By: Eric Thomas
Confession time. I can’t stand fantasy football. I understand this makes me a pariah among football fans but there isn’t really anything I can do about it. I watch football because I love the game. It’s exciting, the story lines are epic, and the participants are putting their pride and health on the line. I love football but I’m bored with fantasy football. It’s okay to say that out loud.
I tried it back in the early days, when people were freaking over Marshall Faulk and LT. I was suspicious from the start, because the fantasy is based on individual stats—an idea that felt more like baseball than football. Football is a team game, which is why no one really cared when Calvin Johnson set the single season receiving yards record (outside of the people in crammed into Ford Field that day who were desperate for anything to cheer for in 2012). I couldn’t get into it. I’ve always liked watching the game as it’s played, and not as a stat line. I lost interest halfway through the year and shrugged it off as something that wasn’t for me.
Now it’s everywhere. Coworkers talk obsessively about who they should start or sit, there are different flavors of leagues that only count certain kinds of yards and have complicated rules that usually come alongside an eight sided die. If you politely mention that you don’t play fantasy football, they point at you and scream to alert the other fantasy football fans that there is a nonbeliever in the area. A person recently (I swear to God) said, “Why do you even watch football if you don’t have a fantasy team?”
I’ve found myself apologizing in recent years that I’d rather watch games than obsessively update a fantasy team.
Those of us who like football and don’t have fantasy teams have to keep that information to ourselves lately. As you read this there are plenty of football fans who keep up a fantasy team because they’ve been pressured by their friends to do so. They’re logging into whatever site and making adjustments because the email alert told them to do so. They keep multiple teams and they don’t care about any of them. I used to be one of them. I played fantasy football because I felt like I had to.
Fantasy team owners tell you all the time that they watch and enjoy football more now. They tell you how they are far more obsessed about out of market teams and meaningless games, and they only are interested because of their fantasy teams. I liked hearing out of market news long before fantasy football. I like following other divisions because I like the story lines. I like to watch football because I always have, and those hours spent didn’t really need any improvement. I sit in front of NFL Red Zone like it’s the movie from Infinite Jest—reduced to a drooling, mindless zombie incapable of focusing on anything else in the room. When I mention my love for the channel, people ask the same thing every time: “Do you watch that because of your fantasy team?” No! I watch it because I love football!!! The game is freaking awesome and it doesn’t need to be improved!!
My biggest problem with fantasy is it clouds the team aspect of the game. I like scheme, formations and strategy. I’m obsessed with how teams fit together—how a player can thrive in one situation and ride the bench in another. While baseball is an individual game masquerading as a team sport, football is the ultimate example of a group of people who must work together for a collective goal.
I’m sure I’m going to get ripped for this blog. I’m not writing this for them. I’m not ripping people who like fantasy football. If you love it, good for you. I’m saying it doesn’t make you any less of a football fan because you find it boring. There are plenty of fans who say you “Don’t know anything about football,” if you don’t know Andre Johnson’s stat line on Monday night. It’s time to say they’re wrong for judging you.
It’s okay to just like football. You don’t need to have a fantasy team.