Well, it’s that time of year again. As the preseason draws to a close and the first day of regular season play looms closer and closer, more and more NFL fans engage in one of the fan base’s most popular phenomena: fantasy football.
Millions of people play fantasy football year to year. Each of them plays with a different motivation. There’s the devoted fan that researches every player’s projected statistics; the random co-worker who drafts players based on the uniqueness of their names; the friend who knows nothing about football but ends up winning the league; the participant who does not know the meaning of a “bye” and thus plays incomplete lineups each week; and, of course, you: the lovely reader who hopefully won’t click away from this page just because I am writing about something as silly as an online game.
But, regardless of how ridiculous the obsession with fantasy football might be, one fact is undeniable: It is a space where most everyone can find a place, whether you follow fantasy football analyst Matthew Berry religiously on Twitter or know of Tom Brady purely through his model wife Gisele Bundchen. There is probably an equal number of individuals in both camps.
I admit it is a ridiculous game that people take too seriously — and I am only a little ashamed to admit that I definitely fall into that category — but for me, fantasy football has been a very fun way to watch games with a new and fresh perspective. Without fantasy, I would spend approximately zero seconds per week paying any attention to the Jacksonville Jaguars or Los Angeles Rams, but with Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson and Rams running back Todd Gurley occupying roster space on a couple of my three teams — a little excessive, I am aware — I definitely know a lot more about the league as a whole outside of solely my favorite team. Through fantasy, I do genuinely learn things — and I think that’s kind of cool.
For the people who do not call themselves NFL fans who somehow find themselves in fantasy leagues — and there are many — the exciting thing about fantasy is that there is room for them too. In fact, there is even a chance that those people beat out the players who print out detailed Excel spreadsheets including every possible statistic that may contribute to a player’s success on a fantasy roster. Fantasy also opens up the opportunity for friendly competition between friends, peers and co-workers. It is an activity people can discuss week to week; a reliable topic of conversation every Monday, Tuesday and Friday; and simply a game people can bond over regardless of how devoted or indifferent the players are to the NFL.
Heading into the 2016-17 NFL season and what is sure to be another stressful and exciting year for fantasy owners, I do have words of advice. For those like myself who have had three to four fantasy teams for as long as I have been a football fan, try not to get emotionally invested — it will just result in getting hurt. If you are in a league with a best friend or a significant other, just be prepared to be in a fight for one to two weeks during the season. If you find yourself rooting against your own team, please know that you need an intervention badly, and inform your loved ones of this fact.
For those of you who have no idea what you’re doing, try not to draft a quarterback first round. Pick up HaHa Clinton-Dix if you are in a league with individual defensive players. If you want to draft Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers because his brother won the most recent season of “The Bachelorette,” do it. If you want to draft Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekial Elliot because of his weird jersey crop tops, do it. If you want to draft Lamar Miller because he reminds you of Lamar Odom and that reminds you of Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian’s tumultuous relationship, do it.
Most importantly, if you want to talk smack to the players who seem the most knowledgeable in your league, do it. Chances are you will beat them anyway.
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