Monday, December 17, 2012
My name is Alex, and I live in a fantasy world.
No, this isn't one of those fantasy worlds with level 70 paladins going on quests to find obscure rings, staffs, urns, or other trinkets of essentially no intrinsic value. This is a world in which a "hero" presides over a list of men he will likely never meet and is tasked with choosing the array of individuals who will perform best in their job over the next week. However, the weekly performance of these faceless individuals is most significantly determined by management decisions as well as the performance of his colleagues and competitors, none of which is controlled and little of which can be predicted with any certainty by the player. Despite these considerable disconnects between the hero and his list of workers, the hero feels a great pride and interest in the success of the workers, despite the result of their efforts being no more controlled by him than the play of a (hypothetical) 1000-person poker hand.
I am, of course, referring to the pasttime of fantasy football, in which I have been a fervent participant since 2008. Since then, I have more often than not spent my Sunday afternoons from September to December sitting in front of a TV for at least six hours watching games that are completely irrelevant to my own life, and even mostly irrelevant to the success of the team I've rooted for since I was a kid, the Eagles. Much of that time is also spent on some internet-enabled device as I constantly check and re-check the status of other games that I don't have the ability to watch at the time. For the first few years, I was almost completely indifferent to the actual result of the game (unless it involved the NFC East), but at least now I'm involved in a pool in which I have to pick each game against the spread, so the final score does now have some meaning to me.
Setting aside the sociopathic tendencies that present themselves with this lifestyle, the thing that concerns me about the life I've been living is the fact that an actual net positive result is so rare. You see, when you play in six fantasy leagues and also have made picks for the games themselves, you find yourself in a situation like with the Eagles-Bengals game this past week. As an Eagles fan, I was already conflicted, because the team is so bad that losing would help us get a better draft pick, but winning would give me more confidence that they won't be as terrible next year. I had picked the Bengals to win the game by at least 4 points, knowing that at least if the Eagles lost I would have some degree of benefit. What makes this really interesting, though, is that I was playing in a playoff matchup in one fantasy league in which I owned the Eagles' running back and the Bengals' defense, while I was facing the Bengals' quarterback and an Eagles wide receiver. So what constitutes a positive result in this situation? I would have to see the Eagles run a lot more than they passed in a game in which they either scored few points or turned the ball over a lot, neither of which tend to lend themselves to running the ball.
And so, I was reduced to watching a game involving my favorite team in which I was both pleased and displeased by almost every play, and in the end felt satisfied overall by a blowout loss because the Bengals' defense scored a lot of points. I don't think that's very good for me psychologically. And the above scenario doesn't even scratch the surface of the "I need Peyton Manning to throw a bunch of touchdowns, but only to Eric Decker, but not enough so that Ray Rice stops being involved in the Ravens' offense" scenarios that emerge multiple times a week. Of course, let's not forget the ups and downs of picking NFL games against the spread, where the whole purpose of that format is to make picking the games as close to a coin flip as possible (and have the masses bet the wrong side of that wager).
This season has been an incredibly trying one, and while I haven't done terribly (I still have three of six teams in the championship game), the strain of constantly remembering which players I need to pay attention to each week is growing. I can see the frivolity of my ways through the manner in which I discuss the disappointments that come week by week, and the frightening degree to which I feel this disappointment over something that in most cases has no real impact on my life (I only have a financial stake in one fantasy league and the pool). I realize that I just spent an entire Sunday, literally from 11 AM to 10 PM, watching football games or analysis, punctuated for two hours by a "Good Will Hunting" viewing because I couldn't stand to watch my leads in two matchups disintegrate because the Chargers are terrible. I didn't leave my apartment once in that span, nor did I see a single other person. In the past several years, I've seen myself grow more and more desirous of (and dependent on) close, fulfilling friendships, and one of the chief impetuses (impeti? I'm pretty sure not) is that I want to save myself from myself. I know that I am capable of spending 11 hours watching football coverage by myself on a Sunday, taking 40 hours of summer nights to analyze, plan, and project my strategy for fantasy drafts in various formats, playing 120 hours of Pokemon in the span of 11 months as a 22-year-old, or eating an entire box of Entenmann's Original Recipe chocolate chip cookies, and with the exception of the latter, I'm likely to regret doing those things.
And so, starting next football season, I'm going to pull back on the reins. I'm going to play in no more than three fantasy leagues (a lot for most people, but still cutting back), and I will only post on my blog when I feel the urge, because I should be doing this out of passion, not some misplaced sense of duty. After all, no more than fifteen people will read this, so why do I care about the readers getting two posts a week like clockwork? It is my hope that this will give me the opportunity to be a little bit more of a real person and a little bit less of a elven mage.