IT WAS ALBERT EINSTEIN who said: “The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”
Yeah, whatever, granddad.
Everyone’s favourite physicist may have solved some of the universe’s deepest secrets but he knew nothing of the pain of seeing the wide receiver you left on the bench score 31 fantasy points, while the one you selected scored one, meaning your team got E=MC Hammered.
Now, don’t think I hate fantasy football. I really don’t. When I first started – like you I’d imagine – I did it because it gave me something to shout about in games that I otherwise wouldn’t have cared for. I mean, why else would you endure a 49ers game if you didn’t have Frank Gore or Vernon Davis in your starting line-up?
And actually, as it happens, I’m normally quite good at virtual ownership. Last season, for example, I finished top in three of the four leagues I entered and second in the other, with a total win/loss record of 47-9 across the four leagues.
Even this year, I’ve at least a 3-1 record in 75% of my leagues though it won’t surprise you to learn I’m 0-5 in the one where I dropped Brian Hartline minutes before his record-setting performance and reached for Antonio Gates in round two because I had no picks in rounds three to six.
No, instead, I’m beginning to regret playing fantasy football because it’s changed the way I watch football too much. Now I spend so long refreshing the box score on my match-ups – in the vain hope that my sleeper pick nobody had ever heard of, not even his own team-mates, managed to score six touchdowns – that I almost forget to watch the actual game.
And I know it’s not just me. It’s changed the way you watch football too.
Last night for example, I happened to be enduring some of the Steelers, Eagles game in a certain Dublin establishment and saw a guy in a Pittsburgh jersey loudly cheer Michael Vick’s two touchdown throws against his own side. The reason, he had Vick in his fantasy team of course.
Now that can’t be classed as normal behaviour can it?
And yet, I have to admit I do it myself. I will cheer when opposing quarterbacks or receivers score, as long as they’re in my fantasy team and the Raiders still win. In my head, in your head, we’ve justified this by saying “it’s okay; I needed those points to win my fantasy match-up.”
Indeed, even when your team scores, I bet you’ve found yourself silently sighing because you know your fantasy opponent this week has your stud running back in his line-up.
I feel your pain. I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. It’s why you’ve spent the last three minutes nodding along with this column.
Hopefully though, none of you have drifted into the realms of seeking out players on social media to abuse them for poor performances in your fantasy team. It’s bizarre to think that actually happens, but it’s becoming a more frequent occurrence.
Take this tweet from Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams on Sunday night:
Two things strike me about the tweet. Firstly, the abuse Williams took was disgusting and a reminder that people will say things to athletes on social media they’d never dream of saying in real life.
Secondly, if Williams is as rubbish as they all seem to think he is, why did they draft him in the first place?
Will I still play fantasy football? Of course, but they say the first step in fighting any addiction is to recognise it as such before you can begin to change the negative behaviour surrounding it.
Therefore, next weekend, I’m not going to check the box scores of my fantasy match-ups during the games. Instead of judging players as if they are unfeeling robots that spew out statistics on my behalf, I will enjoy football for what it’s supposed to be; war played in chess moves.
That should be all the enjoyment I need.
Week five results
Arizona Cardinals 3 @ St. Louis Ram 17
Atlanta Falcons 24 @ Washington Redskins 17
Miami Dolphins 17 @ Cincinnati Bengals 13
Green Bay Packers 27 @ Indianapolis Colts 30
Baltimore Ravens 9 @ Kansas City Chiefs 6
Cleveland Browns 27 @ New York Giants 41
Philadelphia Eagles 14 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 16
Seattle Seahawks 16 @ Carolina Panthers 12
Chicago Bears 41 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 3
Denver Broncos 21 @ New England Patriots 31
Tennessee Titans 7 @ Minnesota Vikings 30
Buffalo Bills 3 @ San Francisco 49ers 45
San Diego Chargers 24 @ New Orleans Saints 31