Fantasy Football Is the Dumbest Thing I Do with My Life

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Are you closely monitoring Arian Foster’s preseason reps with the Miami Dolphins? Do you think he has the potential to come back and run for yardage totals anywhere close to the impressive numbers he amassed during his pre-injury peak?

If you did not immediately have some kind of answer to these two questions, then congratulations, you most likely did not spend the month of August combing through pages of statistics, which may or may not only slightly increase your odds at monetary gain. You are also probably not keeping up with reports from sports media shills who are in the business of fabricating news out of athletes’ mundane daily routines to get clicks[1]. You might even be enjoying the summer sun. You made the right choice. Everyone else, keep reading as I talk myself through this dumb hobby.

Yes, summer is approaching its end. That means football season is almost here, and with it, gambling season arrives for many Americans with too much free time and just enough disposable income. Thanks to the internet, avid sports fans are on the clock basically year round. Long gone are the halcyon days of buying a cheap fantasy football magazine at a highway rest stop on your way back from the beach. You can’t just browse through some player rankings a few days before a fantasy draft. I mean, what are you, some kind of sucker? Man, just burn your money instead of doing that.

No, fantasy football cannot be taken so lightly anymore, at least not if you truly care (more than you should). It is increasingly becoming less of a casual way to compete with your friends for bragging rights through low stakes betting and more of a large time commitment fueled equally by deep research and frustration. It can turn anyone who follows the NFL into a statistics geek. It can feel like taking on a second job in the fall, minus the salary part. I would guess that most dedicated fantasy players spend more time contemplating the risk/reward of drafting certain top ranked running backs than they do for a majority of the purchases they make in their entire life. The size of the investment semi-required for this completely silly hobby is approaching an equally ridiculous level.

For those curious as to how deep the rabbit hole of fantasy sports research can go, just take a few minutes perusing the in-depth posts on the fantasy football subreddit. Yes, you’ll find routine sports discussions that could be happening at any bar in America, like “Hey, who’s better, this guy OR this other guy?”, but you’ll also find legitimately impressive data analysis from anonymous users who have spent weeks examining trends and advanced statistics that are supposedly predictive. There are even spreadsheets built by excel wizards that can analyze how your league is drafting as you update it after every pick. That is insane. It’s actually incredible that these people are offering up their work for free[2]. To say the least, these communities offer more substance than ESPN personalities parroting “Here’s a guy ready to take his game to the next level this year.”

However, I don’t want to get off track here by praising my fellow fantasy football nerds too much. This game is still stupid as hell, and taking a step back after diving deep into the internet discussions really proves this point[3]. Reading the most well-thought-out theories on how to draft your team can be just as embarrassing as learning about the most esoteric board games. I can throw out a bunch of acronyms at fantasy football players (like ADP, PPR, and FAAB) that have absolutely no meaning within the actual sport of football. Should I ride the “Zero RBs” train, or would that simply be overreacting to last season? The answer should be who cares, but this is a love/hate relationship, and clearly I’m still in the relationship because I care.

So, if you find yourself reading serious discussions about how to spend precious “draft capital” early in your draft, try to remember: draft capital doesn’t actually exist. Please keep in mind that this game is closer to rolling dice than it is to investing in stocks. Then again, anyone who has watched Season 4 of The Wire knows that math can make you better at playing dice, so really, what is the difference? Right now, there is probably someone, somewhere, writing an intro to economics textbook using only fantasy football terminology, and as much as I mention that mockingly, it’ll probably help a lot of people get through business school.

Some might find all of this to be… not worth the time. The most well-researched team can (and probably will) be undone by the cruel randomness of football’s brutal injuries. Of course, the base appeal of doing all of this work is the same as with any other form of gambling, that winning makes you feel like this [4]:

At least fantasy football can have a positive effect on your social life, unlike most of those casino games. That social element may only amount to telling your friends they made a terrible pick and really suck at this, but hey, at least you’re keeping in touch with your friends!

One could also argue that we all might need a few more distractions in the fall. For some people, fall means going to school, and for everyone that means more traffic. There is also terrifying news coming at us every single day. There’s an important event in early November that you could instead focus your energy on, but that is definitely not what I want to talk about. Grappling with that stuff is overwhelming, so instead, I’ll try to find even more ways to enjoy watching grown men throw an oblong ball around for nine hours straight every Sunday.

To those who annually engage in this strangely addictive distraction, I’ll end my open therapy session by offering one piece of advice: Treat your thoughts on this stuff like your cards in Texas hold’em. All of your research is sensitive information that deserves the highest level of security. This should go without saying these days, but keep it off of unencrypted private email servers. It should only be accessible to a person you trust enough to give your debit card pin to. I can maybe answer a simple question, like whether I really think David Johnson is going to be worth his ADP this year, but what do the advanced rushing stats from the 2015 season say about him going forward?

Nice try. I’m obviously not going to type an answer to that here for my friends to see; this blog post is serious.

[1] Seriously, every sneeze is worth tweeting about to these people.

[2] But I really appreciate it!

[3] This is also true for all internet discussions.

[4] Losing this game of chance somehow makes you feel like the dumbest person on the entire goddamn planet.

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