Selfishness and Fantasy Football

There’s always been some level of selfishness to football fans. My-team-is-better-than-your-team, wanting my team to do so well that yours has no hope of getting in the playoffs, etc., etc. It comes with the territory of any sport, but it seems like it’s worse with Fantasy Football.

For those not familiar with the game, Fantasy Football is a virtual version of the sport, in which players draft imaginary teams, featuring any combination of players so long as they are currently playing in the NFL. The players get points based on the real-world statistics and their loyalties are pledged accordingly.

Thus, one year, a person may become a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan (having drafted their quarterback, wide receiver, and running back), and the next, wish them to wallow in mediocrity. It can even change, week-by-week, as players are dropped, signed, and discarded with speeds that could make a stock market daytrader jealous.

Sadly, the topic seems to surface during Thanksgiving dinners, as one person laments about not being in the playoffs, and another says they need this player to do well, and a third says that player cannot do well, because they’re facing them. They hope the Seahawks have a bad game, because their facing someone with Russell Wilson, or they need the Patriots to give up points, because the other team has the Patriots’ defense. It seems like the game is as much about rooting for your players as it is about hoping the other team’s players fall apart.

And this isn’t to say normal football fans don’t have some of this attitude. During a matchup, when your team is behind, you hope the current drive won’t work, that the defense stops them, or intercepts them, so the offense can come back out on the field and score. But it seems like that is much more positive—wanting a good, which necessitates a bad for the other team—rather than just wanting the other people to fail.

I mean, we’re talking about a sport, but we’re also talking about other people’s lives. The football players do everything in their power to play well, to work hard, to win, and here we are, in the comfort of our computer chairs, watching and critiquing and getting mad at them for failing to perform, or for outperforming our team. We can’t even be happy when one of our player’s teams scores a point, because the wrong person got the touchdown. We have Peyton Manning, and he used his running back to get the ball in the end zone, and thus we get no points and we’re mad and grumpy.

It used to be that you cheered on the whole team: offence, defense, special teams, hoping they would work together and do well. Now, we cherry-pick our way through the game, because it helps us win our fantasy league matchups, giving our pride a boost and flattering our ego. It used to be, when we cheered on a football team, we were encouraging a real person in their real life struggles. Now, we just want good statistics, and we don’t care how others suffer in real life to get them. If the other team’s players get injured, so much the better.

And woe to any football players who give us horrible points and cause us to lose. Then, even though what happened might not be their fault, or, if they lost, they already feel awful about it, for their own sake and the sake of their team, we chew them out on the internet, posting horrible things about them to our Facebook page because we were counting on them and they let us down.

I always thought sports were about learning to play together, about forming a community, cheering other people on and sharing in the victory and losses. It was kind of like a microcosm of our loyalty to our country or our religion or our spouses. We cared about those teams, even if our loyalty gave us nothing in return (think of Chicago Cubs’ fans, and the Red Sox fans, for the longest time).

We watched them on TV, and we hoped and cheered and followed along. We empathized with them, and they, in turn, helped broaden our lives. We were part of something bigger than ourselves, and we had something we could share with other people. We could commiserate with our fellow fans and be excited together. We were generous, giving time and money to cheer on somebody else, playing a sport we both loved.

Now, the game is all about us, about what our players can do for us. Can they win us a trophy, or a bet, or make us look good in our office fantasy league? We have no loyalty to the players, and as soon as they fail us or get injured, we get rid of them and pick up the next best thing, the hot new player. What kind of an attitude is that, and if we get good at thinking this way, what will it mean to our marriages and our countries? Will we throw them out the window, too, when they fail to meet our expectations or give us what we feel we need?

Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren

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