Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fantasy vs Reality: two fans debate.

My long-time friend is a diehard Redskins fan. He is one the few people I know in my peer group who has successfully fended off the siren song of fantasy sports. He does this, he maintains, because he doesn't want his fandom to become watered down by fantasy interests. This position is one that is widely held among those who do not play fantasy. So we hashed it out:

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SkinsFan72: good article. And thanks for re-confirming while I'll never play fantasy football. The end results don't matter- only the numbers...

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Me: It's hard right now for me to see both sides since the 9ers have been in such a trench that it's easy not to get your hopes up and hard to stay on a bandwagon after week 5 if they are obviously hosed. This year, as with last, it's been a little more promising - not because they are any good - but because they are surrounded by such pus in their division that hope is pretty much always there.
All this to say: Fantasy football isn't to blame for me toning down my expectations - the team itself bears that responsibility.
I am a loyal fan and always will be. What FF does is make the season interesting across the board. I have an interest in 6-8 games a week. FF has amped up my overall commitment to the sport without weakening my love for my team.
You could ask [our friend] if the Giants SuperBowl run in '07 was dampened by his devotion to fantasy and I think you know what the answer is.
I hate to say it but if you had the time (and it doesn't take much) FF would be perfect for a guy like you who claims to like the Redskins, not football. FF makes you like football. It makes the game very personal. Even though the stakes are relatively small (a $50 league costs you less than $5 a week to play) you can become completely committed because you are responsible for the success and failure of your team.
And above all else it does not detract from devotion to your team.
What you and others base your argument on is that you see so many FF fans who really don't give much of a crap about "their NFL team," and you think - see it's made them not care for their team. The fact is that guy probably didn't really have an NFL team to begin with. He was a very casual fan - but FF has turned him into an NFL freak.
I think you would be very hard pressed to find a huge supporter of an NFL team who will say that his love for his team has been diluted by FF. Thanks for the comment, I'm definitely writing a column about this.

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SkinsFan72: all good points but my comment was based on going with Romo on your fantasy team (smart move by the way) because he puts up great fantasy numbers- not because he ultimately may be the best player for his team. Fantasy football is measured on who is best for your fantasy team not who is best for their 'REAL' team. Romo puts up amazing numbers but he ultimately (so far) has not come through in the clutch. It's stupid to not draft him in fantasy b/c him not coming through in the clutch (i.e. playoff time) has absolutely no bearing on fantasy football. But it has all kinds of bearing on real football. Am I making sense? Fantasy football makes people care about fantasy numbers while they very often now disregard the less quantfiable aspects of the game (offensive line, special teams play etc...)
Look, I totally get why fantasy football rules the roost and many people who play it were casual (or not even) football fans to begin with and this brought them into the fold- b/c they like gambling, the camaraderie, a hobby away from their family, whatever... And good for them and good for the NFL I guess but it ain't for me.
Definitely not questioning you or [our friend's] loyalty but I have seen PLENTY of guys who were once loyal to a team much more concerned about their fantasy team then their real team. Their prerogative, but again totally not for me. I like the game for the game's sake, and I care about 1 team- the Skins. Or 2 teams. The Skins and whichever team helps the Skins by beating another team ahead of the Skins in the standings.
I am confortable in my own myopia. Hopefully you get what I'm saying up above- sometimes it's hard to articulate my jumbled thoughts onto "paper".

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Me: these are two very distinct issues. Is a player good for a team? Is he good for a fantasy team. Right off the bat I have to dismiss your point that Romo is not good for the Cowboys. If Jerry Jones thought he could do better, he absolutely would - and maybe one day soon he will. In the meantime it's your word against Jerry Jones and I'm going with Jerry. And I'm doing so in large part because of what I know about Romo through the lens of fantasy football. He is a tremendous talent who has had some great moments, some low moments and more than a few bad breaks. I don't know how you feel about SABRmetrics but numbers don't lie.
I know you are committed to not playing fantasy football and naturally I respect that. I have, after all, stopped asking you to play. But I think if someone's fanhood gets watered down because of fantasy then I think it wasn't all that watered up in the first place. I have always loved my team, and I still do. now I love the whole NFL and it makes me a better football fan in general. Not only am I more knowledgable because I watch the stat lines, but I watch more games and therefore gain a better understanding and appreciation of what's going on than when I was just watching the 9ers.
Case in point - I have an unnatural desire to have Fred Jackson on my team. Somehwere along the line I got the idea he was a good player and after three years of drafting him it's starting to pan out. So last Sunday I say down to watch the Bills play the Raiders. Without fantasy I would NEVER have picked that game. Turns out to be one of the best games of the year and I enjoyed every minute of it whether Jackson was scoring (which he did twice thank you very much) or not. I have a broader, fuller NFL experience than I ever would have had without fantasy. Later that day I watched the 49ers barely lose to the Cowboys and it was a huge bummer (and not because of Romo's rib). Fortunately I am feeling pretty good about their chances to win the NFC West so losing the Cowboys isn't a huge deal.
Now, generally speaking I don't think most people who play fantasy really care if other people play or not. As long as we've got our leagues we're good. Conversely I think the proliferation of fantasy owners does tend to irritate the avid fans who don't participate. And it leads us to this statement which I've just found a parallel to which I think you will appreciate:
Steelers Fan: I watch football because I love the sport.
The implication here is that fantasy fans are possessed of a lesser love of the sport. Which, I think you will admit will never be taken as a compliment. And while there are cases like I mentioned before were a guy never loved a team but was able to develop a love of the sport through fantasy - well, that's less of an insult but still not true. Love is love no matter what the reason.
Here's the parallel I promised: You know how you, as a music lover, will find yourself ocassionaly talking to a former music lover and they will say - I used to really get into music, but then I had kids and kind of outgrew it.
What they are doing is making an exuse for their non participation in your hobby by telling you that they are too mature for it. Which, of course, you will never take as a compliment.
It's the same thing.

The guy engaged in this debate with me is a king of a man. Not just a huge sports fan but the author of one of the Web's finest music blogs. If you like tunes as much as you like a winning fantasy team give him a read over at


J said...

You may want to point out to your friend that those subtle nuances like O-line and ST play are very much a part of fantasy football. Any FF player that doesn't take the team O-line into consideration when trying to decide which QB or RB to take isn't paying enough attention (and probably won't win any money). Let's look at my QB for example. I picked Matt Schaub as my #1 (and if he doesn't start putting up #1 stats soon, I'm gonna start breaking furniture). When it came time to draft a backup, Cam Newton was on the board, but I took Kevin Kolb because I thought he had better receivers and a better O-line than Cam did. We'll see how it works out. The guy I'm playing this week drafted Cam - as his backup. Phillip Rivers is his #1. But I have a chance because he has Jamaal Charles, and consequently, now has no running game. If my opponent does start Cam, fine. I'll still root for the Panthers and hope we win 900-0 and hope the rest of my team makes up for the point deficit I'll have with a lower-performing QB. I agree with you that it doesn't water down a true fan's devotion to his team.

I'm also in the one and only league in the solar system that has defense and special teams as 2 separate units. (I've been fighting this stupidity for 9 years. Don't ask.) So what makes a good ST for fantasy? A team who's defense sucks, and a speed demon for a return man. So I got the Raiders. It's working out for me so far.

I think your buddy is missing out on all the fun.

Anonymous said...

Matt Schaub's team is 2-0

The Owners said...

J = Comment of the month.
In a side conversation with my buddy I brought up just that point. If you don't know the nuances of a team you aren't going to draft very well. You don't draft well you lose. Hope for your furniture's sake Schaub gets it going.

Anon - As far as Schaub being 2-0 goes, that's true but that doesn't make him a great QB. And beating Indy means nothing and beating Miami might not mean that much more.