I am terrible at fantasy football. And no, me writing this column right now is not in fact a punishment for having the worst record in my league so far – it’s just a statement of fact. And yet, while I’ve only won three out of seven matchups, I’m surprisingly at peace with my overall outcome so far. The game itself is simple. Participants take turns drafting real-life football players to their fantasy rosters and depending on how the selected player performs in-game, the participant receives points.
These points come from the players’ individual statistics, such as the number of touchdowns they score and opportunities that arise in a game of American football. Nowadays, fantasy football is played by over 59 million people in the United States and Canada. Seven of my best friends from my hometown of Monterey, California, and I are happily part of that number as team owners in our own eight-person league. While a few members have joined and left over the years, a consistent core has remained.
There is no buy-in fee in this league; we play by very standard rules. There’s not much flash, but by pure happenstance, we’re all able to find roughly the same amount of success despite our wildly varying amounts of effort. A year ago, we held our league’s draft right before we all became college students. Throughout the season, we chatted briefly about victories, but never too deeply. Yet when we all returned home for winter break, the first thing we did on Sunday was meet up at the Buffalo Wild Wings in town and watch football together for hours. The league was back together after a months-long hiatus; things felt whole again.
When the semester’s in full swing, it’s easy to get lost in coursework. Yet each week, when I’m choosing whether to swap out Matt Ryan for Kirk Cousins in my fantasy lineup, I always feel inclined to reach out to my buddies back home and check in, just to say, “Hi” – and of course, let them know how badly I’m going to beat them that week. As I became more interested in fantasy football and my confidence grew, I started playing weekly lineups on DraftKings, a daily fantasy sports website where participants can win cash prizes for their entries.
I occasionally have some success, but even then I feel like I’m missing the connection I have to my year-long, hometown league. Free fantasy football scratches an itch of camaraderie – the original inspiration for fantasy football – that paying leagues never could. I’d honestly rather lose every single game in a league with my friends than win $1,000 online by myself. Without the experience of playing in a group, who’d be there for me in my victory and who’d be there to make fun of me when I lose?
The friendly competition keeps me connected to a net that existed long before our interests in fantasy and will continue on long after the league comes to an end.