Have Fantasy Sports Turned Us Into Nerds/Traitors?

Posted: December 8, 2010 in Fantasy Sports
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By Phil Bausk

It’s Week 13, you have fought injury and a crappy internet connection to get your Fantasy Football team on the cusp of making the playoffs. You are down 19 points with 2 players remaining in an “epic” Monday Night Football showdown between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots.

You were raised a New York Jets fan and have dealt with disappointment for most of your life. Finally, the Jets have a chance to win a division title and make their playoff road 300 times easier. The whole season can come down to this one game in Foxborough. There is just one problem; You are starting Benjarvis Green-Ellis and Deon Branch, and those 19 points that you need will have to come against your beloved Jets.

You sit there and justify it.  Well BJE has averaged 11 fantasy points the previous 3 weeks and his 72.3% chance of getting into the end-zone isn’t going to change if you start him or you don’t. You figure that he is going to score regardless and you may as well reap some of the benefits, even if it is against your favorite team.

Then there’s “Neon” Deon Branch. If you have taken into account what you expect from BJE, then there is no harm in starting Branch against the Jets, for his projected 4 receptions for 52 yards are seemingly harmless and should help get you into the playoffs. You have done the research, you have read the other blogs and reports on the Patriots offensive game plan, and you are emotionally alright with starting these two key players against your hometown J-E-T-S. (That acronym under Rex Ryan should be Just Eat The Steak!)

The “memorable” match up ends and the final score is New England Patriots 45, NY Jets 3. BJE, 2 Touchdowns, Neon Deon, 1 Touchdown, whatever is left of you and your dignity on your 3-piece arrangeable couch, 1 playoff berth.

Sure, you are upset about the Jets getting abused like this little kid by his babysitter, and you will complain and think of what they could have done to make it a close game and whatnot, but in the end, you will have enough of a feeling of satisfaction for making your Fantasy Football playoffs that by the middle of the week, you are already balls deep in statistics, debating whether or not Ed Dickson is a smarter TE play then Zach Miller.

Now, I am not a scientist, nor have I ever been confused with one, but I am pretty sure there are some lines being crossed here. Being a Dallas Cowboys fan, this year has been easy on me in the Fantasy Football sense. I feel comfortable starting people against their defense (and by comfortable I mean I need a towel after seeing that match up) and am less worried about the outcome of their games. I don’t have to worry about the Stay Puft Marshmallow man ruining my Cowboy’s season anymore.

Yet I have been there before. I have been watching Cowboys- Eagles game, praying for the Cowboys to somehow win, while Desean Jackson and Brian “I went from 32 to 87 in about six weeks” Westbrook still had big enough fantasy games to help my fantasy squad. I have seen the Cowboys blow a 4th quarter lead (Oh yes, more than one) to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but realizing I was playing against Tony Romo and that his last 2 INT’s that sealed the game, ultimately led to a victory for my team, FelixFucksFatties28 (He was a rookie back then, I am sure he’s dating more attractive women now, at least I’d hope).

What does this say about us as fans? What does this say about us as sports enthusiasts? We follow the sport to such a degree that we can tell you how Zach Duke pitches in west coast games, against primarily right handed lineups, on a Tuesday afternoon. We can look up Adam Laroche’s career numbers in outdoor games, against recently called up pitchers whose parents attended the game, but couldn’t afford field level seats.

I have been fighting this for a while but I can come out and say it now, I am a Nerd! I read these stats, I find them out on my own without help from a “tutor” or a “guru” (Matthew Berry, have someone else write your columns, they suck). Sure I am not researching the War of 1812, or examining the diction in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but I am putting just as much  time and effort into something so outrageously meaningless, that I am a pocket protector and a Texas Instruments Graphing Calculator away from being a full fledged nerd (Or a Harvard degree away from being one. Greenstein, I am talking to you).

Is this what fantasy sports have come to? Us neglecting the ultimate interest of our beloved sports teams? While this doesn’t hold true for everyone, there is that feeling of satisfaction that comes from winning a fantasy football week, even if your hometown team loses in a close game. One can go through the measures of not drafting division rival’s players, and having replacements lined up instead of starting players against their own hometown team, but very few do this and take such time to prepare.

While this past Monday night contest didn’t decide the outcome of the regular season, it did play a massive role in determining  that the Jets will most likely have to go into New England and beat them to get to the Superbowl. Of course there are Jets fans out there who, whether or not they would like to admit it, found themselves in a similar situation to what I explained above.  Well in today’s world of fantasy sports, setting your lineup from a cellphone, and watching TV shows about both (Side Note: I love “The League” on FX, but it has to update its fantasy football talk. One week they are talking about Pierre Thomas having a big week against the Steelers. I am sure that enraged Pierre Thomas owners who haven’t seen him play in what feels like years. In addition, the waiver wire collusion over Mike Bell….. Just irresponsible), it has become understandable to be happy with your team losing and your fantasy squad winning, as long as its not a season killer.

We have become a bunch of Benedict Arnolds and Steve Urkels, doing whatever it takes and whatever makes us happy to advance in our fantasy sports leagues. I worry about the day when we start making our own jerseys for our fantasy football teams, with your team name on the front, and your own name on the back. Hopefully, it will never reach this point and that the first person who does this will take a good, long look in the mirror at himself and ask, “Did I do that”?

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