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Why Real Football Fans Don’t Play Fantasy


I hate fantasy football. I have never played it, and I never will. Because it’s evil. Watch the hilariously vile TV show “The League” if you don’t believe me.

Fantasy football is everything that is wrong with the world. As a philosopher, I understand that the case I am about to lay out is not the most logical, and I’m okay with that because playing a sport that requires you to wear protective armor that actually makes the game more injurious is not very logical. In other words, one can’t revert to logic to defend the illogical. You’ve got to go deeper. Like Nietzsche, you need to go beyond good and evil to a primordial pure place where the recliners are made of pig skin and the “Autumn Wind” never ceases, where every day is Sunday and the crockpot magically produces Rotel dip.

Every time someone asks me if I want to join his or her league, I say no. Then they ask me why, with a look so bewildering it’s as if I just denied needing oxygen. I have a few stock replies, depending on who is doing the asking.

Fantasy Football Makes It About Math Instead of Poetry

First scenario: A coworker I know doesn’t like football.

My answer: “I actually like football.” Their facial response is almost as cartoonish as an idea light bulb, because they don’t like football. They like games, numbers, percentages. But they get it. If you actually like football, why would you play fantasy football?

Philosophical Conclusion No. 1: FF takes something beautiful and makes it about math, which is something horrible!

Math cannot quantify people and passion. Tony Romo is the fourth best passer in NFL history with a rating of 97.1. But that amazing number was the last thing I was thinking about the day he relinquished the quarterback position to Dak Prescott last year. I’m not ashamed to say that listening to his carefully chosen words brought tears to my eyes, because he was being so unselfish.

Then at the end of the speech I began to sob uncontrollably, because I realized he wasn’t just stepping aside so Dak could take over. He was saying goodbye to me. Obviously not just to me — there are millions of Cowboys fans, and plenty have never liked Romo. But it’s hard to watch someone play for ten years, to literally break his back and keep going, and not feel something when he is about to disappear.

Painful goodbyes are the most bittersweet thing in the world. A painful goodbye means that a good thing has ended. That means, no matter how briefly, you had a good thing. The more bitter a goodbye, the sweeter what came before. Cynical fantasy footballers can make fun of me all they want for this melodrama. I don’t care. As Gandalf said before sailing to the Undying Lands, “I will not say do not weep. For not all tears are an evil.”

Fantasy Football sterilizes away all this passion and poetry. These men risk life and limb for our entertainment every autumn, and reducing them to numbers is simply wrong. The passion and grit are what make football great, not the stats.

Real Football Increases Your Team Loyalty

Second scenario: Someone I know has a shallow team allegiance.

My answer: “I would only draft players from the Cowboys.” Their response is always the same: “But then you’d always lose.” With a grin, I say, “I know.” Often they get it, and that’s where it ends. But sometimes there’s a follow-up: “What about bye weeks?” And I say “Exactly.”

For a real fan, a bye week is a vacation. After the season starts, Sundays—and occasionally Mondays, Thursdays, and for my kind every single Thanksgiving—are days of gut-wrenching torment, punctuated by intense screaming, celebrating, profanity, and finally the serenity of victory or the beginning of a 24-hour mourning ritual. If I were dumb enough to play FF, I would just concede my bye weeks, because I don’t care about the other 1,426 players in the NFL. I only care about the 46 guys lucky enough to be wearing the same symbol that sits center stage on the U.S. armed forces roundel: the five-pointed star. If my 46 guys aren’t suiting up I don’t even turn on my TV.

Loyalty is the lost virtue of America. The truth is, I don’t actually like football that much. If we’re gonna be mathematical, I hate 97 percent of the NFL. I LOVE the Dallas Cowboys. Loyalty makes life better. It helps you understand who you are. It gives you an identity.

Is it dangerous? Absolutely. Almost anything worth doing is potentially dangerous. Our loyalties shape and lead us, so they should never be completely blind. Loyalty can and should be critical. But it’s not hard to tell the difference between loyal critics and those who are loyal to criticism. That’s the difference between Martin Luther King Jr. and Black Lives Matter. King believed in America. BLM believes in criticizing America.

Simple communal loyalties are the basis of our social contract. More than almost anything else, sports can thicken these ties. Even when the commentators and athletes get political, the true fans do not. Sports are bigger than politics to us, not because they are actually more important but because they are simpler. Because sports are done for their own sake.

Ultimately, that is the essence of loyalty: attachment to something for its own sake. Not really for how it benefits you, but how you can benefit it. Again, this is all very dramatic, but true. I don’t care who you voted for, where you come from, or who you sleep with if I see that star adorning your attire or glued to the back of your car. You are my brother or sister in blue.

Loyalty to the American flag and anthem means exactly the same thing. That is why the kneeling protests have been so consistently unpopular. The protesters are not drawing attention to an issue as much as they are drawing attention to their lack of basic loyalty. When they kneel, stretch, or hide, they tell us we are not brothers. We are not in this together.

Philosophical Conclusion No. 2: Fantasy football undermines the most important part of sports. Sports are supposed to increase loyalty, deepen community, teach us to deal with loss and be gracious winners. Fantasy football throws all that good stuff into the trash, replacing it with an individual mercenary stats game.

Fantasy Football Makes You Feel Ashamed

Third Scenario: Diehard fans who play FF.

They don’t ask anymore. I see the guilt in their eyes. They know what I know, but unlike me they’ve sold their souls for some statistics, peer pressure, or sometimes literally for money.

Philosophical Conclusion No.3: fantasy football makes you feel guilty and ashamed. Don’t lie. We all know it’s the truth. Look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re a man. Then tell yourself you’re a man who plays fantasy football. Doesn’t sound right or feel good, does it?

Well, I wouldn’t actually know, now, would I? But I see it in your faces and I can imagine the pain. And if you don’t feel ashamed, you should.

Go Cowboys!