It’s that time of year again.
The air is crisp. The leaves are changing color, preparing for their annual journey to the ground, where at my apathetically landscaped abode they’ll be allowed to fester until spring.
The networks are rolling out fall lineups, insulting us with their latest shit sundae of “Must See TV” (all of which we already have seen, of course…a billion times over): the gritty “pick your favorite civil servant” drama; another comedy about a kooky but lovable nontraditional family; and of course the newest reality train wreck.
And I am once again confronted with one of the most agonizingly difficult decisions I will face all year:
Do I play fantasy football?
Option 1: Play, and waste time and money in what I concede is essentially Dungeons and Dragons for the gridiron, ignoring my husband’s annual offer to fund a comparable gambling stipend to bet on games like a real “man.”
Option 2: Don’t play, and honor the oath I swear every January to myself and to my loved ones that I will finally hang up the digital cleats.
The good news? As certain as Rex Ryan will test the boundaries of lap-band technology, re-inflating with Hostess Honey Buns after a few weeks of managing Tebowmania, I will regret whichever choice I make.
Death, taxes, and me being miserable September through January because I’m either playing fantasy football or I’m lamenting the fact that I’m not playing fantasy football.
Option 1 – as I will detail in a moment – is painful from that first email beckoning me to play, through the end of the season when I will once again swear my Bret Favreian promise to retire.
Option 2 is painful because I end up feeling like the kid with the early bedtime who is constantly missing out on all the fun.
Now, a reasonable person might argue that the anguish of Option 2 would disappear as soon as I moved on to other interests.
But that’s because a reasonable person lives in a strange, foreign world in which other interests actually exist during football season. A peaceful world, unassailed by constant media coverage highlighting all of the fun I am missing.
A world mercifully uninhabited by a certain bloated, balding, buffoon of banality whose intolerable omnipresence on my television screen is predicated on rehashing the details of the past week:
“Jake ‘Green Eggs And’ Hamilton set fire to Patrick ‘Parallel’ Parker’s garage last night with roman candles after going all…the…way with Suzy Reynolds ‘Wrap’ in the back seat of her Prius. It was the raddest night ever and YOU missed it – you rumbling, bumbling, stumbling sack of loser with the early bedtime!”
Excuse me while I bore through my cochlea in preparation for the inevitable “Cyrus ‘50 Shades Of’ Gray” gem that Berman will unleash on us this year with the perseverative intensity of a toddler asking “why?”
Another reasonable person might suggest that I just watch football, enjoying it without the make-believe participation.
Show me such a person and I will show you someone who’s never experienced the thrill of Calvin Johnson – their WR1 – posting 250 yards in a single game.
Also, how am I expected to enjoy a Sunday night stinker between Carolina and Tennessee without fantasy? What am I supposed to do, not watch? Actually interact with my children? Oh the humanity!
But that’s exactly what makes “The Decision” so excruciating. Much like its overhyped predecessor courtesy of LeBron, it’s inherently insufferable no matter how you look at it, yet somehow you’re powerless to turn away.
Faced with such a Catch 22, a rational person might compile a “Pros and Cons List For Playing.”
I am female, so that obviously precludes such an approach.
Besides, it would end up like the one I made when deciding whether to keep dating Tommy McNamee in college: woefully scarce in the “pros” column (despite gifts like “he only blacks out 67% of the time we go out”), and ultimately ignored.
Even the “pros” of playing are ephemeral and empty. Winning the league (three out of four years – thank you very much) is not sufficiently rewarding. The joy of bragging lasts about as long as Darren McFadden stays off the PUP list.
No one takes time to honor the victor, instead they inconsiderately move on with their real lives, forgetting all about your fantasy prowess, about as often as they “forget” paying their entry fees.
Honestly, I bet you could recall the details of every single commercial through which you fast-forwarded on any given Sunday last year – every beer, truck, and boner medication ad – but not who won your fantasy league.
On the other hand, the downsides to playing are considerable. For my sake, let’s take a moment to review them…
*** THE PRE-DRAFT ***
Anxiety arrives immediately as I procrastinate doing any pre-draft research. This worry looms over my head, occasionally prompting the bookmark of another 60-slide Bleacher Report (page view maximizing ad trap), featuring the top “Must Pick Sleepers,” which will never be read.
Then comes the last minute cramming of player ranking lists, leaving me feeling cripplingly overwhelmed and buried under several sheets of scribbled notes that might as well be written in Cantonese they are so incomprehensible.
I “study” just long enough to have wasted valuable time, yet remain incapable of discerning “sure things” from “players to avoid.” I also inexcusably forget to review our idiosyncratic scoring system, which invalidates any promising data that I may have inadvertently stumbled upon in the first place.
Armed with this arsenal of nonsense and the super sucky seventh draft position, I head in to the much anticipated live draft, which is always more fun when it lives in my embellished memories than it ever is in reality.
*** THE DRAFT ***
The draft begins — and before I can organize my illegible cheat sheets, teams 1-6 have rifled through their first picks and it’s suddenly my turn. Unlike me, my fantasy opponents prepare for this day as if it were their Normandy invasion and thus have their shit wired tight.
Here’s where things really get painful. I’m now “on the clock,” and my 2-minute selection window is rapidly counting down.
Let’s peek inside my mind for a minute, and observe some of the Bill Belichickian draft algorithms that I will utilize over the next 120 seconds, shall we?
“OK, first pick: RB or QB? – It would really help to know if this league favors QBs but I don’t have time to look it up and besides I always ignore the sage advice to hoard RBs.
Ok, RB is it.
<<BAM! Thoughts interrupted by a traumatic flashback of Jamaal Charles tearing his ACL like 8.6 seconds after I drafted him last year, leaving me to limp through the season with Felix Fucking Jones.>>
Ok, QB first. And this year I’m going to take some risks!
RGIII is available. Do I have the nerve to take a rookie QB this early? Even a rookie THIS good? Ugh – I’m suddenly haunted by the image of Daniel Smarmy Synder. If he isn’t the quintessence of a “cooler” I don’t know what is. Abort.
What about Peyton and his bionic neck? Yikes – not with the imminent Tebow karma that will manifest as midseason traction and cross-eyed Caleb Hanie flailing about in the backfield.
Philip Rivers? A perennially strong fantasy performer but I just can’t get past my loathing of him. (I’ve found it’s always a smart move to let imaginary personal vendettas impact the real world decision-making of fantasy sports management.)
My God it is hard to build a “character” team in this league full of reprobates, borderline defectives, and illiterate religious zealots.
Jay Cutler? He’ll sprain his uterus or his go-to receiver Brandon Marshall will be imprisoned for assaulting another vase before he can put up any real numbers. Pass.
Damn! Where did my TE contingency cheat sheet go?? A TE in ROUND 1 – I’ve completely lost my mind.
GAAAAH I only have 30 seconds left!! I’m just going to go with the default choice…
Felix Fucking Jones???! How is this possible?!
GOD I HATE FANTASY – I’m never playing again.”
And it’s downhill from there. Always picking predictably and about 2 spots too late. Drowning in second tier RBs and WRs. Reaching for a Defense too soon.
Much like my golf game circa hole 13, horrible habits completely take hold until I find myself gazing upon an abominable snowman on my scorecard.
Or the poop pile of a fantasy team I’ve just assembled.
I don’t even have a decent team name to hide the disappointment that is its members. Just like a clever Halloween costume or the perfect X-mas present, I never think of these things ahead of time.
Team Name: “Romo Witten His Pants”
(Don’t’ judge me. I know full well that I mocked that exact nonsense just a few short paragraphs ago. Unlike my swollen muse, however, I won’t receive a paycheck for mailing it in, so pipe down.)
*** THE REGULAR SEASON ***
The official “fun” of the regular season hasn’t even kicked off, and my pessimism is fulminating.
Still to come? The joy of my perennial underperforming “lock,” whom I will punish in week 4, only to watch him burn me with 3 TDs from…my…bench.
Or that magical moment when I realize I forgot about the first Thursday night game of the season and my locked starting lineup is prominently featuring multiple bye week players.
And really, is there anything more enjoyable than spending 3 hours of your life fixated on a 2-inch line of score updates at the bottom of the television screen? Who needs an actual game? Especially when I can yell constant profanities at a ticker that fails to refresh quickly enough – or even worse, is refreshing, just minus any meaningful contribution from my theoretically “active” players.
Not to mention the time it takes just to maintain everything throughout the year.
I’m already bordering on neglectful parenting during football season. Why check my infant’s diaper when I can check my iPhone for box scores, last minute scratches, potential waiver pickups, insulting trade offers, and the weather forecast in Kansas City?
I should point out that unless one lives there, one should never care about the weather forecast in Kansas City.
I am reminded of Seligman’s learned helplessness experiments in which dogs were repeatedly injured by an adverse stimulus that they couldn’t avoid (Felix F’ing Jones). At some point, the dogs simply gave up and stopped trying to escape the pain (3 carries for 8 yards and 2 fumbles), behaving as if they were truly helpless to change the situation even though they eventually had opportunities to escape (a generous gambling stipend to bet on games like a real “man”).
Classic insanity = doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Modern insanity = playing fantasy football over and over and expecting a different result.
So, to play or not to play? That is the question.
OK, who am I kidding. The real question is: Ray Rice or Aaron Rodgers?
This is Katie’s first piece for FlipCollective. Stay tuned for more!
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