What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Editor’s Note: This article is a collaborative effort between J-Dub and Ryan Meehan from First Order Historians. Ryan also has his own blog, East End Philadelphia, which is featured in the Dubsism BlogRoll and it is well worth the read.
Like it or not, fantasy football has become a multi-million dollar business. That’s right, what was once simply just a way to get some non-traditional gambling action on the NFL or a more sporting way of announcing to the world you live in your parent’s basement has become a juggernaut of its own. That’s right, now fantasy football is for more than guys who wear “Mr. Spock” ears while they are down-loading nude photos of that chick from “Big Bang Theory,” and not the hot blond one, either…we’re talking about the one who looks like a short, white version of Scottie Pippen.
That notwithstanding, in this installment of Point-Counterpoint we will break down the pros and cons of fantasy football. As the commissioner of just such a league, J-Dub will take the “Pro” side. Since Meehan is a guy who thinks anybody in a fantasy football league should be fed to giant, Iranian flash-eating cockroaches, he seems like a natural for “con.”
1) It Attracts Too Many “Casual Fans”
This is probably one of the biggest problems I have with sports in general: Casual fans. The idea of fantasy football bothers me and other football purists for the same reason it bothers us when the hot girl at the office wins the bracket pool. You know she doesn’t know what she’s doing, so when she wins you get angry. Fantasy football is full of people who don’t really know a lot about the intricacies of the game, which means if their guy gets hurt, they don’t even watch the damn game anyway.
I understand that the goal of the NFL is to continue to build their brand with each coming year. But what the NFL wants you to believe (when it’s not trying to convince you that it’s larger than life), is that it’s not necessarily larger than life. They use things like fantasy football to make it seem like they need to drag in more fans, but it’s clearly a want and not a need.
The best thing I ever heard about the fantasy football argument was a quote I heard back in the day from former Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer. ESPN was doing a story on fantasy football before it became its current behemoth participation trophy sludge fest, and it featured interviews with current players talking about how much they loved fantasy football and played it themselves.
But when they got to Plummer, the ugly truth popped out. With a straight face, he looked at the interviewer and said “I think it’s destroying the game, personally.”
As crazy as it sounds, in that very moment I connected with Jake Plummer. He told a story about how he was buying a six-pack of beer at a service station after a loss, and a fan thanked him for throwing three touchdowns. Plummer just looked at him and said “Yeah, but we lost…”
The guy retorted with “But I won my fantasy league.”
This proves that while there is a game fans care about, it’s one that’s happening away from the real field. That’s not the way football started, and certainly not where I hoped it would be in 2014. I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the NFL will make you your own fantasy football league jersey with your name on it for a couple of hundred dollars.
Well, Mr. Meehan, get ready to recoil in horror, because there are already places where you can get all kinds of shit made for your fantasy league. Now, as the commissioner of a fantasy football league, I would be the first to tell you that if you think it is a good idea to blow a bunch of money on customized coffee mugs, key chains, or any other bullshit for a fantasy league, you should have your genitalia removed with medieval farming equipment.
Here’s the real issue. You know damn well the guy buying beer at a gas station got a story he tells all his buddies anytime he has more than three beers, and worse yet, his buddies lap it up every time he tells it. In other words, he’s a fucking hero because he actually spoke to a guy who played on Sundays.
Do you want to know why? Because NFL quarterbacks, even middlin’-to-shitty ones like Jake “The Snake” are celebrities in this country, and America loves celebrities more than V-8 engines and “Super-Sizing” combined. Therefore, anything that gives people a reason to feel even the phoniest reason to feel connected to celebrities has the potential to be HUGE.
Want to know something else? Guess where the HUGE part comes from. Casual fans. See, in order to grow, you have to drop the lowest common denominator. For the NFL to remain the most popular sport in this country, it’s going to need shit like fantasy football.
You don’t have to play fantasy football, but you do have to appreciate it for what it is. Without it, the NFL could wane in popularity, and I can’t wait to see the article you write bitching about fantasy soccer.
Besides, if it weren’t for whatever community football event they have at your office, what other reason do you have to talk to the “hot chick” that won’t land you in the HR office?
2) Football Is A Team Sport, Not an “Assemble Your Own Team” Sport
In order to succeed in American football, you can’t just have one guy on your team who has his shit together with a team full of dudes that are CFL caliber. It just doesn’t work at all, and that’s why fantasy football is nothing like real football. To me, I look at fantasy football the same way I look at Guitar Hero. If you play guitar, it’s very likely you are going to get your ass kicked in that game. Guitar Hero is to playing a real instrument as is a couple of minutes working the heavy bag is to getting in the ring with a professional mixed martial artist.
In real football, you don’t get to create your own dream team. That’s what the salary cap prevents you from doing. If that weren’t the case, I guarantee you the Dallas Cowboys would have all 22 NFC Pro- Bowl starters on their roster every single Sunday.
Basically, fantasy football is something that is taking a team game and turning it into something else. And yes, I fully understand that fantasy is where you can escape from reality. But while I think that certain forms of escapism can be healthy, fantasy is something that could scar you with permanent virginity.
Wow, there’s so much wrong with that I hardly know where to begin.
First, fantasy versus reality has a whole different meaning when it comes to whoever the Cowboys could put on the field every week, because to this day Jerry Jones thinks Quincy Carter still has a shot to be a Pro-Bowler.
Second, it’s FANTASY. That’s the WHOLE FUCKING POINT…to do something which can’t be done in reality. Granted, Meehan raises a legitimate point about healthy vs. unhealthy fantasy, but he blows past the basic concept to do it. My Sunday delusions about how one day Jay Cutler isn’t going to suck hurt only me. But if I live out my dream of smothering Kim Kardashian with a toilet plunger, far too many children of E! employees will spend their elementary years eating ramen and mostly un-vomited cat food, and my conscience won’t let me do that to a bunch of people who just lost Joan Rivers.
3) There’s Nothing Useful About Anything “Fantasy”
I realize we’re going to lose the very lucrative “Magic: The Gathering” sector of our reader base by printing this, but it’s not like you’re ever going to end up in a situation where you’ll be cock-blocked by a guy with a fanny pack full of wizard trading cards. (Note: J-Dub’s wife almost pissed her pants when he admitted he had no idea what this was).
I’m on the extreme side when it comes to my opinion about this. I don’t think any sort of fantasy is healthy with regards to the entertainment that I consume. I don’t watch fiction movies; in fact I don’t really watch any movies at all. I don’t read fantasy novels, and I don’t play fantasy football. I don’t dream of unicorn rides, I’m not concerned with vampires or pirates, and I don’t have any money riding on Obama cutting welfare payouts anytime soon.
To put it simply, if it’s not real, I don’t care. The bottom line is your fantasy football team isn’t real, so therefore it doesn’t have any effect on me whatsoever.
What I’m being led to believe here is the “Meehan Dictum” states “if it’s not real, I don’t care.” While Meehan is my blogger brother from another mother, he’s more full of shit than Marie Osmond on her steady diet of fiber-less, industrially-produced “don’t be fat anymore” meals.
Do you what the two biggest things on the internet are? Porn and fantasy sports. Why? Because they both allow a level of interactivity that doesn’t come in real life. In other words, if you get cock-blocked by some nerd with a fanny-pack full of cards, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
Why does that matter? Let’s go back to that “Meehan is full of shit” thing. First of all, equating socially ostracized card-playing nerds with an activity which is wildly popular amongst those who ostracized them is just plain silly.
Now, let’s go back to Meehan’s “if it isn’t real, it doesn’t matter” stuff. Remember, this is a single guy whose likely got an industrial-strength case of “permanent virginity” with the carpal tunnel syndrome to back it up. Well, all that porn he uses to maintain his “permanent virginity” isn’t real either.
4) The Names People Give To Their Fantasy Teams Reek Of Douchebaggery
You know the scene: You’re with a few buddies and someone in the room utters a sentence fragment that sounds really cool. Almost immediately, somebody mentions how that would be a great band name or album title. One of my favorite ones has always been the never-to-be-released upcoming album from DJ Abortion, entitled “He would have been eight this summer”.
Fantasy football nerds don’t have those genetics. They come with names like “Hogan’s Heroes” or “Manning’s Mysteries.” In fact, here’s a short list of bad fantasy football team names that are actually real:
Pretty uncreative, huh? You’ll never hear these short-circuited motherfuckers come up with names like “Splattered Suicide Sisters,” or any of the following names that I’ve drawn up.
As much fun as I’m having with this, I have to stop because I could go on forever. The purpose of this exercise was to show that none of the individuals in these leagues are very inventive when it comes to coming up with something that they spend crazy amounts of time on.
Honestly, I can’t really argue against this. This is the one point where Meehan is essentially right. There are far too many people out there with just the type of fantasy football names he’s talking about, and they are the ones ruining it for everybody. To be fair, there are some clever and genuinely funny names out there, but for every one of those, there’s some blow-hack who actually thought naming his team “Chicago Bears” was his own version of awesome.
5) Just Like Being Fake Football, Fantasy Football Is Fake Gambling
It really chaps my hide when people who are into fantasy football say their payouts are “gambling winnings.” Fantasy football is not gambling. Unless there is a legitimate risk of some guy breaking into your apartment and pissing all over your furniture, it’s not gambling. If you take part in a Yahoo! free fantasy league, you don’t have anything to lose at all.
So don’t come up to me all bummed on Monday because your fantasy team lost…I don’t want to hear about it. Even Drew Brees gets injured sometimes, and I’m not going to let it ruin my week. And even for those who are putting themselves at significant risk for the sake of Imaginationland football, I’d go as far to say that those people deserve it. Remember these assholes?
Yep, that’s the Tattoo Fantasy Football League, a real thing where the player on the team that finishes in dead last has to get a 4×4 inch tattoo somewhere on their body of something humiliating. A six-year-old kid with permanent brain damage caused by drinking laundry detergent has got these clowns in check when it comes to the stupidity department. Of all the dumb things that exist in this world, this takes the cake, drops it on the ground and stomps on it in clear sight of the other cakes.
If there’s money on the line, then it’s gambling. Awesome “Big Lebowski” references aside, it’s easy to dismiss the “free” Yahoo leagues, but many of those leagues have money riding on them out of the view of the public.
Then there’s those “Fan Duel”-type sites where the money you gamble is very real. For every one of those parental basement dwellers they show you whose won tens of thousands of dollars betting Drew Brees would have a better week than Chad Henne, there’s tens of thousands of people who blew their paycheck on the same gamble.
This is what fantasy football for money has in common with Texas Hold ’em poker. Both of these games are designed to make gambling look easy. You watch a couple hours of TV poker, and you get this stupid idea you can actually play that game. Then you head out to your local Indian casino and get into one of those Hold ’em tournaments they have, and it isn’t until you need to sell a couple of toes to buy a bus ticket home you realize television does a wonderful job of misrepresenting what poker really is.
Those “Fan Duel” commercials do the same thing for fantasy football. It isn’t until you’ve given them a credit card number that you realize this isn’t just picking Drew Brees over Chad Henne. To win a big poker hand, you’ve got to put a shitload of money in the pot, and to win the trifecta at the track will also require a big cash outlay.
6) Fantasy Football Is Just Another Way The NFL Pretends It Doesn’t Endorse Gambling
The NFL doesn’t endorse gambling, therefore fantasy football isn’t gambling. This is not contradictory to my last point because a lot of what J-Dub says in that point isn’t the strict definition of fantasy football. To be clear, I’m defining fantasy football as a league in which you compete with other league members over a course of the season based on the performance of players you’ve grouped into teams. A lot of what J-Dub is talking about is putting down money against a “house” and getting your money back based on the performance of a select group of players over a period of time based on the amount wagered.
The NFL deliberately keeps itself at arm’s length from the stuff that is obviously about money, but it totally embraces the stuff where the money isn’t as near the surface. You will never see an approved image of an NFL player or the NFL logo on those “money” sites, but they are all over the place on the Yahoo! Fantasy sports site.
That’s because it isn’t about the money, it’s about the illusion of the presence of money. I’ll let J-Dub explain the details of how it works; the important part is that the “Fan Duel” sites require you to cough up some cash up front, where the Yahoo-type sites introduce money on the back end, and at the discretion of the individual league commissioner.
That makes the illusion of the absence of money the Ray Rice punch the NFL didn’t want to see.
Really, this last bit isn’t so much a point-counterpoint as it is two guys who disagree coming to the same conclusion. Meehan is right, the “Fan Duel” stuff is straight-up gambling. There’s no illusion to it.
The difference is what he calls “fake gambling” actually serves a two-fold purpose.
The first is all about market-building. Regardless of the fact that millions of people over the age of fifteen play fantasy football, so do millions under that number, and to keep everything legal for them, we need the illusion of the absence of money.
The second is all about today’s hard-dollar advertising revenues. The free sites are full of advertising, and there’s a reason for that. Anything that is currently tied to the NFL is virtually a guaranteed money-maker.
But what a lot of people don’t realize is that those two purposes are tied together. Like just about every other facet of how they make money, the NFL is well aware of this; they architected it. If you are my age, you remember that fantasy football really got its start as a pamphlet published by your beer company of choice which you picked up while you were at you local liquor store. You scribbled in it during the course of the year, and it was all about bragging rights with your buddies.
But then the NFL noticed it, and at the same time along came the internet. They instantly realized how the marriage of the two would be a marketing boon for the NFL. The only hitch was the gamblers saw this potential as well. They also know the “Free” fantasy football players of today will be those who will be betting thousands on the parlays of the future; they’ll bet from what replaces the smart-phone in ten years in much the same way they make adjustments to their fantasy team now.
It’s a tactic with such huge potential that it simply cannot be ignored. You give young people a reason to engage your brand, while exposing them to paid advertising, all while ignoring the river of gambling money just under the surface. It’s brilliant in it’s simplicity, and monstrously risky in its brilliance.
The risk comes from the chance the illusion about the money gets blown. The NFL knows damn good and well that supporting fantasy football has a discernable link to gambling, but we’ll also never see Kommissar Goodell address it, unless a video surfaces that’s fit for TMZ to post.
Ok, so I’ll admit, that really doesn’t sound all that nefarious. That is until you realize the NFL wants fantasy football taught in school. When I told Meehan about this, his head literally did a full spin.
Back on August 28th, Nate Scott of the Wall Street Journal reported that NFL Chief Marketing Officer Mark Waller expressed interest in this by stating the following:
“We want to make sure that at the younger age, there’s a format for fantasy and a way to play that will allow you to engage. But also use it educationally. It’s a complex game, fantasy. You should be able to learn a lot, particularly around math. How many points do I need? How many points does this player get? We’re also trying to work with groups to get the concept of fantasy based into the curriculum of elementary schools. If you love football and you teach them math through football, the chances are you may teach them better math and more quickly.”
Uh huh. If you believe that, go stand over there with the people who believe Goodell never saw the TMZ video.
To get me to buy that, you’ve got to get me to buy some other pretty ridiculous shit first. Are you really telling me the NFL gives a fuck about math or structure in schools? If that were the case, the NFL could make all entrants into the NFL Draft pass a basic academic skills test before they were eligible. See that happening anytime soon? I didn’t think so.
You also need to be to believe the NFL took second number one to try to understand the complexities of elementary education. In other words, with all of this “common core” conversation swirling around in education these days, there’s a lot of bluster when it comes to new ways to teach kids math. Of course, by “new ways” we really mean “ways that work and can be done by the incompetent fucks that run public schools today.”
So, now a league that can’t even figure out how to get a video from the mailroom to the Commissioner’s office is out “go-to” resource for fixing education in this country? How fucked up is that concept? I’m guessing the intersection of “common core” and fantasy football would probably be at Illiteracy Boulevard and some other street sign a bunch of little dopes with at a Floyd Mayweather Jr. reading level can’t understand.
But here’s the last whopper you’ve got to swallow. To see why this is all such a Tommy Flanagan-level of bullshit, all you have to do is break down that last sentence.
“If you love football and you teach them math through football, the chances are you may teach them better math and more quickly.”
That is not the most sane sentence in the world, which is unfortunate because it’s being used to describe educational tactics. Second, it starts with “If you love football…”, which begs the obvious question “What if you don’t love football?” In any classroom of thirty kids, you’re going to have fifteen who for various reasons won’t give a fuck about football of any flavor…fantasy, American, or FIFA’s brand. Think about what a ridiculously huge dick move that is.
This is a dick move on a ridiculous level – “Let’s see if we can get fantasy football into the school systems so we can push it on young people who will never like it.” So, now the NFL is taking a page out of the Joseph Goebbels playbook. Really?
The schools have enough problems as it is. Kommissar Goodell doesn’t need to be poking his head into kindergarten classrooms to be recruiting future jersey buyers. Right now, he’s got enough issues with a league full of people looking to shit on him at any opportunity.
The Bottom Line:
There’s guys like Meehan who don’t have any interest and are tired as fuck of hearing about it. Then there’s guys like J-Dub who have fun with it.
Fantasy Football might be a fun way to attract new fans and build the NFL fan base, but Meehan and J-Dub both agree this shit has gotten completely out of control. When it starts to overshadow the real game, the point is being missed. It’s pretty obvious even the NFL knows their real action comes in the form of the play-offs, which is exactly why fantasy football disappears by then.
But the real proof that fantasy football is a good thing that has gone too far…the fact the NFL thinks it can use this to teach math is nothing short of fucking appalling.