Sure, it’s about crunching numbers and competition. But it’s about connecting with friends, too.
Most men, myself included, played some sort of sport at some point in their lives. But if they’re anything like me, they’ve long ago given up pursuits of athletic glory. Probably because they’re now 30-40 pounds overweight, working full-time at a sedentary desk job and too busy being a husband and a father for such endeavors. But at the same time, we miss our playing days. Being around the guys. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Not to mention the locker room talk, which we can’t do anymore because our wives hate it and our kids will mimic it.
Enter fantasy football.
Here is a concept that allows us to pick and manage our very own professional sports team. We draft the players, make free agent acquisitions, craft trades and try to guide our franchise to a championship trophy. We get the opportunity to do our research, take a chance on rookie or unknown and watch as he leads our team to the promise land. And we can do it all on our phone or from the comfort of our couch.
But the best part is we are playing against our friends. Make no mistake, that is the main value of fantasy sports. At least for me.
My primary fantasy football league has been in existence since 2004. Almost all of my closest friends are a part of it, including my dad and my brother. We live all over New England and my brother is in Baltimore. Most of us are married and have kids now. Needless to say, getting us all in one place is quite the task. But even with work, kids and long travel times, each and every one of us has made it year after year for draft night. Being there in person is a requirement actually, or else you forfeit your team.
In fact draft night is so important that one of my brother’s only stipulations upon moving to Baltimore with his wife was that he be allowed under every circumstance to return for the draft in August of every year. No matter what. I think he even has it in writing.
And speaking of draft night, it’s awesome. Well, if you’re a guy it’s awesome. Women would probably take one look at us in a dank basement reeking of farts and beer and wonder how the hell we manage to tie our shoes on a daily basis. But for us, it’s heaven.
We come from all walks of life. We are journalists, lawyers, stockbrokers, store managers, veterans, teachers and pharmaceutical reps. Some of us are sports fanatics who develop multi-tiered Excel spreadsheets and color-coded pie graphs to assist us with drafting. Others pick up a Fantasy Football magazine minutes before we arrive. There are 12 teams, and the team names over the years have been the best. This year I’m going with Prestige Worldwide, an homage to the movie Step Brothers. But I’ve been the CU Next TuesdayS, My Boys Can Swim and Mike Vick’s Rape Stand. Craig’s team last year was simple: “Ass and Titties.” Dino went with “Deadly Sausage Farts” (if you know him you know the moniker is apropos) and my brother is “Dead Guys Rule,” because two years ago he drafted former Bengals WR Chris Henry. I say former because Henry is now dead. Needless to say when you draft a dead guy you’re going to hear it from people.
And speaking of hearing it, man we lay into each other. Because we’re all great friends, it means the taunting is especially vicious since none of us holds a grudge. Like last year, for instance, when we were all sitting around the grill cooking dinner before the draft and my friend Billy showed up. With veggie burgers. We immediately began eviscerating him but it got even worse when we found out he stopped eating red meat only because his 5-year-old son got upset when he found out red meat comes from cows. So Billy, who never met a steak he didn’t like, is now a vegetarian all because his little boy doesn’t want to hurt cows. Billy, you’re a complete jackass and a total pansy.
One year the draft actually doubled as a bachelor party for our buddy Kelly. We had a friend of a friend who did a little dancing for a gentlemen’s establishment, so we hired her for the night to write all the names of the players on our draft board and get us beers. Topless. That was a good year.
The bottom line is we need that one night of year. Some women may not understand that or disagree, but it’s true. Draft night is one of the best nights of my year because I get to see all my friends. In between the insults and beating the crap out of each other, we catch up. Share pictures of our kids. Talk about life in general. A few of us always end up staying the night and it’s great, even if we can’t remember it all the next morning.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I thank my lucky stars every day I’m married to MJ, because she gets it. A lot of wives give their husbands shit about stuff like this. But not MJ. She sends me off with a kiss and a smile and tells me to have a ball. And she means it. That’s rare. I know many women who think this is childish and stupid. They scold their husbands for hanging on to something so juvenile and they deride them, saying we should stay home and deal with our responsibilities.
Yet when it comes to buying women another pair of shoes or getting dragged to an art show which we think is the dumbest thing on Earth, we’re just supposed to go with the flow. I’ve seen it so many times and it irks the shit out of me.
Those women are terrible and I want to pitch them over a cliff. My wife knows how important my friends are to me. She also knows I more than pull my weight around the house. I’m a good husband and a good father and she recognizes the importance of connecting with friends every once in a while.
Because that’s really what the draft is. Sure we’ll argue for weeks leading up to draft night about whether to take Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson with the #1 pick (I’d go with Peterson for what it’s worth), but draft night is all about buddies. Camaraderie. It may sound stupid, but it’s more important than you might think.
So guys, enjoy the upcoming fantasy season. And ladies, thanks for being cool about it.