Fantasy football taps into my latent need to compete and satisfies my inherent laziness at the same time. Every year I can potentially be crowned a champion for doing what amounts to procrastinating and shifting names up and down a list. There are no parades for the winner. No ticker tape. No multi-million-dollar contracts or sponsorship deals — just the pride of being able to tell my friends that I was better than them at screaming at my TV until my players were willed into excellence by the reverberations of my rage.
This $70 Billion a year competition by proxy industry (that loses American businesses an estimated $6.5 billion to procrastination) has a supremely stupid dark side, and it starts with the very foundation of every fantasy team. No, not the players on the roster, it’s …
Wildly Offensive Team Names
Fantasy football team names usually take one of two forms: a silly, pun-based name involving a player on the team, or a vile string of words that are hardly associated with the game of football. The league I’ve been commissioner for the past twenty-three years got its name from my nickname “Toad”. This set the standard for team names, which only degraded from there. One of the team names in my league stands out, “Lick my Cleat”. Names range from immature to horribly offensive to in need of ACLU intervention. That’s what happens when you lock a bunch of idiots in a digital environment and a draft room that no one else can access.
Like running over a pedestrian in Grand Theft Auto, vile team names are guilt-free because the whole thing never feels too connected to reality, even if the winners and losers are determined by real-life events. Yet, even in a pocket universe where no one bats an eye at the most disgusting, depraved name ever conceived, there is something somehow even more offensive: when an owner shifts to the other end of the name spectrum and names their team after a serious real-world cause. Last year I was in an online free league (yes, there are still a few) where one of the team names was “Justice4Trayvon.” An acquaintance of mine played in a league that had a team named “BostonStrong” in remembrance of the Boston marathon bombing.
Take whatever cause you believe in most, then open your toilet bowl and shout that cause into the shit-flaked water loud enough to ripple the surface. Flush if you’d like. By doing that, you’ve just made as much of an impact on the world as you would by naming your fantasy football team after a cause you support. Fantasy football is supposed to be a fun distraction. Unless you’re George Zimmerman, who the fuck would want to beat a team named “Justice4Trayvon”? Do you want to crush the strength and healing power of Boston with the might of your fake football team? The frivolous misuse of the cause is insulting to the cause. More than that, it’s also a huge bummer. Can’t wait to see how thoroughly I crush the team named in remembrance of a deadly bombing that filled us with an all-too-familiar sense of dread and brought us to a nationwide standstill. Yeah, can’t wait to play that fucker. It’s gonna be a blast.
If you have one of these self-righteous team names, fantasy leagues make it easy to change your pompous name with a few clicks. Use that option. Just change your name to “Toad’s Toilet Trash” or “Bart Destroyers,”and we’ll all go back to not feeling so insulted.
Every aspect of fantasy football is filled with bad decisions like this. But when it comes to the actual act of making bad decisions, fantasy football has the best possible version of it, because …
You Get to See Your Bad Decisions Bite You in the Ass Quickly
So much of life is wait and see. You wait nine months and hope your baby looks like you and not your neighbor. Will your overpriced college education payoff big, or will you end up shredding your diploma and leaving the pieces as calling cards at crime scenes, tormenting detectives until you complete your murder masterpiece by leaving the scrap with your name on the final body? Only time will tell. A lot of time. This is where fantasy football excels. You get to see the direct result of your terrible decisions quickly. Make a bad roster move on Wednesday (depending on when your league requires starters), see your stupidity come to fruition as early as Thursday.
Fantasy football hits fast forward on everything you do poorly. Have you ever made a bad choice in life and wished you could skip past the wait and see part and straight to the moment you realize you suck? Well, fantasy football would like to talk to you about an exciting opportunity that could expedite the travel time between hope and despair. All you need to do to apply is dedicate too much of your time to watching over player stats and putting too much faith in the barely more knowledgeable than you opinions of fantasy football “experts,” who are right there with stock market traders in terms of professions fueled by speculative bullshit.
You get to see yourself suck so quickly you’d think fantasy football was optimized and rigorously tested by NASA engineers to be a the world’s most efficient failure simulator. Within days you’ll go from being able to so vividly imagine yourself holding the championship trophy that you can almost smell the cheap plastic to inventing new and exciting slurs to hurl at your shitty team, because there is no doubt that at some point …
You Will Hate Your Team With a Passion
There’s some relief in loathing. When your fantasy football roster is shitting itself uncontrollably, missing the bed pan by wide margins, the only response that feels right is verbalizing your anger over the incompetence of the pack of assholes you put together and launching it toward a screen. Fantasy team owners hanging around at the bottom of their league’s standings understand this flaw in human nature that fantasy football pulls out of us. The only thing as good or better than watching your team dominate on a Sunday is getting to scream obscenities at their names on your computer screen when they are being dominated.
It feels good to hate. Suddenly, all the hate and anger in the world that we turn our eyes away from in shame when we see it on the news makes sense. Because, yes, of course — why didn’t I see it earlier? Fuck those guys! They’re all pieces of shit. Fantasy football is the “Two Minutes of Hate” from George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four, unbrokenly stretched Thursday to the following Monday of a given week.
It’s such a pathetic exercise that some team owners may never admit that they’re really yelling at themselves. But, hey — it’s fantasy football. Enjoy the fantasy no matter what form it takes, even if that form is deflecting your hatred of yourself onto the players on your roster. If you hate them, you can sleep tight knowing the feeling is mutual, because …
The Players on Your Roster Hate You Too
NFL players hate fantasy football. It’s hard to blame them. Fantasy football adds another layer of pressure to their weekly performances. Now, winning games for their team, their city, and for the sake of their own careers isn’t enough. They now have to be the most dominant player at their position every week to satisfy some dipshit fantasy owner with a Twitter account and an always on caps lock button.
Houston Texans running back Arian Foster strained a hamstring in the 2011-2012 season, so fantasy owners gave him shit for not playing. Foster tweeted this in response: “4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick.” Same goes for Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, who thinks fantasy football is a “headache,” and former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, whose Twitter page was flooded with angry tweets from sociopath fantasy owners after he left a game with a hip injury. Peterson is a child abuser and Rice is a woman beater, so I’m sure the tweets they’re getting right now are a tad harsher in tone. However, they’re doing very well for me in my “Deplorable Scumbags” fantasy league.
A full, tangible connection to the players on your roster is never established. I may like and value some more than others, but ultimately they’re all just names that can be swapped out for other names. Sometimes they’re not even names, just stat lines. Fantasy owners dehumanize players and reduce them to numbers and then demand that the numbers be impressive every week. If that doesn’t happen, well, we’ve already stripped the players of their humanity, so why not take to Twitter and let them know how personally disappointed we are in them by chipping away at their psyche one caps locked word at a time. Fantasy football takes all the terrible personality traits that the internet pulls out of people and turns them into a competition to add some gas to the fire.
All that being said, you should totally start playing fantasy football. It’s super fun!