It’s August, and if you’re a sports fan in the United States between the ages of 15 and 50, there’s a good chance that August means only one thing: the start of fantasy football. The games don’t start until September, but August is when fantasy football team managers can take the bull by the horns. August is when you scout, when you prepare, when you talk trash and, more than anything, when you experience the optimistic hope for your yet-to-be-determined starting lineup. August is when it’s all up for grabs, when you decide your fate.
This week, I have my fantasy football draft, and let me assure you, I am embracing every moment as general manager of my own personal team. I’ve made spreadsheets, position rankings and big boards, all of which take into account the predictions of so-called fantasy experts. I’ve wasted at least 20 pages of perfectly good paper, as well as an ink cartridge or two. I’ve read pages and pages of predictions. I’ve searched for sleepers and labeled my own busts. And this is all before the season (and the draft) has even started! As I write this, I understand that it isn’t unfair to label me as obsessed or a loser, but there’s no mystery behind this madness. There’s a reason why fantasy football is a cross-country craze.
Fantasy football is the absolute perfect attraction for sports fans. It is everything that a fan wants in life, rolled into one bundle.
It’s every sports fan’s dream to be the general manager of his favorite sports team. Every fan wants the chance to call the shots, to make the trades, to draft their players, to decide who plays and who sits. Fantasy football offers that: total control in a sports setting that requires quick thinking and a knowledge of football. As a fan, you will never be in charge of the New England Patriots. The closest you’re going to get is in your fantasy league, and that taste of power, or sports supremacy, is borderline euphoric.
Fantasy also caters to sports fans’ competitiveness. Whether you’re in a league with your friends or your co-workers, the absolute worst thing to do is lose. If you lose, your sports knowledge comes into question. Thus, there is no excuse for losing. In intimate fantasy leagues, the potential fear of losing and the euphoria of winning creates such an intense environment that team managers feel a part of the game. They feel influential, and it contributes to the euphoric thrill of the experience.
Lastly, fantasy offers a forum for the ultimate game: trash talk. Once again, whether you’re in a league with friends or co-workers, you will run into opponents who you dislike. Fantasy football offers the platform to put in the jabs. You can make fun of their haircut, their clothes or, even worse, their team, and it’s all acceptable. It’s all part of the game, and it’s amazing.
Fantasy football offers the best of sports. The power of decision-making, great competition and cruel trash talk. It literally is the sports “fantasy” for an average sports fan who is past his playing days. And I, for one, am proud to be part of the craze. The concept absolutely captivates me, and I know that no matter how my draft goes this week, a certain degree of my future happiness depends on the success of my future squad. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I think it does.
Jake Foote is a rising sophomore in the College. The Hot Stove appears every Thursday.