Why I Stopped Playing Fantasy Football

5 min read

Photo cr: enterlinedesign, fantasy football

Photo cr: enterlinedesign

An ex-boyfriend of mine loved fantasy sports. He had fantasy teams for baseball, hockey, basketball and football. Almost year round, he dedicated a not insignificant portion of his focus to tending to his fantasy team(s), football especially. Initially I found his fantasy hobby curious and amusing. So, this is what some of the male species spends their time doing? Fascinating. He’d get so passionate watching a football game – though I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t seem to root for one team consistently. “I don’t really have a favorite team. I just need my players to score me points!” Uh, ok. Mostly, I busied myself with other activities when on Sundays or Thursday evenings he watched football games, or when he’d take anywhere from five minutes to an hour to update his fantasy lineup – before and sometimes after games.

___

I never cared one way or the other for football. My dad watches it and I have many a memory of him posted up in front of the TV on Thanksgiving days. If forced to pick a favorite sport to watch, I’ve often chosen basketball. I grew up in the heyday of Michael Jordan and I understand basketball. Your mission is to throw the ball in the net.  If you make a basket from outside the arc, you score three points instead of two! It’s simple with fast-paced action and points scored often. Football, on the other hand, mystified me. This, despite the fact that I went to high school and college in Texas where for some, football is a religion. Football puzzled me even though friend in college, who played football in high school, spent time drawing me a diagram of stick figures and lines, patiently describing to me various plays and positions.

“But why the hell does it take so long to score?”

He explained that the offense has four chances (downs) to advance 10 yards. If they advance all four downs, they get four new ones, with the goal being to reach the end zone, score a touchdown and dance. I don’t recall much else from that afternoon football lesson, but I figured I knew enough to get by. College football games were especially fun since our team was pretty good at the time and tailgate parties are no joke. Still, I continued to feel neutral about the sport.

___

Gradually, I grew to mildly resent the imposition of fantasy sports in our relationship, especially football. We scheduled many an outing around my boyfriend’s fantasy schedule. Fantasy draft days turned into two or three-hour ordeals with my boyfriend cursing every once in a while at the screen when he didn’t get the players he wanted. Of course, on Sundays, he had to watch the games, which are on all day. I wanted to go to brunch; he wanted to watch the games.

Photo cr: ©WavebreakmediaMicro

Photo cr: ©WavebreakmediaMicro

Bored and feeling ignored, I’d tell him, “I’m gonna go home.”

He’d put his arm around my waist and say with a look I had a hard time saying “no” to, “Aw, but I want you to be here. I’m just going to watch this one game.” One game would turn into two. He’d promise to act more attentively, but inevitably he fixate on the screen again, chatting with me and attempting to be attentive during commercial breaks.

Eventually,  after a couple of years, I found myself mildly dreading the start of football season.  During the season, I hated the din from the TV during games: the clamor of the crowds in the stands, the shrieking whistles of the refs after each play; the grunts and thwacks of players.

Sometimes, I’d try to goad him to get his attention, to at least have a bit of real interpersonal communication, like a child bugging out for their parent’s gaze:

“It’s funny that they make such a big deal about gay men in the NFL when this is probably one of the most homoerotic sports you can play. It’s like these guys find any excuse to smack each others’ asses, bump chests or jump on each other.”

He’d cross his arms, throw me a look of pleading exasperation and return to the game.

When we broke up, I wanted nothing to do with football. That is, until a couple of years later when a co-worker asked if I would like to join the company fantasy team. I considered that football is one of the most, if not the most popular sport in the country and maybe I should make peace with the sport. Additionally, a grand prize of $600 with a $50 buy-in appealed to me. I like to try new things and a few of my other friends were in the league, so I told him, “Ok, I’m in!” Out of 12 “owners” – as players are called – only three were women. I relished the opportunity to take on the smack-talking dudes who teased that the girls would choose players for our teams by uniform colors and player hotness.

I researched player and team stats on sports sites and fantasy blogs, strategizing my  lineup; I watched football on Sundays, I rooted for my players and dutifully updated my lineup each week. That first season I came in seventh out of 12 teams, one slot shy of making the fantasy playoffs. The guys commended me on a good first effort.

The next year I was determined to at least make the playoffs. I also joined another fantasy team with a different group of friends – again, only three girls were owners in this new league – to increase my opportunities for winning cash money. I thought to myself, “If my ex could see me now. I have not one, but two, fantasy football teams!” That year, I won most of my head-to-head competitions, leaving the previous year’s champion to question, “Do you have somebody helping you?”

Photo cr: Robert S. Donovan, flickr.com

Photo cr: Robert S. Donovan, flickr.com

“No,” I answered honestly. I insisted on doing this on my own, as I quickly realized, listening to other people – as I did a few times my rookie season – proved more harmful than helpful.

His face registered disbelief as he said, “Uh, huh. I bet you got some guy at home giving you tips.” I took his insistence on a mystery helper as a compliment: he viewed me as legitimate competition for the throne. That season I landed in second place in that league, winning $200, for a net profit of $150. I rewarded myself with a Kindle Fire. I’d officially became a fan of fantasy football.

___

I began to lose interest in fantasy football as my life got busier. During the first few games of the following season, I was on the other side of the world in Tanzania with fantasy games the last thing on my mind. Shortly after I returned, I moved to San Francisco, which came with it’s own sets of challenges. I cut back to one league, finding management of two teams too  much. Though, I ended up joining the fantasy league at “Fancy Startup” last year, in an attempt to get to know some of my new co-workers better. I played halfheartedly that season and committed the great offense of basically handing a game to my opponent one week by not updating my roster when one of my player got benched because of an injury.

On top of that, the year I placed second, one of my good friends and fellow leaguer,  E___,  told me about a story he’d seen on 60 Minutes about the long-term effects of concussions and other brain injuries on football players. I watched the segment online and it saddened me to hear the stories of formerly strong, capable men suffering from debilitating depression or early onset dementia, their families struggling to adapt and care for them. I’d heard of boxers being “punch drunk” and any fan of the Rocky series knows that Rocky’s brain got a little mushy from all that knocking around. It makes sense that football players and other athletes who sustain repeated blows to the head are susceptible longterm, irreversible brain damage. The NFL seemed to drag its wealthy feet in publicly acknowledging there might be a connection between players being hit by 200lb+ men running at high speeds and brain damage. Further, the NFL reportedly made it difficult for retired players who claimed brain injuries, to qualify for the appropriate health coverage, leading several players to sue.

As a running back at Cal Berkeley, Jahvid Best sustained an epic concussion following a hit during a 2009 game. He later went on to play professionally for the Detroit Lions, where he sustained multiple concussions. Lately, he's said the NFL never should have drafted him given his history of brain injuries. Photo cr: J. M. Pavliga, flickr.com

As a running back at Cal Berkeley, Jahvid Best sustained an epic concussion following a hit during a 2009 game. He later went on to play professionally for the Detroit Lions, during which time he sustained multiple concussions. Lately, he’s said the NFL never should have drafted him given his history of brain injuries.
Photo cr: J. M. Pavliga, flickr.com

I felt torn by my participation in fantasy football. Part of my entertainment relied on guys getting bashed in the head repeatedly. And for what? Doctors are even finding evidence of brain damage in football players as young as junior high school age, in addition to high school and college students. It doesn’t sit well with me.

When I saw the video footage of Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancee. I didn’t need to see the full tape to decide that the way he hit her and then cavalierly picked up her limp body as though she were a rag doll he didn’t give two shits about, to decide that the NFL’s weak punishment of a 2-game suspension amounted to an insult and undermining of the seriousness of domestic violence.

So, this year, when E____ asked if I’d be playing in the league again, I decided I was done. I am not interested in supporting the NFL enterprise at this point. If things with the game and the league change in the future, I may revisit my stance.

E____ argued, “Does this mean you are boycotting Chinese made goods because of their human rights violations, not listening to Kanye because of his wife, and not travelling to countries like Brazil due to their government induced social issues?

Fantasy football is just a game using the statistics from real games.  It does not support the NFL at all.”

While I understand his point, as I told him, “I have to pick my battles and this is a pretty easy one.”

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17 Comments
  • adrianscrazylife
    November 30, 2014

    I feel the same way about video games. I had a boyfriend who played them constantly (while I worked and paid the rent!) and now I can’t stand them. I had a character on a TV show that I thought was really cute, but after an episode of watching him play video games, I couldn’t summon the least bit of interest in him. I think anything where people are obsessive about any activity can be harmful to a relationship! #SITSSharefest

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      December 2, 2014

      I’ve managed to avoid the gamer-boyfriend so far. I’ve heard horror stories. I’m not sure which would be worse to me – the huge sports fan or the big gamer. Hehe

  • Julie @ Girl on the Move
    November 29, 2014

    I used to play as well but it was such a time sucker that I decided to focus on real-life interactions instead!

  • MommiFried (@mommifried)
    November 29, 2014

    My husband also stopped playing because it was a time sucker and there were some real jerks out there! LOL

  • BritishMumUSA
    November 29, 2014

    I wondered what the heck this Fantasy Football was. Now I know and am glad the Hubs is not a sport watching fanatic. We like to go do in this family, although what he does scares the crap out of me… We scuba together, he ATV’s with the kids… We hike together too.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      November 30, 2014

      You mean actually doing outside activities instead of being on the computer or watching TV? What are these concepts of which you speak? :p Yes, you’re lucky your husband isn’t a sports fanatic, it can really get annoying. Lol

  • Heather @ Life of a Traveling Navy Wife
    November 29, 2014

    My ex-husband was a football coach. When I met him I hated that he spent so much time on it, and then figured, well…if you can’t beat him, join him. I am now a local source of “expertise” so to say, LOL and an ex or two of mine pleaded for assistance during their own drafts and picks. I stopped two years ago when my husband pointed out that FF took all of the enjoyment out of the game for me. I was constantly checking scores, stats, injuries, etc. and having to root for players I didn’t quite like. I no longer enjoyed the game.

    And now onto your points…I have hung out with Ray Rice. In fact, he was paid a ridiculous amount of money (before the assault on his fiancee’) to appear at an event of mine. He was a nice guy. We bantered. I told him I was rooting for him in the Superbowl because one of the guys on his team went to my college, etc. etc. He was funny, charming, nice all that and a bag of chips. Never in a million years would I have expected something like that from him.

    The overall NFL has come something ugly to me, however, I do applaud the good players and those giving back to their communities. But as E___ pointed out, while FF IS not a a part of the NFL it is STILL a representation of what it stands for. I haven’t watched one game this season. It doesn’t mean I am on a boycott, it just means that it has become something with which I’ve found difficulty being involved. Even NCAA. What happened to the pride that used to exist when you were drafted and recruited into this world? The irony is I will be in Scottsdale for 11 days at another major sporting event and may have to attend the Superbowl for work. It used to be a bucket list item for me and now it’s a “I’m crossing my fingers I don’t have to go this year,” type of thing. Not to mention I don’t want to listen to Katy Perry (UGH) during a half-time show. But that’s a whole other ball of wax…

    Sorry I rambled so much. You make such good points. I hope people start getting it.

    • Heather @ Life of a Traveling Navy Wife
      November 29, 2014

      Sorry for typos…AH typing too fast.

      And to clarify, I am remarried. 🙂

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      November 29, 2014

      Wow, you really sound like you were a pro, lol. Nice! I think I would have enjoyed playing with you. There are always so few women involved.

      I bet Ray Rice was nice. It’s amazing the double lives people can lead in the public eye.

      I hope you enjoy the Superbowl despite all the NFL issues. I’m sure the energy in the crowd will help and it’s still a really cool thing to get to attend. 🙂 I’m still torn on Football honestly. I don’t watch it anymore, but it’s kind of like being in the middle of a breakup. I’m not quite over it. 🙂

  • Kristie Hill
    November 29, 2014

    My husband stopped playing Fantasy this year because he realized it sucked a lot of his time. Plus, now he can just enjoy cheering on his home team!

  • jarretr
    September 30, 2014

    “So, this is what some of the male species spends their time doing?” Well, certainly not all of us 😉 As a straight white guy who grew up in Rust Belt Ohio, my general loathing of all things football really made me stand out, usually as an object of slack-jawed fascination — if not outright ridicule. To this day I still hate football and I just don’t understand why so many people love it. Moreover, I always have to laugh at the idea that football, a sport in which huge guys in tight pants tackle each other, is held up as the eptiome of American cultural masculinity. I don’t get it and I never will.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      October 2, 2014

      Haha, this is great. You’re a rare breed. You’re right, the fascination with American football is curious. I remember when President Obama called it a “violent sport” people freaked out. “It’s not violent!” What sport are YOU watching if men running into each other at high speeds with the intent to stop each other, is not violent? But, it brings people joy and makes some a lot of money!

  • KaciinCinci
    September 24, 2014

    Your ex is like my hubby, except he likes to play video games. Zzzzzz LOL

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