You Will Find Nothing but Worry and Pain in Fantasy Football

Don't let anyone tell you it's fun.

In his excellent profile of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman in this month’s Philly Mag, Richard Rys devoted a paragraph describing the football executive’s workday that doubled as a convincing argument against playing fantasy football.

His days at the NovaCare complex often begin before 6 a.m., and after roughly five hours of watching college and free-agent tapes, plus meetings, team practice and hitting the phones, he’s lucky to make it home by 8 p.m. “My job is to bring talent to our football team,” Roseman says. “We’re gonna look under every rock and explore every option to improve our team. There’s no way I’m ever satisfied.”

This is the profession some 27 million people pursue as a hobby.

“It’s not that intense,” responds a chorus of players from Seattle to South Street. “Plus, you’ve never played, so you don’t know what you’re missing. Don’t you want the chance to build your own team?”

Some things you just know aren’t a good idea, like vacationing in Detroit or dating John Mayer. Fantasy football seems like fun. Then a family friend tells me, with surprising casualness, that he set his alarm at 3 a.m. to send emails for trade requests. Or I hear stories of obsession like this:

“Five-hour time difference translates to a stress-filled darkened bedroom, the eerie glow of the laptop the only thing lighting my furrowed brow as I roll my eyes and curse individual performances,” responded my London-based brother-in-law Lou via Facebook. “The lifelong Eagles fan who has ignored all other teams is now forced to follow the careers of a random collection of position players. Do I root for Miles Austin to have a great game or do I want him to break his leg so the Eagles will fare better against him? After another week of pain and questions of loyalty translates to an annoyed shake of my head and a sound of disgust as I close the Yahoo! browser.”

“If you changed Eagles to Giants, I agree completely,” my friend Mike responded.

“I find it completely and utterly ridiculous,” said a female friend whose husband plays. “Since we share one TV, I try to limit him to one to two games a day on the weekend so he’s not just sitting on his ass all day, but he likes to use FF as an excuse to watch as much football as possible (i.e., “One of my fantasy football players is playing in this game so I have to watch it!”). He also has to spend a good chunk of the morning setting up his team and trading players and whatever else you do on the website.

“For me, and maybe it’s because I’m a woman, but any adult who needs to set up a “fantasy” team and gets super-excited by how well it’s doing when a) it’s not reality; b) the best you can do is win a t-shirt that you’ll never wear anyway; and c) you’re using it as an excuse to watch more television when there are obviously other things to do in life—needs to grow up.”

Several things prevent me from playing fantasy football—the newly presented fear of finding a second wife; that I’ve already spent a million hours watching highlights on the NFL Network and ESPN and YouTube and don’t need another distraction; my crippling inability to multitask.

But, most of all, I want to keep football, and sports, fun.

Sports are fantasy: they unshackle us from ordinary life for a few hours. We listen to grandfathers get misty-eyed over Jim Brown and Chuck Bednarik. We buy jerseys and hats and jackets and face paint. We spend eight hours every Sunday watching grown men praised as warriors and gladiators, wishing we could own a shred of Tom Brady’s confidence or possess a gram of Cam Newton’s turbo-charged athleticism.

Everything doesn’t need to be broken down into statistics. And every game doesn’t need to have implications. I get enough frustration following the teams I like. The Giants’ last two runs to the Super Bowl resembled cross-country flights featuring dozens of Cast Away-like nosedives. Watching Knicks owner James Dolan spurn Jeremy Lin—the first player in years who made New York basketball exciting—enraged me. Dolan invested in junk like Eddy Curry and Jerome James only to give a suddenly hopeful fan base the finger. As for the Mets, I just can’t. The franchise has grown content to be Fredo Corleone.

Sports are one of the great pleasures in my life. I don’t want to further complicate things by worrying about the Ravens defense or Maurice Jones-Drew for three months. Roseman and his amateur brethren can do that. I’m happy watching from the sidelines.