Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sick of Fantasy Football

This post was imported from my group sports blog, "Da Sports Authority."

This is going to sound sacrilegious, but take it from an "old timer": this country suffers from a serious Fantasy Football overload. How widespread is the epidemic? The USA Today reports "An estimated nine million Americans will play fantasy football this season...[and] will generate a $3 billion to $4 billion economic impact across the sports industry." (Emphasis added.) You know it's that time of the year when the sports magazine covers have headlines like Fantasy Preview and columnists are already weighing in on Fantasy Draft Day dilemmas.

Trouble is, that time of year seems to come earlier and earlier each year. Keep in mind that NFL teams are just opening training camp and that the start of the season is exactly six weeks away. Depth chart battles and preseason injuries are just getting started. Meanwhile, the fantasy season is chugging ahead. It might as well be midseason considering that Yahoo opened their popular leagues as of June 1!

I first began playing fantasy football in the mid-90s, assisting my dad with his team in his office league, before the Internet popularized the game and forever changed the way it was played. In those days, making transactions weren't about sorting a database by TDs scored and clicking "Add". There was no "StatTracker" or automatic scoring; the league's commissioner would spend Monday mornings going through the box scores in the paper and tally up each team's points. And someone, I'm sure, once drafted Ryan Leaf. God forbid. (Dinosaur rant ends here.)

Anyway, after a decade of playing, I've realized in the past few years that fantasy football has lost a bit of its luster. I don't know if that's because it's too popular now, or too easy to play, or because one guy will enter into a half dozen different leagues and rely only on luck, not skill. Perhaps worst is the way it's teaching a generation of football fans to watch the game: that it's okay for your hometown WR to drop a pass in the endzone because your opponent in one of your leagues has him on his fantasy team.

I can't pinpoint any one of those reasons as being the cause of my dissatisfaction with fantasy football. Many of the same arguments could possibly be made about fantasy baseball (although that game is vastly less popular), and I've been playing that for 6-7 years and enjoy it tremendously. Though I think there the fact that it's a 162 games as opposed to 16, and the action happens every day rather than every 7, forces players to be smarter and to be more involved, and less dependent on luck.

Then again, I'm still playing fantasy football this year, so some good part of the game must still have a hold on me.

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