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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fantasy or Reality?

As I type this column, a lot of you are are frantically making final tweaks to your fantasy football playoff rosters.  I, on the other hand, am enjoying the thought of watching NFL football this Sunday without the pressure of choosing between Ben Tate and Shane Vereen for my flex position in the semi-finals.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not some kind of old school, purist snob.  Quite the contrary.  I've been playing fantasy football for over a decade, and I am currently the commissioner of two separate fantasy football leagues.  I tried like heck to make the playoffs in both leagues.  I just came up short.  And yet, I feel strangely liberated as I await the start of this Sunday's games.

You see, football is perhaps the greatest thing we have in our culture.  That is only a slight hyperbole. It is a game that perfectly captures American culture.  Every weekend, we get to participate in a 60 minute morality play.  We choose sides based on regional alliances, individual personalities and traditions.  Those two sides then engage in a struggle of controlled violence.  During the course of that struggle, twenty-two men line up opposite each other to engage in over a hundred skirmishes.  At the end of each contest, the scoreboard declares a clear winner.  And, at the end of the season, there is an empirical judgement passed on each team.

Fantasy football allows us to feel like we are actually part of what's happening on the field.  It gives us a personal stake.  But, in reality, fantasy football turns the ultimate team sport into a disconnected collection of individual achievements.  How many of us have watched our favorite team score a touchdown only to have our celebration ended abruptly when we realized our fantasy opponent owned the guy who just crossed the goal line?  I've got my hand raised.  And every time that happened, I thought back wistfully to the days when only the scoreboard mattered and not individual stats.

I'm not bashing fantasy football.  And, come next August, I'm sure I will be chomping at the bit to draft my new team.  For those of you still competing for your fantasy championship, I wish you the best of luck.  But for the rest of us, let's sit back and enjoy watching the end of the season play out as a team game.

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