The Truth About Fantasy Football

Why the August draft is my favorite day of the year

Exactly two weeks from today is one of—if not the—greatest days of the year. It may seem strange that a random Tuesday night in late August would be the greatest day of the year for me. I won’t get to spend the day watching football, eating dinner three hours early and doing an inordinate amount of napping. There are no fireworks, presents under the tree, Mardi Gras beads or green beer at seven in the morning. Hell, I’ll even have to come to work.

But—after work—I’ll head to a buddy’s house and begin preparing to reassemble the Jonathan Bradley Liberation Army. The JBLA isn’t a privatized military corporation on government contract to end oppression of a tribe in a third-world country and bring back foreign spoils, nor is it an indie rock band you’ll be able to catch at the new Union Transfer—it’s the name of my fantasy football team.

And Tuesday, August 30, 2011 is the date of my fantasy football draft.

Sure, to some people, a couple of beers with a few hours of dick jokes and football talk may not seem like something to write home about. But, this is more than that. I’ve been playing fantasy football with the same guys for practically as long as I can remember. I’m 23 and can recall drafting Yancey Thigpen at an outdoor draft held at a barbecue at a local pool when I was eight or nine. Our league can track winners back to when we were all prepubescent sports-nerds more concerned with quarterback ratings than girls. (It’s important to note that not everyone in the group has graduated from that school of thought.)

Myself and 11 other guys—most of whom I’ve known for almost my entire life—have been competing against one another for over 10 years. We’ve been through a lot over that time period. I drove across the country to help one buddy move to Hollywood when he got his first job in the movie industry. I rushed one friend to the hospital when he split his face open on a fence playing baseball a few summers back and called his mom to let her know that her son may never smile normally again (he has, as it turns out). The girl that used to chastise us for screaming and arguing about fantasy football trades on the middle school bus has been dating one of the league’s members for eight years. Another of the owners is engaged.

Late summer nights of campouts and playing kick-the-can have been traded for late summer nights of campouts with beer and bonfires. The stakes are a little higher: We’re introducing a trophy this year, and the draft seems to have a smaller turnout with each passing season. But, everything is still essentially the same.

The league doesn’t boil down to touchdowns, interceptions, sacks and 100-yard bonuses—it means more than that. I’m hard-pressed to think of something I care about as passionately—if not more—than I did when I was 10. I’ve stopped collecting baseball cards, Semisonic broke up, and Austin Powers has been AWOL since Dr. Evil turned face and Fat Bastard found the Subway diet (though Myers has signed on for a fourth movie).

But, that league and the people in it have remained among the top things on my priority list. I’ve always found time for it and them. And, if you were to ask me what I’ll care about when I’m 33, I’d bet the family fortune on the same being true then. I’m aware that that kind of thing is a rarity and intend on enjoying every minute of it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go analyze red-zone touch statistics and shit-talk on a message board.