I have a problem. I'm addicted to something and I'm not sure I can quit cold turkey. There are few things in the world that I both hate and love as much as this. Let me set the scene.
It's Sunday, which means it's football day. Yes, I understand, we're in college and we should be college football fans, but I've just always been a bigger NFL fan. It's almost midnight, and rather than studying for my midterms for the following week, I'm intently following the box score of a game between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. I have no rooting interest in this game whatsoever, and the outcome of the game will not affect my life in any way, shape or form. No, the reason I am glued to my computer screen is because Danny Woodhead is playing.
Wait what? Danny Woodhead? You mean the guy that has arguably the best porn name in the National Football League? The guy that has been a backup for contending teams his whole career? Yeah, that one. The Chadron State alumni was the most important man on the field. Why?
Because if he managed to get in the endzone, I would pull off an upset in my fantasy football league.
This story is no different than many you'll hear from men and women across the country. Fantasy football has become more than just a way to pass the time and awkwardly exchange banter with your coworkers at the water cooler. It has gotten to the point where Skip Bayless, who is almost as intolerable in print as he is on TV, wrote an article about the few remaining fantasy holdouts in the world. I hate to say it, but I almost envy those that have yet to join the masses.
On the one hand, it is truly a unique way to look at sports. Rather than just cheer for your favorite team, you have a vested interest in 75 percent of the games every weekend. Why on earth would I care about the Jacksonville Jaguars unless I had Maurice Jones-Drew in one league and Cecil Shorts in another? There are a lot of talented players in the NFL, and with fantasy football, anyone can play GM for at least 17 days a year.
I've experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. My first season of fantasy football I finished second to last. I was left 20 dollars poorer and with the unfortunate knowledge that I lost to people who may not even recognize the players on their own roster if they saw them on the street. And yet, two years later, the Rick Ross Grunts took home 200 dollars and bragging rights for a whole year. I'm so nostalgic about that championship team I have named every fantasy team in every league since the Rick Ross Grunts, with newer versions followed by a 2.0, 3.0, etc. With the exception of those outliers, I have pretty consistently made the playoffs and lost before the championship game.
It's a fascinating dynamic when you really think about it. Let's say a national college fantasy football league existed (I realize this is a preposterous proposal considering the number of teams in the FBS, but bear with me here). Brandon Connette has been the subject of a roller coaster ride of both criticism and praise the past few weeks. His play at quarterback, however, would be a dream for fantasy owners across the country. Against Pittsburgh, Connette threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns, ran for 101 yards and two more scores, and threw four interceptions. Based on the standard fantasy football scoring rules, Connette would have compiled 43 points. To put this in perspective, Peyton Manning would have scored 36 points last weekend during a 51-48 shootout in Dallas against the Cowboys.
In the grand scheme of things, this means absolutely nothing. There is no national college fantasy football league (though there are some for individual conferences) and Peyton Manning is infinitely better than any college quarterback. I would know, I've lost to Peyton in two different fantasy leagues already. It wasn't enough for him to win a Super Bowl, put up the best career quarterback rating in history, become the arguably funniest athlete host of SNL ever AND own a chain of Papa John's pizza stores? Seriously, what can Peyton not do?
I write all of this down only to help with the healing process. They say the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Regardless, today I will most likely tinker with my lineup for around 30 minutes. Tonight, the Chicago Bears will take on the New York Giants, and I have the Chicago defense in one of my leagues (score one for the Rick Ross Grunts 3.0). My teams may be average right now, but after a few weeks, they could be right back in it! I know, it's sad, maybe even hard for people who don't play fantasy football to understand, but all of the time and energy we put into fantasy football—it's worth it. Once you have reached the top of the mountain and tasted success, you're hooked for life. And so as I conclude this column, despite the extreme love/hate relationship we have, I'll compete in fantasy football leagues for years to come.
The Rick Ross Grunts: A fantasy football confessional
Jennie Xu / The Chronicle