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 We open today’s column with a scene from my own life. A seemingly inconsequential exchange between my wife and I that got me thinking.

Let’s set the stage a little…

Director’s Note: The part of my lovely beautiful talented wife will be played by January Jones. Due to budget constraints, I will be playing myself.

 

(Wife enters stage left, wearing bikini, holding plate of brownies. Husband, center stage, performs one arm pushups while surfing web on laptop)

Wife

How was your day dear? What did you do? Would you like a brownie?

Husband

(Stands up and speaks without sounding winded)

I’d love a brownie, and my day was great. I ran few errands, got in a little exercise, and now I’m doing a mock draft.

Wife

(Hands him a brownie)

What’s a mock draft?

Husband

(Drops brownie, lifts laptop from floor excitedly, and places it on platter of brownies obscuring Wife from view)

Hold on one second, honey. It’s my turn to pick!

Wife

(Confused and annoyed, but still smoking hot)

Pick what? What are you doing?

Husband

A mock draft. I told you. It’s like practice for the real thing.

(Exclaims outloud, to no one in particular)

Greg Jennings falls to me in the sixth round?! These guys are morons!

(To Wife)

High Five Honey!

Wife

(Lowers the platter and glares)

This is Fantasy Football?!

Husband

(Sheepishly)

No it’s just practice. The real draft’s next week.

Wife

Are you “practicing” with your idiot friends?

Husband

No its just random guys.

Wife

(Glaring more intensely)

So let me get this straight. Fantasy football is really pretend football, right?

(Husband begins to answer)

I’m not finished!

So you are so much of a nerd that you are pretending to pretend?

With a bunch of total strangers nonetheless?!

Seriously? What is wrong with you?

Husband

(Pauses and stares for a second. Picks brownie up off floor)

Baby these brownies are delicious. How was your day?

 

END

Thank you for indulging that over-dramatized reenactment. While you may never have a bikini-clad actress make you brownies or complete a one armed pushup, if you play fantasy sports, you’ve had a version of the conversation above before.

So why do we play?

Why do we spend hours analyzing stats and dissecting matchups? How can we love something so much that most people don’t understand? What do we tell our wives/girlfriends/friends we refused to help move on Sundays? Why do we endure the quizzical looks, silent judgements, and glares? In this column, we will find our answer.

There are two levels to our love of fantasy sports. One deep and one not so deep. Like a jackass at a pool party, we’ll dive into the not so deep.

1. Fantasy sports make every game of the season important

I’m a big D-Backs fan, but I have a hard time caring about a mid-July interleague game against the Royals. It’s not that I don’t care if they win or lose, it’s just that the outcome of that single game has a very small effect on their season, and thus warrants less or none of my attention. But mix in the magic of fantasy sports and any game, even one not featuring the team I cheer for, can be compelling, so long as it features a player from my fantasy team. The play of even the most inconsequential player, a middle reliever or a place kicker, can single handedly win or lose a weekly matchup. It’s that ability to impact an immediate outcome that garners our attention and earns our love.

2. Playing fantasy is cheaper than gambling

This is a corollary to the reason above. Before the advent of fantasy, every game could be made meaningful by simply placing a wager on the outcome. But gambling can be problematic for any number of reasons. Maybe you don’t live in Vegas or AC. Maybe you don’t know a bookie, or he’s not taking your calls. Maybe your first wife made you go to GA after you gambled away the kids’ school clothes money. Whatever the reason, we here at Spectavius support your decision to play fantasy sports as a gambling alternative.

3. Believing you can do a better job than the Owner/GM of your real-life team

Despite how often they are despised, bad mouthed in the press, or run out of town, being the GM of a professional sports team is a pretty sweet job. You mold a team’s roster, bask in the success of every win, make million dollar decisions, and you don’t have to do push ups or cardio. Every sports fan has thought about it. Fantasy sports give you the chance to play that role, but in a low stakes environment free of fan vitriol and poor job security. If you close your eyes, fantasy success tastes just like real success, if only for a moment.

Our dive into the deepest part of the shallow end has left us dazed, confused, and possibly bleeding from the head. Up is down, down is up. Thus we swim deeper, looking for air and reason.

4. Competition is a Necessary Part of the Human Experience

I’m not going to launch into a Darwinian tirade about survival of the fittest, so please don’t skip over the next few lines. Playing fantasy sports is no different than holding a Family Game Night, jostling for a promotion, or secretly racing the other joggers in the park. They are just ways of taking something we were already doing (watching sports, hanging with family, working, or exercising) and making a fun competition out of it. The lack of understanding that surrounds fantasy sports comes primarily from people to whom sports are not that interesting. In the same way that I’m not really a fan of fantasy literature, and I don’t understand the appeal of Dungeons and Dragons. Fantasy football is simply D&D for jocks. Whatever our game is, we prepare, compete, revel in triumph, and despair in defeat because it’s fun, and now that we’re grown ups, the opportunities for fun are fewer. So we play fantasy because it provides a daily or weekly release from all that responsibility, if only for the few minutes it takes to set your lineup and check on the status of Peyton Manning’s neck.

5. Comradery and Staying in Touch Via Smack Talk

The easiest way to traverse the diaspora of our college friends is to join a fantasy league together. Even though we can’t sit on a dingy couch, eat pizza, and watch the games together anymore, we can sit on the nice couch our respective women (wife, girlfriend, mother) picked out, and share some friendly smack talk from across the country. Drafts and message boards allow the dynamic of a group of friends to live on long after 808s & Heartbreak has given way to HOAs and playdates. Our friends, especially those made before life and responsibility are truly upon us, keep us young. I don’t believe that college was the best years of my life. I believe that each year is the best I’ve ever had as long as my friends are with me. At least with me enough to equate me managing a fantasy team to Casey Anthony managing a daycare.

6. Belief That Games and Seasons Are Not Decided by Chance

All sports fans are brought up to believe that our real-life teams always have a chance at a Championship. If they could just get the right players or the right coach, then everything will come together, and they’ll hoist the trophy at the end of the year. But the right players or the right coach don’t always guarantee victory. Just look at the Heat. This, as they say, is why they play the games, because anything can happen. A bouncing puck no one saw decided the Western Conference Finals. A bespectacled fan reached out for a prize foul ball, and a 102-year curse continued. Any of a thousand chance outcomes can affect a single play, a game, or the plight of entire season. As sports fans, we invest so much in our teams that we can’t bring ourselves to admit how much chance really plays a factor. Fantasy sports provide us with an outlet for that denial. We draft the best players, they put up the numbers, and we win week in, week out. That’s how it’s supposed to work and often does. But just like GMs give out bad contracts, Fantasy owners make stupid draft picks. Injury, aging, and Thomas Jones all happen, and they can turn even the most sure-thing player into a season killer. So I guess we play fantasy to further our denial of chance and its place in the games we love, but end up accepting both in their most basic form. Like a trip to the ballpark and an autograph from a star, playing fantasy has the ability to strengthen both our love and understanding of the game.

So please wives, girlfriends, pastors, understand that fantasy sports are about more than meets the eye. They really do mean something to us. We don’t ask you to play or even understand. We simply ask that you accept us as we are.

Big, big nerds.

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