I can feel my stomach just churning and wrapping around itself like I’m on some sort of crazy twisted rollercoaster. I can’t keep my hands still. They drum lightly on the side of my chair; slowly gaining in volume and speed, as I know it’s almost my turn. My legs feel like Jell-O as I stand up. I wipe the last of the sweat dripping down my brow and off the tip of my nose. My mouth opens but my brain doesn’t seem to know to make me speak. It feels like I’m frozen, like I’ve been standing in this pose for hours. I am a human statue. Then the words finally escape past my trembling lips.
“H-h-h-hi, I’m Anthony and I’m … I … I’m addicted to fantasy football.”
For many of us it’s an addiction now. Fantasy football is like a drug. We go home after work, close the shades, put on our lucky shirt (trust me we all have one), sit down at the computer, and tinker, search, and scan. Tinker with our line up. Search the waiver wire looking for the next gem that could emerge and push us over the top. Scanning our enemy’s rosters for hours trying to find a way to work a trade for the superstar we coveted since draft day that we didn’t get.
Not everyone is addicted to fantasy football, but honestly no one plays casually continuously either. Maybe year one you say oh this is fun, something different, but I can’t understand why people are so obsessed with it. That’s when you come to the fork in the road. Either you go left and tell yourself you enjoyed the year but don’t want to play anymore, or you take the right path and find yourself losing sleep because family, friends, and coworkers, whoever it may be, just bested you. If you find yourself taking the right path, then you start to get addicted. You keep going back to your roster.
Kicking yourself for starting player X over player Y in week 5 which cost you a playoff spot. You question why you didn’t use your wavier claim on that player that helped the jackass in accounting to best you in week 9, which he will never let you forget for the next year until your match up next season when you get a chance at revenge.
I started out on that road. I knew of fantasy football but never played although I’ve always loved the game. Then one day one of my buddies asked me to join his league last minute needing someone to fill in real quick. Maybe he wanted me to just start getting involved because it’s a fun hobby. Maybe he thought he could pull one over on me because I never played fantasy football. No matter what his thought process was, I said sure, I’ll give it try. That was back in 2006. I had the first pick. LaDainian Tomlinson was mine and he just rolled over every team I played and won me a championship in my first league I’ve ever played. I WAS HOOKED!
It wasn’t so much Tomlinson or the championship that got me coming back year-after-year, week-after-week, and league-after-league. It was all the little things along the way. The non-stop trash talking for 16 weeks. The constant attempts at pulling one over working trades with other teams. The thrill felt when I woke up on Wednesday morning and saw I got the player I wanted off the waiver wire, and the agony and week-long raincloud that seems to hang over my head when I lost by 1 point because of a kicker on Monday Night Football. It was the bragging rights I had by making the playoffs, and winning the championship, but also the fear that I never wanted to be the bottom man on the totem pole and wanted to prove this season wasn’t a fluke.
It was love!
It’s nine years later and it’s the longest relationship I’ve been in. I wouldn’t trade our time for anything in the world. It’s always different, but strangely always the same. We know each other, my teams and me. It’s a feeling and a rhythm we get in. I know what my line up likes, and my line up knows what gets me going. If you don’t play fantasy football, then you wouldn’t understand and I accept that. I’ve had people tell me I’m a nerd. I’m crazy. I’m wasting my time, my money, and my life. I’ve lost relationships, both romantically and platonically, because of fantasy football. Because of guys I’ve never met, on teams I absolutely loath have made me put my fist through several things. The game stirs up emotions inside me that I cannot explain to someone who has never played in the fantasy realm. Sure there are people I see every single day that don’t understand me, but there are 33 million other people in this world who feel the same exact way as I do.
I want to close with a poem I’ve written to the fantasy gods. A poem, that if you’re as obsessed and addicted to fantasy football as I am, will not look like words on a page but feel like the truth washing over you:
You can’t eat.
You can’t sleep.
Nothing else is on your mind.
You constantly go over ways in your head to get what you want.
Sounds like love, and it is. Love of fantasy football. Love of the league. Love of the draft, the most important day of the year.
The Sunday before the NFL season kicks off has become my new Christmas Day. It’s like being a kid all over again. You feel the excitement building for weeks … Then just days away … Finally it’s the night before the magic happens. It’s the new and improved Christmas Eve. I’m laying in bed debating, thinking, making deals with the universe the same way I did as a kid on December 24th.
Same person, same feelings, same sense of wonder every time I close my eyes. No sugar plums or fairies dancing in my head … Other than the 11 guys I’m going to see in less than 24 hours, yeah they are my friends but starting tomorrow for the next 16 weeks they are just speed bumps on my road to a championship.
There is no Santa squeezing his possibly diabetic ass down the chimney looking around for milk and cookies. He’s not going to leave me that bike I’ve wanted for the past 3 years, or the Nintendo, or that Phoenix Suns starter jacket. Instead there’s an overweight guy in a speedo staring me in the face trying to rattle me and make me mess up my first round pick, wanting to get in my head to steal sleepers, needing my vast vault of knowledge so he doesn’t have to dress like Michael Phelps with the body of Wilford Brimley next year.
The smell of gingerbread, the fireplace and pine needles filling the air have been replaced by buffalo chicken dip, a beer spilled on the carpet and that new piney odor is what Christmas smelled like for kids in the 60s.
No, it isn’t Christmas like I used to experience, it is better. It’s the first day of the rest of the year. It’s the first day to talk trash. The first day to say you’re the smartest guy in the room. Only the next 16 weeks will show…
Who is the smartest?
Who is the best?
Who is a champion!
There will be weeks of heartbreak and weeks of joyous triumph. Weeks of total domination and weeks of being dominated like you’re paying for it … The safe word is Wendy Peffercorn … Weeks that make you want to punch a hole in the wall and weeks that make you punch your fist into the air in total elation. And I wouldn’t trade any of those feelings for anything in the world.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
If you’re addicted to fantasy football, welcome to the club! We’re taking new members every season, and there is never a waiting list. Come on in, make yourself at home, and proudly shout from the rooftops:
“I’M AN ADDICT! THERE IS NO CURE! IF THERE WAS I’D RATHER DIE WITH MY ADDICTION THEN BE CURED FROM THE MOST WONDERFUL DISEASE KNOW TO MAN: FANTASY FOOTBALL!”