Monday, August 26, 2013

Why I Need Fantasy Football

"It's just a fantasy. It's not the real thing. But sometimes a fantasy is all you need." -Billy Joel
It's the most wonderful time of the year. You know that old Staples commercial with the dad dancing through the aisle as he shops for school supplies with his kids who are miserable because summer is ending and school is starting? Well that's how I feel about football season. More specifically, fantasy football season. I'm willing to bet most football-loving men feel this way about fantasy football. At the risk of sounding cliche, a majority of women I know - My Director included - have no idea why this is so important to us. Well, I have no idea what the allure of shopping without a purpose is. So until someone explains that to me, let me explain why I need fantasy football...

The winner keeps the cup for a year.
(It's engraved with the names of all the champs.
My name's on it three times.)
First off, I'm a Jets fan. My season is usually over before it begins. Especially this coming season. Fantasy football keeps football interesting for me. It also keeps me from crying in the fetal position every Sunday afternoon.

Second, there's the gambling. Whether it involves money or not, most men like to gamble. Not only does fantasy football provide an outlet, it is socially acceptable. (And perfectly legal.) So we're not degenerate gamblers, spending all night in a casino feeding our debit cards into the ATM because we feel a hot streak is coming. Speaking of legality, according to a recent ruling by a federal court in New York, poker is a game of skill and thus not considered "gambling," I am willing to apply the same reasoning to fantasy football. Sure, plenty of luck is involved. But there is also skill and strategy. Above all, money is on the line. And the only thing sweeter than hoisting that championship trophy in December is one of your buddies handing over a fat wad of cash to help ease the burden of the Christmas bills. (Yes. There is a championship trophy. Any respectable league has one.)

Third, there's the competition. It's healthy competition too.
And by healthy, I mean no one gets hurt.
We have championship rings too.
We're advancing in age. My friends and I are long passed the time where we could play tackle football, full-contact basketball, and the-only-rule-is-no-splashing water polo. (Yes, we played some nasty water polo back in our day.) This way, we can compete with each other and the only thing that could potentially get hurt is our pride.

Now, I've mentioned friends in the previous two examples above. So that brings me to my third reason: camaraderie. I am blessed to still be friends with the same group of guys I met in third grade. Two of them are the first two people I met on the playground when I started at my new school. These are ties that are too strong to break. So once a year, we make it a point to all get together at one of our houses for our draft. (It's kind of a big deal.) Then we get to bust each other's chops for the entire season in text messages and posts on the league message board. This is a great way for us all to stay connected for half the year. Besides, who else will laugh at my same jokes and stories from 20 years ago? Every time? My friends. That's who.

Just how deep are the competition and the camaraderie? A couple of years ago, My Director and I were driving to my sister's house in Virginia on Thanksgiving. One of my star players who was playing in that early Thanksgiving Day game at 12:30 pm. But there was a chance he couldn't play because of an  injury. I wouldn't know for sure until game time. Since I had no access to the internet, I called my friend in transit. It was ten minutes before kickoff. I asked him to read me the latest injury report, and swap that player into my lineup for me if he was indeed playing. One problem: he needed my password. I hesitated, but the clock was ticking...
"You are never going to let me live this down," I warned him. 
"What's the password?" He pressed. 
"I Love (My Director's Name)."
Cue the hysterical laughter. To this day, I get text messages mocking me. But you know what? I won that game thanks to a touchdown that player scored that day. Totally worth it. (I have since changed my password.)

I haven't even mentioned perhaps the most important thing in all of this: football itself. Football is religion. It's our national passion. For heaven's sake, I put in my wedding vows that one of the reasons I knew My Director was the one is that she "understands that Sundays are for football." (The pastor was quick to point out that Sundays are for church too. Father, forgive me.) She's not even a football fan, Although she switched allegiances from the Eagles to the Jets because she loves me and also because she enjoys sanctity in her home. Unlike me with the shopping thing, she just gets the football thing.

Peanut and I celebrating my second straight
championship. (It's been a while since I won.)
Football is the only program that trumps all else on the television. Any other day, any other time of the year, Peanut and My Director can watch whatever they want. Doc McStuffins during a Yankees game? Sure. General Hospital or One Tree Hill or one of her HGTV shows while Goodfellas or Shawshank is re-airing on cable? No problem. Why? Because I know the television is mine for six hours on Sunday and it's glorious. Football will always be higher on the food chain because My Director  is an amazingly understanding woman. Always.

On behalf of football-crazed men everywhere, I thank you, wives and significant others. For indulging us. You might not get it, but knowing that we do and that it matters is enough for you. And if it's not, it's like I always tell My Director when she rolls her eyes in disapproval and tells me I'm "obsessed:" I don't smoke or do drugs. I rarely drink. I don't gamble. (Outside of fantasy football.) This is my vice. That's it. When you put it that way, it's not too bad now is it?

A version of this post first appeared on Barista Kids this time last year. To read more about the group of friends I've known since third grade, click HERE.

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