That’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for you neophytes. Everyone who actually rolled a die knows that the Basic D&D was too simple and quickly got boring. But at my age, it’s not “cool” to make up back story to a dark elf and slog through labyrinths slaying hobgoblins anymore. At one point, I had personalities I created, and tracked their experience level and hit points and magical weapons.
No more. Now we cool guys play fantasy football.
Just so you understand, it’s sports, so it’s okay. We can create a franchise and track players run yardage, receptions, field goal percentage from 30-39 yards, injury status, the works. We may use our vorpal laptop +3, but it’s not like we’re rolling dice. We’re … well, we mostly just watch television and Internet score updates obsessively.
All of that changes the way you watch the games — I’m a Redskins and Lions fan generally, but you can bet that when Kansas City walks into some shit town I don’t care about, I’m a huge Dwayne Bowe fan. Because if he hits pay dirt, I’m all over the chat room rubbing that in to some other guy who also suddenly cares about that shit town and wants to know why they can’t stop the Goddamned Chiefs’ passing attack. You get to know the entire league much better (or the offense, anyway) because you have to, if you’re going to compete for the grail. It’s the best thing to ever happen to the NFL.
Not to say that it doesn’t skew your ideas about what constitutes a good offense. Coaches like Mike Shanahan and Bill Belichick use platoons of running backs, but when you have one of them, you want just one of those guys to get all the carries. Effective, but fantasy garbage. Because you don’t care if the team wins, as long as your player goes over 100 yards with two scores. I don’t think the term “goal line vulture” even existed before people cared who carried the ball across the goal line.
Someone along the way, another term was coined: “football widow.” While you probably think it was a disgruntled spouse somewhere, if I were a betting man, I’d say it was probably some football geek who was proud of himself. Alison is good about it; although I’m glad she was out of town while I dedicated most of today to our annual draft. There will still be the Sunday mornings when I roll out of bed early, frantic to make sure my line-up is set and I’ve laid down proper challenges to whomever I’m matched up against that weekend.
And I’m clearly a betting man. I used to be in a league with some fraternity brothers that had an entry fee of almost $300. I don’t know what it’s up to these days, but those guys play pretty hardcore, so my guess is that it’s grown. I don’t do that anymore, but the guys I’ve been playing with these past nine years still put a sawbuck in the pot to keep things interesting. People always compete just a little harder if there’s a bit of green on the line.
Fantasy football is like Facebook, in a way. The guys I play with now constitute the Cavalier Keeper League – a wonderful bunch of human beings down in Charlottesville. My brother played with them and introduced me, before he got too busy to keep playing. In any case, I think that’s why he left the league, rather than (un)popular reaction to his innovative idea to pick up and drop every good player on the waiver wire right before the weekend’s games started. For the uninitiated, doing that puts a two-day hold on everyone picked up and dropped, meaning no one could grab players to fill their bye-week holes. Reading about people’s exploits and debating new rule changes keeps everyone connected.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m letting the cat out of some nerdy bag and we’re not supposed to let on that this is big-boy AD&D. One thing that I have to give fantasy football over Dungeons & Dragons: trash talk. Warlock jokes pale in comparison to the ridiculous lengths people will go to on the league bulletin board or chat to intimidate, amuse and share their disappointments. Seeing your half-orc run down to zero hit points is nothing compared to your second round draft pick blowing an ACL early in the season. I’m sure more than one coach in my league has been on his knees praying for the recovery of a wideout.
Only no self-respecting fantasy guru would ever admit that, for the simple fact that the posture opens you to too many jokes.