Why You Should Play Fantasy Even If — Especially If — You Hate Football

Honestly, I've never been much of a football fan. I couldn't even tell you all the rules. I only go to a football game if it involves first and foremost standing in a parking lot for hours (thus the walk to the stadium is best described as a vision quest).

The average person, however, seems to have a strange obsession with American football. Talking with these people becomes increasingly difficult as football season approaches. The solution? Enter a bizarre computer simulation called Fantasy Football. With very little effort (and absolutely zero time spent watching grown men throw around a dead animal), you'll be able to disguise yourself as a true fan. A sheep in wolf's clothing if you will. The icing on the cake is getting to kick everyone's ass. Doing it without knowing the first thing about football is the ultimate form of trolling.

For this post, I'm going to make a couple of simple, reasonable assumptions.

  1. there exists only two types of people in this world: jocks and nerds
  2. you're the latter

It's closer to Final Fantasy than it is to Football

Penny Arcade comic

You might think Fantasy Football is complicated and requires in depth knowledge of football. As it turns out, it's nothing but a simple video game. Min-maxing at its finest (maximize points; minimize everything else). And it's hilariously similar to some of the nerdiest games you've ever played. For example, read the following description of a game and tell me what X is.

X could just as easily be football player as it could Pokémon.

Besides the name, Fantasy Football also has a lot in common with Final Fantasy. Both involve populating a roster with a limited number of participants. There are six position types in Fantasy Football and six classes in the original Final Fantasy. When I can't remember what a quarterback is supposed to do, I like to pretend my QB is a Black Mage. It makes things a lot more interesting.

It gives you just enough understanding to feign having a clue

You know that conversation. You're at the office minding your own business. A burly coworker walks by with a grin and says:


you: ...

You can try to ignore that awkward silence, maybe wait for the topic to change. But don't kid yourself. The time from preseason to the Super Bowl is 6 months out of the year. With Fantasy it's totally different:


(mental check: I have a Saints player, Drew Brees -> Brees has a very big number next to him -> Brees's performance must be a worthwhile talking point)


Seems ridiculous, but it's really that easy. See, there's something like 1500+ players in the NFL, but nobody cares about the bottom 95%. You only need to know a handful of names to avoid appearing completely clueless. It's kind of like learning a new language. Learn the names of a few super stars (most of them will be on your team after all) and you're ready to go.

Football is bad for you; fantasy isn't

I'm not making this up. Football is bad for you. It's bad if you're a player. Apparently, repeatedly smashing your head against and between 300lb men is bad for your brain. A recent book/documentary, League of Denial, explores the link between football and traumatic brain injury. The results are quite disturbing.

Things don't get much better for fans. Being a fan to a losing team makes you feel lousy and prevents you from making healthy eating choices. On average, denizens of cities with an NFL team eat 10% more calories on the day after a loss.

I highly doubt the same applies to playing Fantasy Football. You shouldn't have much of an attachment to a grab bag of virtual players. But even if losing at FF did affect you, it wouldn't matter because...

You're already good at it

Last year, I played FF for the first time and won.

I'm well on my way to winning a second time. Anything could happen, but I currently have the most points in my league. Why? Well, I drafted the best player (by projected points) in each of 4 position types. And there are only 6 types in total.

I started the season with:

My Fantasy Football team, the Simpson Honey Badgers. Specifically, Johnson, Graham, and Brees.

Johnson, Brees, and Graham. Looking good, Honey Badgers.

That should be impossible. I'm playing with 7 other people. Drafts occur in order and each person should have drafted, at most, one of the best players. But I got 4. How the hell did I get away with it?

To make a long story short: football fans have biases, developed and hardened over many years. If you don't have those biases, you're already ahead. Fans have favorite teams they root for and teams they hate with a fiery passion. They have biases against individual players too. Take Tony Romo for instance. I've heard for years that Romo is a bum. I've been told he has a tendency to often "choke" at the end of games. Here's Jim Norton:

Tony Romo is a bum. He's like the guy who drives well all day and then runs over a kid in his own driveway when he gets home.

I don't know if this choking thing has any basis in reality or, like clutch, is mostly superstition. All I know is the numbers. After several games, Romo is the #6 quarterback by points. That's pretty damn good for my backup QB! Which brings me to a related point: winning in football isn't the same as winning in Fantasy. Romo could lose all of his games, but it wouldn't necessarily matter. Sometimes players are mediocre in real life, but their actions translate to massive points in FF. Fans are going to watch games and end up focusing too much on real football.

As a nerd, you probably have a slew of other advantages: you're less susceptible to fallacies like sunk costs, you're good with numbers, and you like to geek out on things. Now don't get me wrong. If you wanted to, you could get by with checking your roster once a week.

But I know you. If you just try it once, I guarantee you'll be checking expert rankings, running stats, and obsessively refreshing espn.com in no time.

Vote on HNDiscuss on Hacker News, you know, if that's like your thing.


Autumn.js Bookmarklet
Why are CNN's headers grey?
A Sucker Born Every Semester


Short: http://jere.in/8
Pretty: http://jere.in/why-you-should-play-fantasy-even-if-especially-if-you-hate-football

Oh hi there. I'm Jeremiah. I like to make stuff with code.