What’s Wrong with Fantasy Football

Recently, something has become clear to me. I had an epiphany, if you will.

I realized that for the past five years, fantasy football has had a profoundly negative impact on my life. It became clear to me today while studying for my Magna Charta test. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t wrap my head around “inquests of novel disseisin” or “darrein presentment.” I could only think about the sorry excuse for a running back that Larry Johnson is. Projected to “extend his streak of 100-yard rushing games against the Raiders to five in Week 2 when Kansas City hosts Oakland,” he instead gains a whopping 22 yards in 12 attempts, good enough for 1.8 yards a carry.

But as soon as this thought slipped into my mind, I realized a deeper issue was at stake. The problem lay not with Larry Johnson, but with me. And Fantasy Football.

Here are two things I realized:
Fantasy Football ruins the experience of watching a football game.
Why is your day suddenly better when Tony Scheffler scores a TD? Because you like the Broncos? No. Because you have Scheffler on your team, and he’s the go-to guy at the expense of that other tight end, Daniel Graham? Certainly. You will find yourself hoping for a player’s failure if for no other reason than your opponent having him on his team. One week you might feel on top of the world because Terrell Owens tears a muscle. Is it because you hate the guy? Did you suddenly become a morbid and sadistic person, wishing harm to random players? Sometimes I feel like it would be perfect if Peyton Manning threw enough touchdowns to win, but not too many because I have the opposing team’s defense and not to Dallas Clark because the guy I’m playing against is starting him. If you find yourself hoping for a botched extra point by Ryan Longwell just because it’ll secure for you a number one spot in the fantasy playoffs, you know that fantasy football has taken over your life. Your happiness level is now subject to the performance of select players, thus ruining your ability to enjoy a game of football for what it is.

As I’m writing this, Ronnie Brown just scored his fifth touchdown. On my bench.

Exhibit A: My friend, who shall rename nameless, just chatted me on AIM. It went as follows:

NamelessFriend: OMFG
NamelessFriend: RONNY BROWN
NamelessFriend: [EXPLETIVE] YOu

Success in Fantasy Football depends much more on luck than it does skill.
Now before I explain what I mean by this, I don’t want any of you saying, “Heh, maybe it’s because you just suck!!!” I may not be the best fantasy player out there, but when I find myself losing to Nameless Friend #2 (who, by the way, takes kicker Neil Rackers with his second pick and knows as much about football as my 80-year-old grandmother living in rural Taiwan), I’m all but certain that my “fantasy skill level” is not the problem. From year to year, I do just as well (if not better) with an auto-picked team based on default pre-ranks as I do with a team I choose in live draft format. It never seems to matter whether I have agency over my picks or not; my success (or failure) is unpredictable as always. For those of you who don’t believe in the use of anecdotal evidence and like to get all technical on me, here’s why Fantasy Football is largely luck-based (and why other fantasy sports are much more rewarding of skill):
In standard formats, there are at most fourteen or fifteen weeks in the regular fantasy season. The number of times your players play is much less than in other fantasy sports. There are 82 games in basketball and hockey; 162 games in baseball. Given the law of large numbers, your performance during the course of a fantasy football season is much more subject to injuries and duds, as well as it is to surprise sleepers and over-performing reserves. In a word: variance. You might say that it merely stresses the importance of recognizing sleepers and making good picks, but if you’ve been playing fantasy football long enough, you’ll soon learn that even this hardly improves your chances of winning. Because while you can predict the sleepers based on scouting reports, a 40-yd dash time, or just a “good feeling” you have about someone, this is more often than not offset by surprise injuries. It remains a fact of the sport that most injuries are simply unforeseeable. Who knew that Tom Brady, a first round pick in most formats, would tear his ACL and be out for the season? Would that thought have even crossed anyone’s mind? And would it be too much of a leap for me to say that not having your first round draft pick on your team significantly decreases your chances at having a good season? If the Brady example isn’t enough to convince you, consider Priest Holmes in 2004, Ahman Green in 2005, or Shaun Alexander in 2006, just to name a few. And these are just first round players, too. Considering how rampant injuries are in the NFL, a significant portion of your team can miss large chunks of the season because of one injury or another. This is not nearly as big a problem in other fantasy sports. Can’t play Albert Pujols because of his foot? Not to worry, you have over a hundred games to make adjustments, and ten decent replacements at first base to choose from. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “I just have an eye for sleepers!” Yeah, sure you do — if “having an eye” for something means picking a no-name player that no one wants. All too often I hear things like, “Oh my god I’m so good at fantasy football I selected Reuben Droughns!” Oh, yeah? If someone mentioned the name Reuben Droughns to you before the 2004 season, you would have confused him with American Idol winner Ruben Studdard. And the only reason you have him on your team is because either your pre-rankings selected him for you in the fifteenth round or you have a cousin named Reuben and you thought it’d be cool to have a player named after a sandwich. Don’t give me that crap about how you “saw the potential” in the guy or “made a smart draft pick” when he runs a 6.52 40-yard dash.

Then again, maybe none of this applies to you. You autodrafted Brandon Marshall, you’ve silenced all the doubters by consistently starting your hometown boy Aaron Rodgers (yeah, you show the world that taking Rodgers in the 2nd round was NOT a mistake), and you’re sitting comfortably in first place. And to you, I say, congratulations on your good fortune (or skill, if you please). Just don’t go complaining to your friends when Aaron Rodgers finishes the season with a QB Rating of 55, or when Brandon Marshall gets a year-long suspension for attempted manslaughter.

That being said, I’m in two leagues this year, and one of them I paid money for.

My name is Jeffrey Ho, and I, too, am a victim of fantasy football.

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