 players off limits. We have a draft that is held before the beginning of each NFL season. The draft usually lasts several hours because it goes a minimum of seven rounds, and the owners always get in a big argument over protocol before the draft ends. I’m not sure why there is so much contention. The only players available in the draft are rookies or discarded veterans that nobody wants in any case. To make matters worse, there’s no way to alleviate the tedium, even if one is a heavy drinker. Consumption of alcohol would need to take place before or after the draft since it is held in a church basement where no drinking is allowed.
I’ve asked myself for the past seventeen years why I’m still in the league and have come up with no answer. At the beginning of each season I hope to win a championship, but this has never occurred. One season I made it to the championship game, but I lost because of a missed field goal. As luck would have it I also lost that game because two of my premier running backs were sitting out that week. Our league insists on holding the championship game on the last week of the regular season, so many of the best players remain on the bench to prevent them from being injured just prior to the playoffs.
I do want to make it clear that fantasy football insanity is not limited to my particular league. Every member of any fantasy league I’ve ever known dreads the thought of a prolonged draft where they will have to sacrifice a beautiful fall afternoon to endure the harangue of other demented owners. Some such owner will know in precise detail the combined yardage totals of noteworthy players like Frank Gore, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Adrian Peterson during the past three or four seasons. They probably also know the average yards per carry for the backup running backs to these elite stars as well. The most fanatical of owners will call in to radio sport talk shows. During the 1990s there was a running back named Derrick Moore whose NFL career lasted three years. I recall a fantasy football owner calling into a radio station making it clear that he wanted Moore to suffer a season (if not career) ending injury. Why? Because Moore was a backup to the great running back, Barry Sanders, and Moore’s being in the game was depriving Sanders from carrying the ball on every single down (thus reducing Sanders’ fantasy football points). Now a small subset of football fans have always been bloodthirsty and have wanted to see opposing players injured or maimed so that their own favorite team can go onto win. But in the above example, a fantasy football owner wanted to see a player injured that happened to be an NFL teammate of a player this owner had selected in a fantasy football draft.
Without question, the most successful of fantasy football owners have lost all devotion to any particular NFL team. Once one becomes sentimental towards a particular player, once one refuses to acknowledge that any player on their favorite football team can deserve anything less than universal recognition all hope of fielding a successful fantasy football team is lost. Being from Minnesota, I know of owners partial to drafting Minnesota Viking’ players. Generally, these owners finish last. There are owners that refuse to believe their running back will never again rush for one-thousand yards and have kept that running back on their roster to the point where all trade value for that player is reduced to little or nothing. The successful player can live with the ambiguity of cheering for an opposing player to score against what was at one time his favorite NFL team. The successful owner will spend hours studying the injured reserve chart and make adjustments to his lineup accordingly. Maybe because I have no desire to spend more than five minutes per week reading through the waiver wire and trying to pickup players that were somehow not a part of the 180 players that are off limits in my league, I have never had that successful season that gave me lasting satisfaction.
One would think with the advent of the internet, fantasy football would become less time-consuming because now most of the statistics used for scoring can be found online. In fact, just the opposite is happening. Since the computer helps fantasy commissioners manage their league so much more easily, participants are now joining more and more leagues. This creates additional mental anguish in that the player that may help you in one league may mean the defeat for another team you have in a different league. In any case, if one participates in four of five leagues that person may have to keep track of a hundred or more players each week.
Don’t fool yourselves that fantasy football participants are in it for the sake of enjoyment and camaraderie. If an owner happens to win, they will boast about it. If they lose they will sulk. Fantasy Football owners will gamble (and often lose) large sums of cash. The league owners often pool their money with the winner of the league taking everything. Actually, the real winners in a fantasy football competition are limited to the NFL, the television networks and Las Vegas. Most fantasy owners end up watching more football games than they ever were truly interested in because the activity has taken over their lives. I forgot to mention above: to be a successful owner you need to give up on everything that will make for the highest quality of life. Health, the outdoors, children, spouse, and a successful career – these are secondary interests.
NOTE: I’m sort of hoping that members of my fantasy football league never read this posting. In fact, I also hope that they never read my website. They probably wouldn’t approve.
© Robert S. Miller 2010