I remember the first time I played fantasy football, before computers took it over.
We met in the basement at Michael’s Restaurant in Worthington to draft our teams, and when I announced to the commissioner that my team name would be “The Knights Who Say Ni,” he asked me to repeat it, and when I did he shook his head slowly the way a father reacts when his goofy 5-year-old tells him there are velociraptors in his pants.
Obviously, our commissioner was not a fan of Monty Python.
Fantasy football is a big business. According to the Washington Post, nearly 60 million people in the U.S. and Canada played it last year. The numbers continue to go up and up, so in 2019 there will almost surely be more.
I’m not a huge fan, however. I’ll probably join a league this year, though, just because it’s hard to say no, and my wife likes it. Getting her involved in a league is a surefire way to get her interested in following the entire NFL schedule and not just the Minnesota Vikings.
Most of you probably will have a hard time getting your brains around this fact, but there was a time when computers didn’t exist. To play fantasy football, you had to have a commissioner who was obsessed with it. Every weekend, he’d scour the sports pages to get every player’s statistics, and he had to add up the points himself to determine winners.
Fortunately, calculators had been invented by that time.
Nowadays, of course, computer sites do all the work for you. It’s made every fantasy football player spoiled. And it’s increased the interest exponentially.
You still have to make your own trades, however, and there are always one or two jerks in your league who want to play hardball. He’s the same guy who you don’t want to have to make a deal with in Monopoly -- who when you are on the verge of trading him B & O Railroad for Marvin Gardens he suddenly wants $200 in cash, too.
There are websites galore providing tips for fantasy football players. They’ll tell you which sleepers to draft, and when. They’ll tell you it’s smarter to choose your running backs before your quarterbacks. And they’ll tell you which rookies should make an impact.
It’s enough to drive you crazy. Which is why I usually just go with my own judgements. I pick the players who had good years last year and are still in their primes, and I try to get at least one player from my favorite team.
Even so, I rarely do well in fantasy football. Perhaps it’s because I don’t scour the tip sheets. But, hey, life is too short to spend so much of it in fantasy-land.
Many of us, however, seem to prefer fantasy to real life -- which may be the best way to explain the fantasy football craze. Major news organizations survive on fantasy news (CNN, for instance), the Internet thrives on it, the most popular motion pictures sell make-believe as if it’s real, and politicians continue to get elected by spurning reality and promising things that we all know will never happen.
Actually, I don’t blame fantasy football junkies for preferring unreality to reality. NFL reality really bites when you have to see the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl almost every year.