Mackenzie Hurlbert – General Assignment Reporter –
What is fantasy football? Some Dungeons and Dragons game for jocks where cheerleaders prance around on unicorns? No, didn’t think so. Even so, how can the NFL be transformed into a game where real-life players are drafted like Monopoly pieces? As a newbie to the football world, I’m not really up on these things. I just learned the difference between a punt and a kick-off, but even that understanding is a little shaky. After doing some research, the basic logistics of fantasy football are easy enough to grasp, but it is obviously a game, like chess or checkers, that takes a lot of foresight, contemplation and strategy.
To start, a group of eight, 10 or 12 people makes an online league through websites such as ESPN or Yahoo. Within the league, each person acts as the coach for his or her team. Weeks prior to the season, there’s a draft in which each person picks his or her players. This decision, however, requires a lot of consideration as to what shape each prospective player is in. For example, you probably don’t want to pick a player who just came off an injury. Also, you want to take into consideration the player’s game statistics and history. In order to start the draft, the league picks numbers out of a hat or something of that sort and follows a snake order for player selection. By that I mean, number one would pick first, then number two and so on until number eight. After eight drafts his first player, he goes again, and then seven picks, then six, and so on.
Once all players have been drafted and each coach has formed his or her team, the games begin. It’s pretty much similar to real football: your players’ performance in fantasy football relates to the player’s actual performance on the field. If Gronkowski is injured in reality, he’s benched in the fantasy football world too. If Ray Rice scores a touchdown on Sunday’s game and he’s on your fantasy team, you gain six points. Basically each team accrues points through yards and touchdowns achieved during the actual game. The team that comes out on top with the most points in the end is the winner.
Fantasy football is easy enough, but you’ve got to have the ability to strategize. Football players are your game pieces, and in this world, you could have Brees, LeSean McCoy and Calvin Johnson on the same team if you’re lucky enough in the draft.
But isn’t it weird that these players can be swapped around like Pokémon cards? As Chuck Klosterman said in his article “The Chris Johnson Problem” on Grantland, this game could be dehumanizing for the NFL players. As an example he used Chris Johnson’s fall from fame after a poor season: “Fantasy owners do not look at Chris Johnson’s career as a reflection of Chris Johnson’s life. They see Chris Johnson’s career as a reflection of themselves. They personalize his experience and hold it against him.” This ability provided by fantasy football to stake claim on players and depend on them for personal success has manipulated the “fan-boy” mindset from “I worship him” to “I own him.” While games like Madden let us create and draft our own teams, Fantasy Football provides a connection to reality that is unmatched. What happens on field may win you points, money, or just satisfaction, but no matter the winnings, your success is linked to the player’s.
While this “dehumanization,” as Klosterman called it, may have a negative effect on the relationship between players and their fans, fantasy football doesn’t need to become so stressful if played for fun and not money. There are plenty of leagues out there that play for fun—some you can join or form, others you need to be invited into. No matter the case, fantasy football relies more on reality than I thought, so be smart and strategize because you never know what this Sunday will bring.