Column: Rethinking fantasy football for me
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 30, 2012 23:09
I’m not a huge fan of Grantland. I’m just not.
Somewhere between the obnoxiously long Bill Simmons columns, the weekly “Mad Men” power rankings and incessant references to HBO programming (as much as I enjoy “The Wire” and “Game of Thrones,”) I lost interest and failed to see the point.
Anyways, every once in a while, I do come across a gem there.
On Thursday, my roommate, Grant sent me a piece from the site about the problem that’s arisen as fantasy football has gotten more popular and I have to admit, it was brilliant and spot on.
But before I go into the piece’s content, I need to preface my living situation. I live in a Garrigus suite with five other dudes, all of whom I’m really close with. Two of my suitemates couldn’t care a less about sports, and another is a casual football fan.
The last two, however, are avid football fans. One loves fantasy football and the other, Grant, despises it. I’m sort of in the awkward middle of that which makes for some interesting conversations.
At first, I thought that Grant was weird, but now I’m starting to think that he’s on to something. He gives three points that point to why he hates fantasy sports in general, but especially football. While I don’t necessarily hate fantasy football, I’m in a league with other current and former coworkers of mine, I could see why he has came to the conclusion he has.
The first point is that we act like we understand a player’s career when in all reality, we haven’t the slightest clue.
Here’s where the Grantland piece enters the fold. The article that Grant sent me discussed how we as sports fans can take a professional athlete, take running back Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans for example, and turn him into nothing but a stat.
In his rookie season, Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards, it was quite the season for him and by rookie standards, it was very impressive.
But in 2009, he had 2,509 yards from scrimmage in addition to scoring 16 touchdowns. It was a monster year and for fantasy football owners all over the country, it was a year that could go a long way in winning an owner a league championship.
Then in 2010, he had a “slump” and only had 1600 yards—I know right? Quite the slump. The following year, he did about the same. So to be clear, that’s four straight years of 1,000 yards rushing or more.
Then once he goes into a real slump this season, the sort of slump that any running back goes through, he instantly becomes a choke-artist. My gosh, if I hear one more overly frustrated fantasy football manager that calls Chris Johnson a bad running back because Johnson didn’t do enough for said manager beat the guy from accounts receivable last week, I’m going to flip.
Johnson doesn’t suck as a running back and he’s not some fluke whose had one good season. He’s a great running back whose had one elite season in the NFL—which by my calculations is still one more than any of you have. Through the first four seasons, he averaged over 1,400 yards per season. Let’s calm down a bit. For whatever reason, we as fantasy football owners tend to have this complex that Johnson as an athlete owes us something because he’s had one good year.
It’s the one industry (aside from the NBA draft lottery) where one is doomed because of his success.
A second reason Grant gives for hating fantasy football is how it changes the way in which we look at a player’s injuries.
When a man severely hurts himself, we as fantasy owners instantly personalize it. We try to act as if we’re the victim of that player’s injury. We get this attitude of “Poor me! My starting wideout hurt himself and now I’m probably going to lose.”
Oh you poor thing. For crying out loud, somebody tore an ACL and your primary concern is a sports equivalent to World of Warcraft? That’s messed up and I think Grant has a point there.
The third point he gives is that it’s ridiculous to take the ultimate team game of football and reduce it down to the actions and statistics of just one player. Last week, when the Patriots lost a tough 31-30 game to the Ravens, Belichick was taking heat not for hitting a ref, but for not giving the ball to Gronkowski more. That wouldn’t have solved any offensive problems however, because there were no problems to be solved. They scored 31 stinking points. People weren’t upset about game strategy regarding a team, they were upset that one of their players didn’t get touchdown passes. Get over it, the Pats scored without Gronk on those plays.
I’m not saying that I dislike fantasy football. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t act like the head coach of the players on our teams because you have a Yahoo! account.
Just let the games happen, and if your team does well, great. If not, remember that these are actual people that you are dealing with and not poker chips.
Follow Dan on Twitter @DanAgabiti