The one thing that cushions the blow of summer ending, for me, is that it coincides with the start of football season. I am a big pro football fan. (The Jets are my team. Although they only occasionally resemble a pro football team.) Since the Jets more often than not make my Sundays miserable, since they more often than not make football irrelevant for me late in the season because they're usually out of it, fantasy football keeps me invested. And, most of the time, it keeps me happy as well. Recently I shared with you why I need fantasy football. I highlighted the positives that come from my participating in this annual Dungeons-and-Dragons-for-jocks exercise.
1. No compassion I root for people to get and stay injured. This goes against everything my dad ever taught me about sports. I remember one Sunday when the Jets were playing the Patriots. I was about 10 years-old. One of the Patriots' top players got hurt and I cheered. My dad yelled at me. "You don't cheer for someone to get hurt," my dad told me. "He's someone's son and father. Besides, you want to beat them with their best." From that point on, I didn't root for injuries. I felt compassion. Except...
In fantasy football, it benefits your team if your opponent's players are injured. If they don't play, their team is weaker, giving you a better chance of winning. So hoping - maybe even praying, I confess - a stud player on the team you're playing takes one more week to rest that sore hamstring is not out of the question. Sorry, dad.
2. Lack of sympathy Not even death can thaw my cold, win-at-all-costs heart. True story: One year, my fantasy quarterback was Matt Cassel, then of the New England Patriots. (Why is it always about the Patriots? They haunt me, I tell ya.) It was the year Tom Brady was hurt. Late in the season, during the time where the fantasy football playoffs take place, Cassel's dad died. You'd think a guy who's also lost his dad would be sympathetic? No. I was annoyed. There was a chance he wouldn't play, depending on the arrangements, how much he'd been able to practice, and his state of mind. I was constantly monitoring both sports websites and the obituaries in Cassel's hometown for crying out loud, to find out when the funeral would be and if he'd play. This was the playoffs, after all. MY playoffs.
Here the guy was grieving the loss of his dad, one of the most devastating times of a person's life. (I should know, right?) And all I could think about was how it would affect my fantasy football team. Cassel played, by the way. He had a great game and eventually led me to my second straight championship. May his dad continue to rest in peace.
3. Disloyalty It actually makes me root for teams for whom I would never root. Once again, the Patriots for example. Last season I was pulling for the Patriots to beat Houston late in the season. At the time, Houston was close to wrapping up their division and a playoff spot. If they did so, they would rest their starters the last few games, during what is normally fantasy playoff time. Their top running back - Arian Foster - was MY top running back. He was carrying my first-place team. I needed Houston to have something to play for. So I rooted for the Patriots. For my own benefit. They won. Again with the stinkin' Patriots.
4. Hatred It makes me hate my friends sometimes. The same guys I've known since third grade. The same guys I wrote about a little more than a month ago, who I said, "never disappoint me." Those guys. During fantasy football season, I pretty much hate each and every one them. Even if I'm not playing them. I hate them for succeeding and I hate them for sucking. I guess, that really does make this fantasy, since in real life I cheer their successes and try to offer whatever help I can when they're down. In fantasy football? Pure disdain. I even hate their families. Brutal. I cheer for the Patriots and hate my best friends. It's a world turned upside down.
5. Sleep deprivation I wake up at 3:45am for work. Yet, I often find myself watching otherwise uninteresting games at ungodly hours of the night to follow otherwise uninteresting players. Fantasy football makes me watch a Monday Night Football game between the Ravens and Bengals (who cares?) because someone named BenJarvis Green-Ellis (who's he?) needs 80 yards and touchdown for my opponent to eek out a narrow victory over me. (He did, by the way. And I lost. So that Tuesday morning I was tired AND angry.)
There have been times, like with the Matt Cassel thing, where I thought I should take a season off for a little bit of perspective. Sometimes My Director says if I put as much time and energy into my actual job, I'd be running the network. Maybe. But I'm doing just fine... in both my real job and my fantasy one. Besides, who needs perspective? That's why they call it fantasy.