Column: Fantasy football lets boys be boys

Published 12:02 am Friday, August 27, 2004

By Staff
ESPN recently reported that, in a poll of 10 million men who play fantasy football, 40 percent said they think about their team more than anything else in their life.
Anything! They think about fantasty football more than their families, their jobs and, most amazingly, more than what used to occupy their thoughts every seven seconds (and we all know what that is).
Fantasy sports are spreading wildly across the country, gaining more and more popularity every year. The boom has become so pervasive that fantasy golf and auto racing leagues have spawned.
Fantasy football, like its real-life counterpart, remains king among sports junkies, however. A recent survey conducted by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association reports there are more than 15 million people playing fantasy sports. Of that total, 93 percent play fantasy football.
Those that don't play may wonder what it is about the game that has such a large number of adults playing in a fantasy world. People crave the game because it truly is a way for football addicts to act out their fantasy of running an NFL team.
With fantasy football, players become owners of their own professional team, participating in all the an owner does, from live drafts to the waiver wire. Fantasy owners must craft a strategy for starting players and working around bye weeks and injuries.
The fantasy world is also another way for NFL fans to follow the sport and absorb an endless amount of knowledge throughout the week. Before fantasy football came around, the football week lasted from 1 p.m. Sunday to late Monday night when Monday Night Football ended.
Now, armchair quarterbacks and wannabe statisticians can get their football fix any hour of the day, any day of the week. A mere click of the mouse can get football lovers any information they want on an NFL player, from injury reports to his grandma's favorite pair of shoes.
But fantasy football is more than a way to satisfy the NFL fanatic's undying thirst for the pigskin. The online fantasy world has turned into the 21st century's version of the playground pickup game.
While some leagues are done competitively, with each season's champion winning prizes, the most fun fantasy leagues are done with friends. This is most true when friends grow older and can't keep in touch as often.
I played in a fantasy league in high school with 11 of my friends. As we all went of to college, it was hard to stay in touch. But the one thing that has kept us close is our fantasy football league.
Monday night we held our sixth annual league draft, live and online. At the risk of sounding like the biggest dork ever, the draft was one of the best times I've had recently.
Since I can't get together with my friends, as we've scattered about the country after college, the next best things is fantasy football. We talk football via online chatrooms and league message boards, but also engage in friendly conversation, witty banter and good ol' smack talking through our league.
We rip on one another like guys hanging out at the local tavern on a Friday night. And because we've known each other for years, it's much more fun to talk trash than when doing so with a league of total strangers.
In essence, that's what fantasy football is - a way for guys to talk football and compete with their friends.
As long as people passionately follow the NFL, fantasy football will continue to exist. As long as guys will be guys, fantasy football will continue to thrive.