Have you ever wondered why you love fantasy football so much?
I sure have. I was a fantasyholic. And when I discovered why, it was one of the main reasons I stopped playing two years ago and became a recovering fantasyholic.
First though, let me be clear that one of my reasons to stop playing was not that is wasn’t fun. In fact, perhaps it was too fun. There was a time when few things exhilarated me more than watching my flex RB run for 150 and 2 TDs on a Monday night to eke out a fantasy victory. In my head I would throw a little party celebrating this dreadlocked, steel-muscled machine of a man who was great at carrying a leather ball and running away from angry men. I ate that stuff up like Refrigerator Perry at a calabash buffet. But why was I so enamored?
The easy answer is pride.
I pick better players than you. On draft night while you were scouring your cheat sheet for top-10 kickers I was taking a flyer on a rookie wide receiver and pasting your tail with him in Week 8.
I also start the right guys. Every week. I sat my number one receiver because he was gonna be on Revis Island, and I started a waiver wire white boy named Pete Pickles who went for 179 and a score. I own you like a Jerry Jones oil field.
So pride provided some fugacious happiness until I lost and had to make excuses for what went wrong. They stacked the box against MJD. Foster had a groin flare. My whole starting lineup was on a bye week and I had to start a guy on my bench who happened to be missing a leg. There was almost always an excuse for not winning; my pride was at stake.
Yet pride was not what drove my complete attention to this little game. Sure, it was a factor in why I would obsess over my lineup right until the 1 o’clock kickoff. But there was a deeper, more insidious problem I had with playing fantasy sports. This problem actually made me think about fantasy sports 24/7. If pride was the hors d’oeuvre that readied me for my fantasy meal, this problem was the midnight buffet binge on the Carnival cruise.
Some of us may jokingly refer to this obsession as a man crush. Rightfully so. But a more serious label, that defined my experience, was idolatry.
Well what does that look like? For me, it looked like staring at my roster and admiring each athlete for his special talents for minutes on end. It looked like watching a game and not taking my eyes off a player, no matter where he was or what he was doing on the field. It looked like watching one of my guys get hurt and having my heart sink with fear and worry of losing his talents (points, really). It looked like sitting in bed and contemplating my players’ greatness, and falling asleep to visions of Megatron dancing in my head. Frankly, it looked like sitting in church on Sunday and fretting over my guy being a game-time decision. I was worshipping the Father, Son, and Adrian Peterson.
So who cares? A few man crushes are pretty harmless, right? Not for me. And maybe not for you, either. You see, I found it very natural and exciting to become so infatuated with a hero. I am so driven to praise something. Yet, how empty I felt when my guy went down, when my team lost, when the season ended. Once again, my idolatry ended in disappointment. It wasn’t wrong to praise something. That’s innate with all of us. It’s praising the wrong thing that is wrong. It was praising everything I wasn’t meant to praise while ignoring the one Thing that I was.
I’m not tying to get you to stop playing fantasy football (as if you’d listen to me anyway). In its purest state, it is a harmless, fun little game. My problem was I couldn’t keep it that way. In a world replete with things to praise, I chose something (or some men) who were unworthy of the cloying admiration I heaped on them with my heart. No amount of fantasy points was worth that.