An escape from reality? Try fantasy (football)

By Mark Haskell | Sep 08, 2010

I'm kind of a dork.

Don't get me wrong, we're all dorks. And I don't mean the common definition by one being socially inept, out of touch with the culture or who wear pocket protectors. I mean in the sense we all have things, whether it's something we do, something we own or something we watch, that makes us, well, dorky.

There are many different examples. Perhaps you are a little overly excited about the "Star Wars" movies and typically find some way to weave life-changing lessons you learned from that movie into daily conversation (VillageSoup associate editor Dan Dunkle take note).

Maybe you have a collection of He-Man action figures from your youth that you refuse to sell because you're convinced that someday, they might be worth money (My brother-in-law).

Or you might be a plethora of useless information when it comes to the show "Full House" and can answer any and all questions about the show regardless of how trivial they may be (My wife. Sorry Jenn.).

For me, it's fantasy sports.

With us now on the cusp of the NFL season set to kick off Thursday, Sept. 9, that means millions across the country have finished with their fantasy football drafts, are setting their lineups and are sitting back and anxiously awaiting for the fun to begin.

I was talking with a friend of mine Saturday night and the conversation of fantasy sports came up (thanks to me), his wife quickly piped up and said she hears about it all the time, but has no idea what it is.

Allow me to explain.

To first begin your fantasy football season, you must first have your fantasy draft, which you can have either at someone's house with everyone present, or online with everyone at their own computers. Every player in the NFL from Tom Brady all the way to Arizona's Steve Breston and every player in-between are "free agents" as you and all the other "general managers" of the league prepare to pick their players.

Most leagues have a random selection of the order of the draft which is typically "snake" style, meaning the first overall pick will go first all the way to the 10th pick. Then the person who has the last pick of the first round also has the first pick of the second round, doubling back to the first pick. This takes place for approximately 25 rounds, with the goal to assemble the best team you can.

Players on your team accumulate points by doing different things, most notably scoring touchdowns, rushing for yards, receiving yards, passing yards and so on. You also draft kickers, team defense and, in some cases, individual defensive players that can score points by individual tackles, sacks, fumble recoveries and so on.

The drafts for me are the most fun of the entire season, because it gives you and all your friends a chance to get together (either at a friend's house to do the draft, or online at each player's computer through the draft chatroom) and bust each other's chops, make fun of one another and, above all else, have fun. Because that's what it is. It's fantasy.

After choosing your team you typically will face each team more than once in a 14-week schedule, the league's top teams make the playoffs and then those who make it vie for the league championship. There is no money involved (not that gambling is legal anyway), but perhaps, more importantly, for bragging rights amongst your friends that in the off-chance the general manager of an actual NFL team should perish in a horrible smelting accident, you could clearly come in and right the ship.

I love fantasy sports for many reasons. One of which is if there is a game on that I have absolutely no rooting interest in and, all of the sudden, now I do. If the game on CBS this week is the Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, chances are a lot of people will be changing the channel. However, if one of those people happen to have James Harrison as their running back, maybe they have a reason to not go rake the yard, but stick around and see what happens.

For me, though, fantasy sports isn't just about winning. Well, don't get me wrong, it is about winning. But for me it's more about keeping in contact with friends, especially those that have moved away or those that you don't see nearly as often as you used to.

I was talking to a friend a few weeks back and we figured out that it had indeed been almost five years since we'd seen each other. However, it never seems like that long because we interact through Facebook, much like the rest of society. Fantasy sports, for me at least, fills that same void.

I am active in two fantasy football leagues: One is a assortment of people I work with and coaches/friends within the community, and the other is a group of my college buddies that I don't get nearly the time to spend with as I used to. But at least one day a week we're all interacting with each other. Whether I'm text messaging them because my quarterback just threw a touchdown or one of their guys just went down with a season-ending injury, you can bet there is plenty of ribbing, mocking and otherwise just boastful idiocy going on.

In that regard, it is probably another version of a weekly game of poker, with many friends coming together to escape their daily lives for a few hours.

And many of us need that. An escape from reality, if only for a few hours every week, and into fantasy. Where insurance agents, deli managers, teachers and beer truck delivery men can all come together on an even playing field, and all have a chance to be called league champion.

But let's be honest here. I report on sports for a living. These other guys have no shot.

(Well, maybe it is about winning.)

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