31 December 2008

Fantasy Football?

This might feel a little Carlin-esque at times, but bear with me.
Rotisserie baseball is an apt and understandable extension of the Great American Pastime. Slow, methodical, numerically based. No matter how many numbers they cram on a TV screen during a football game, no sport is as stat-happy as baseball. Part of the allure of attending a baseball game is filling in your own scorecard as the game progresses, so I've read.
The slow nature of baseball - pitch after pitch of steady rhythm punctuated by the occasional crack of the bat, or roar of the crowd - makes it possible to accurately and completely record the outcome of a game. Even if there's a dramatic run down for a double play in the top of the 6th inning, you're still going to have plenty of time to record who was out, how many runs made it in, and - if you're really good - how many times the pitcher masticated his gum of choice. You'll definitely have time. Baseball is played in parks because you do so much more than watch the guys on the field when you go.
Thank you, Mr. Carlin.
Then we have "Fantasy Football": you take a fast moving sport with a series of dramatic moments punctuated by the occasional TV timeout where so much is going on if you look away from the field (television) for 5 seconds you'll likely have missed the greatest play in the history of football (Yes, yes, there's replay, but you and I both know that's not the same thing) and you boil it down to the numbers.
The closest I ever personally came to playing fantasy football was a weekly game-choosing contest some friends and I participated in for sodas. Because gambling on sports is apparently illegal in Maryland, and we would never do that. Not this little black duck, no sir.
No drama, no tension, no story - The tension of 4th and goal when your team is down by 5 and there's 3 seconds left in the game (and there's a playoff spot riding on this play) is boiled down to whether or not "& Goal" includes enough yards to bring "your"* starting running back over some other guy's RBs yardage for the week. What makes it even better is if the guy you "drafted"* to be "your"* RB is in fact playing for your team's opponent.
Are you kidding me?
Maybe Fantasy Football is for the person without a team, who loves the numbers and the statistics-as-competition, a real rotisserie baseball type who gets withdrawal symptoms after the World Series ends. Fantasy Football is stat-sports methadone.
I love American football (as well as futbol, but that's another essay), and I can understand how some guys are drawn in to Fantasy Football because they love football so damned much that they want anything and everything to do with it. You can bet the guy who owns that Steelers room on that NFL merch commercial has a Fantasy Football team. Probably stacked with Steelers, too. Except for that one position (second wide receiver? Do they have that position in Fantasy Football? No - don't answer that, I don't care) that some other guy "drafted" out from under him.
This is another reason why I couldn't do Fantasy Football (other than the implied fact that it's more boring than a North Sea Oil Platform). My love for the game made me consider playing, but I'd want to draft my team, because they are who I root for. It's the same reason why I didn't win as many sodas as I should have when I was picking games way back when: I always pick my team to win. I'd be disloyal if I didn't choose my team to win, even if they are playing a team they haven't beat since they moved to Baltimore; my logic, such as it is, always being this: Any given Sunday...
I've been thinking as I write, and maybe football is every bit as stat-happy as baseball. Yards per carry, Number of TD receptions, Yards after catch: these numbers define my Sundays from September through January, but only in the context of the NFL team for whom I root, not some fantastic and unnatural conglomeration of Superstars that only play together in formulas and fiction. Football is as much about the average Joe slugging it out in the trenches, the surprise star of the season (how many Fantasy types drafted Flacco or McClain?), as it is about the flashiest receiver who is best at stashing a sharpie in his sock. Fantasy Football denies this about our game, as well as bleeding the weekly drama until all we have left is black and white, maybe in Comic Sans, if you're one of those people.
Honestly, Fantasy Football guys (guys includes all female-type persons), I don't see the point, and tend to toss it into the same mental pile as NASCAR, if slightly higher on the pile. In the interest of not being a complete hypocrite, I won't call for its disappearance from existence, because it does me no harm. I ask you to not try to persuade me otherwise, because I only care enough about it to complain.
Happy New Year!

*I'm verbally winking at you because the fictitious back in question is not yours, and the only thing you drafted is a fairly good sign that you have too much free time.
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