The Fantasy Effect

Dan Almasi, Associate Sports Editor

I love fantasy football, but I hate how it has changed the way I look at the sport. I’ve been playing fantasy football for five years now, and each and every year, I’ve cared about my favorite teams and players less (unless of course, my favorite players are also on my fantasy team.)

I love fantasy football for a lot of reasons. It’s fun to compete against your friends and family and it’s something to talk about when a conversation turns dry. Whether it’s trash talk or friendly discussion about this week’s projections, who’s the hot pickup on the waiver wire, or how badly you’ve been screwed by injuries and suspensions.

Fantasy is something to shift your attention to when the Bills are losing. It’s fun, and you can even make some money if you choose to compete in money leagues. But aside from all of this, fantasy has made me a terrible fan.

As a Bills fan, I love to hate the Jets, the Dolphins, and especially the Patriots, but fantasy forces me to admit that those teams have some good players that I want on my fantasy team despite sporting enemy colors. I’ll still exclaim my frustration audibly when Brady hits Gronkowski in the end zone for a score, but if I have Gronk on my fantasy team, I’m (shamefully) not actually mad at all.

On top of this, I have forgotten to respect the defensive side of the game. There are fantasy leagues with defensive players, but they are uncommon and I have never played in such a league. I tend to forget to respect the great defensive players because they aren’t a fantasy asset.

If I’m watching a game between two teams and I don’t really care who wins, I will quite often not even think about the score or which team is playing better, but rather I find myself focusing on the statistics of individual players because all I care about is who is having a big day in Fantasyland.

As bad as my fantasy faults are, I have witnessed people who stoop much lower. I’ve seen people on Twitter and other social networking sites post at and about players who had a bad game, literally expecting an apology of some sort. I’ve seen people rant about players who suffer serious injuries that prevent them from playing because it hurts their fantasy team.

A player who suffers an injury is worrying about the impact it has on their actual career — a career they worked to have their entire life. A player who has a bad game owes an apology to his teammates and coaches, not those who have them on a fantasy team.

Just earlier, I saw a tweet from a man who threatened Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent’s life because he missed a field goal. He wasn’t even a Bengals fan, he just was mad because it made him lose his fantasy matchup. He wasn’t even joking, he was actually extremely angry.

On top of this, fantasy football makes people look at NFL players like machines. It dehumanizes them. Before fantasy, I would always consider a player’s character and attitude when deciding how much I liked them as a player and whether or not I would buy their jersey. Now, I only care about their statistics.

I don’t care to know anything about their personal life or character outside of football, as long as they put up the stats to get me a win in fantasy. When looking at a player’s season statistics and being perplexed at how up-and-down they have been, I ask myself, “how is that possible? How can he be great one week and terrible the next?” Then I realize that NFL players are just people, and like anyone else, have good and bad days at the office.

Fantasy is a lot of fun, but people (including myself) need to remember to put it in perspective, to respect the game and the players, and to stay faithful fans to their teams.

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