It’s getting into the home stretch of the semester, and stress levels are at an all-time high. With final projects, papers and exams on the horizon, the greatest challenge is now determining how to set your lineup as fantasy football players scramble to get into the playoffs.
I don’t play fantasy sports, and while I can very clearly see the appeal, they diminish for me the single greatest feeling and enjoyment that comes from fandom: hatred. It’s untenable to me that I could have competing agendas that way. I don’t want to need Emmanuel Sanders to get 20 points as I’m rooting for the Broncos to lose. I just want to see his team get crushed by 25 in primetime.
My only true goal as an NFL fan is to see the Carolina Panthers win the Super Bowl, and for the other 31 teams to implode in hilarious fashion somehow. If I have to watch Cam Newton and Co. drop 45 points on Miami while worrying about Jarvis Landry’s stat line, where does my allegiance truly lie? If I just draft exclusively Panthers, I’m obviously setting myself up to fail. In neither case am I doing my football experience any justice.
I will recognize that fantasy sports bring people together on some level and shine a light on some of the NFL’s stars. Players like Adam Thielen and Duke Johnson stuff Sunday stat sheets, but don’t book every commercial like the retired corpse of Peyton Manning, yet their ability to bring in 20 points a week endears them to those casual fans. These budding talents may not have the electrifying cachet of Dez Bryant, but they have more than surpassed his production on the field this season.
But for every casual fan that is better exposed to the nuance of the game through fantasy football, there are the fans that take it way too far. Stories abound about injured players being harassed on social media by fantasy football owners too lazy to peruse the waiver wire. If you’re going to harass a player, make sure you’re doing it for the right reason: because he plays for a team besides yours. I believe very firmly in player safety, so hounding A.J. Green for a nagging ankle problem is unfair, but hounding him for practicing his MMA moves on Jalen Ramsey is open season.
In my eyes, part of the magic of sports is that it distracts from reality. The fact that my team is playing and I am totally vested in its success means that those are three fewer hours I spend thinking about the things that would normally stress me out. Brackets are fine because no one really thinks they can perfectly predict the outcome of more than 60 basketball games, but fantasy football has me far more vested in the eight or fewer games a week, as I worry about the real-life consequences of losing a fake game.
So I say, as your season nears an end, try to enjoy the stretch run of NFL division races rather than obsessing over Matthew Berry’s every word. Trash talk opposing players on Twitter for the right reasons. Just enjoy football for what it is, in whatever way you best can. Besides, we’re at the point in the season when half of you forget to set your lineups anyway.