With the start of the NFL season just a few days away, it is time for my annual rant about what has become a mega-million dollar industry. No, I am not talking about the actual football games themselves, I am talking about an offshoot of the games that has contributed mightily to the popularity of the sport:
Most everyone knows what fantasy football is, but for those unfortunate few that have lived their last twenty years in Croatia, I will burn a couple of sentences explaining: You draft your own ‘team’ of NFL players that competes weekly against other such drafted teams. You may have the Jaguars Quarterback, the Dolphins Running Back & the Raiders Kicker as your team (and if you do, I feel sorry for you if you have to try to win games with Luke McCown, Reggie Bush & Sebastian Janikowski as your skill player but anyway…) and these players get points for your team based on how they perform - a Touchdown throw may be worth 4 points, a Field Goal three points, and so on. Add up all the points your players scored and hope it’s more than your opponent for that week. Lots of fun.
The reason it has drastically increased the interest in NFL football is twofold. One, it has pulled in the interest of people who otherwise would not give a rat’s rump about football. Secretaries who once thought Benjarvis Green-Ellis was a law firm now know he’s a damn good pick up in the sixth round. Secondly, for fans that root fervently for one team, fantasy football gives them a reason to watch other games. What used to be a groan of “Dang. The four o’clock game is St. Louis at Atlanta” has turned into “Oh cool. I got Roddy White and Sam Bradford on my team.”
And this is why the NFL has done a delicate dance with fantasy football. It is technically gambling, as teams usually pony up money that everyone plays for, and the NFL abhors gambling…or at least pretends that it does. But fantasy football has opened up the game to the masses that otherwise would not care about the game so the NFL does not want to squash anything that doesn't put more money in the owner's pockets. And honestly, even though there is money on the line, it is not in the raw, base form of calling your bookie to lay three and a half when the Ravens visit the Browns. Heck, NFL players play fantasy football, and many times they draft themselves. And further, many fantasy leagues are “free” wink wink nudge nudge…
I was playing fantasy football before it was even called fantasy football. Seriously. I started a league in 1988, back when it was called ‘Rotisserie Football’. This was before the internet, fantasy football magazines, cheat sheets and the like. Preparing for the draft consisted of buying a Street & Smith’s NFL preview magazine and writing down team’s depth charts. You then had to make a judgment call on whose running back would have a better year. So, my sheet may have Emmitt Smith listed first, yours may have Kevin Mack. Totally subjective with little rationale other than whom I liked. As a result, draft nights were major clusterfucks, with guys drafting Bubby Brister in the second round. These days that doesn’t occur, as everyone just shows up with their copy of the cheat sheet from their favorite fantasy mag.
As I was Commissioner of the league I had to calculate the results of the weekend’s games. This was done by getting up very early on Monday mornings, about two hours before I would normally do, put on a pot of coffee, grab the newspaper that had the box scores from the Sunday games, and do the math - “Let’s see…Troy Aikman threw for 221 yards and a score…that’s 12 points…”In other words, all you soft internet babies out there, no website did the work for you. It was paper ‘n pencil, and lots of revisions.
Which brings me to my final point. I know this game. So this is a gauntlet throw-down to anyone that thinks they can outsmart a guy that’s been doing this since before many current fantasy football participants were born. You think you know that Mike Vick is a stud? Why - cuz your precious Fantasy Mag said so? Ha. I laugh at you. I fart in your general direction. You only think you know, because some source is telling you something that you are too lazy to find out on your own.
Back in my day we used to eat dirt.
I just did 3 fantasy drafts this past weekend, and frankly I love all my teams. I made a couple of eyebrow-raising selections, but you watch - Mike Shanahan is gonna run the legs off of Tim Hightower in Washington, and Beanie Wells will be the main cog of Arizona’s offense. Got them in the fifth and sixth rounds respectively.
See if your precious fantasy magazine tells you that, Posers.