I haven’t always been a monster.
The first time I played fantasy football, seven years ago, I joined a free Yahoo! league, named my team after an obscure Seinfeld character, and finished fifth. My friends and I sent occasional trash-talking emails to each other. I made lineup changes once a week from a desktop computer at work.
It was a minor distraction, and it was fun.
So how the hell did I get from there to this past Saturday, live-drafting through an iPhone video chat an hour before my stepbrother’s wedding? While watching a toddler. While two photographers chase around guys in tuxes and my usually patient wife stands on the porch and says sternly, “I am not OK with this.’’
How did I become every cliche in a fantasy football commercial?
A lot of people are playing fantasy football. According to a study by the American Express Spending & Savings Tracker, 74.7 million Americans plan to participate in a league this year, spending $4.6 billion in the process. Seventy-one percent of users will play for money. More than a quarter of participants will join more than one league. Sites like ESPN, Yahoo!, and CBS Sports will host the vast majority of players, but daily fantasy leagues like FanDuel and Draft Kings are growing rapidly.
As a heavy user, I slip into these facts like a warm bath. See? It’s not just me.
For a few fleetings seconds Saturday, the thought of morphing into an apologetic Jason Segal character on account of fake football scares me.
“Play ball?’’ my 2-year-old impores, as much a demand as a question.
I pick a peach off a tree, looking for a place that isn’t “suit pants’’ to wipe the fuzz off before giving it to him. Having bought myself 90 seconds until he wants something else, I squint into the phone, trying to determine who’s been picked and who’s left for me to take in Round 2.
“Dude, hurry up,’’ my friend implores me through the phone.
I hear the wedding was beautiful.
Drafting during a wedding isn’t the only way fantasy football makes you a jerk. A colleague audibly groaned in the newsroom last week after watching a Vine of Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin going down with a knee injury.
“Dammnit,’’ he said, slapping the desk. “I had him as a keeper.’’
When Packers receiver Jordy Nelson went down for the season a couple of days later, my first thought was, “Thank god I didn’t draft him.’’ What kind of person watches another man’s leg and livelihood crumble in one swift motion and thinks only of himself?
A fantasy football player.
Why all the fuss? While most players play for cash, it’s ofen a minimal amount. (The Onionput it best earlier this year with the headline, “Man Who Spent 300 Hours Playing Fantasy Football This Year Rewarded With $30 Second-Place Payout.’’) Imagine if, instead of parsing the mid-round running backs for an hour, you used that time to do your actual job better. Maybe you’d get a raise. Maybe you’d become president.
Actually, scratch that. He plays fantasy football, too.
Photos: The fantasy football ‘busts’ to avoid in 2015