Welcome to Episode 6 of Fantasy Life, our online exploration of one fantasy football season and its cast of characters. It is getting silly for me to link to each and every prior episode in these entries, so here's a link to last week's episode, which contains links to all prior ones. Ok, here's the description of the cast of characters as well in case you are confused by any reference.
Because of Hurricane Sandy, I did not have the opportunity this week to get to know exactly what was going on with each owner of the Saving Private Buddy Ryan league. And, I'm going to stretch out the details of new owner Tom's stalking of Randy. Therefore, this entry is less about what happened fantasy-wise during Week 8 of the NFL season, and more about the appropriateness of fantasy football in everyday life as well as some nagging life-related fantasy football questions.
I joke about being a fantasy football "expert" because I'm not convinced there is any such thing -- no fantasy football expert could have told me that even though I was up almost 40 points going into Sunday night (having not even included Larry Fitzgerald yet), I would lose this week because Demaryius Thomas and Michael Crabtree would get over 200 yards and three touchdowns between them. That being said, having played fantasy football this long and writing about it, people often ask me questions beyond sit or start?
Some of these questions I struggle with on a regular basis, and since the impetus for this series deals with the intersection of fantasy football and life and how the former affects the latter, I thought I'd devote some space to the questions that have been popping up in my mind more frequently as of late. For example, I have kids. Many Sundays I am out and about with the family, whether at soccer games, fairs, birthday parties, pools, you get the idea. So, assuming you are in an area where you have cell reception, and assuming that you can get your stats over your cell phone -- don't get me started on the horribleness of trying to access CBS Sportsline on any device -- where is it ok to access your game stats and how often can you access without getting into trouble with your significant other or the general populus around you?
I can't imagine I'm the only one out there who regularly hears: "you just checked that five minutes ago, how much could it have changed?" Well, the answer is a lot! But, somehow, that response doesn't seem to work. So, I've developed a flexible set of guidelines for myself and I'd be interested in hearing from others on their "best practices."
Basically, it involves using the bathroom a lot. Sure, people think you have a tract infection or need an adult diaper, but isn't it worth not being scolded and shamed for going to your digital device? Maybe not, but it works for me. In general, I figure if I am in water, I'm not checking the cell phone. If I'm at my own child's birthday party, I'm not checking the cell phone. If my child is in a game or giving a recital or performance, I'm not checking the cell phone. And, if we are at a movie or a play, the cell phone isn't even on -- come on, I'm not a jerk, they tell you to shut your phone off.
For other events and places, it sort of depends on the formality of the moment. If you are at a wedding, checking before and right after the ceremony should enable you to get through the ceremony itself. I know what you are thinking ... most weddings are short, but what if it is one of those weddings that is part of a Mass? I'd say it mostly depends on the opportunity to kneel, in which case you may be out of view for a bit.
Next question: If you are at a social function and you meet someone for the first time, how long do you have to wait before asking him if he plays fantasy football? This is one of those lines to walk between wanting to find something about which you can connect and make small talk and looking like you're one of "those guys" who can't talk about anything else. Personally, I find it helps if you first figure out the level of sports fan you are dealing with -- from rabid face-painter to: "I like that Mike McGwire and Sammy Sooser."
If he's closer to the latter, don't bother. If it is clear, however, that he follows sports pretty closely, I don't see any reason why you can't ask the fantasy question early on. Just keep in mind that if the answer is no, please don't embarass yourself and go into how you lost last week when Michael Crabtree, who never catches touchdowns, caught two of them.
The related issue is whether it is morally ok to be judgmental or think less of someone if he doesn't play fantasy football. Well, probably not. Unless he responds to your question about fantasy football with an annoying or idiotic response. So, if his reaction is to say something like "who has time for that?" or "you would think people who play fantasy football have better things to do with their lives" or "I just can't keep track of the home runs and the slam dunkies," I'd say it is perfectly ok to write him and his wife off as people with which you would never want to hang out.
Now, as long as we are talking about the intersection between fantasy football and real life, at what point will NFL stadiums get a clue and make attendance at a football game more fantasy-friendly? Some stadiums now show fantasy stats here and there, but it isn't enough in an era where people expect all the information they want when they want it. Have you ever turned down tickets to an NFL game because you wouldn't be able to follow the players on your fantasy team as well? It is certainly one of the many factors I think about as I lean further and further towards the idea that football is a tv-only sport.
I'm not saying that every stadium needs a constant crawl on the jumbotron showing fantasy sta.... wait a minute. Actually, I will say that is exactly what stadiums should be doing. With all the ads in the stadium, long commercial breaks, long halftimes, cheerleaders, timeouts, music, does anyone think that a little line on the main video screen reserved for fantasy would be that intrusive? Clearly, fantasy isn't the main factor driving people away from live attendance. But reducing access to fantasy stats is certainly not going to help bring anyone in.
And, finally, I ask one of those "countdown to the next major scandal" questions: How comfortable are we with pro players playing in their own fantasy leagues?
Can we possibly think that the league is comfortable with this? We know that someone will eventually get accused of something nefarious. It may not be this year or the next, but it's looming, mark my words.
Pete Rose got banned from baseball for life for betting on his own team. Now, I happen to believe that betting on your own team, especially if you don't bet every game (and always in the same amount), is still really bad for the obvious reason that, in baseball, you truly can hurt your chances of winning other games if you, at all costs, do not do everything humanly possible to win the current game. But as far as we know, he never tried to lose a game or throw a play.
But with fantasy football ... what if you are a pro player, you don't own yourself on your fantasy team, and you are playing in your fantasy championship against a team that has you? Pro athlete fantasy leagues often feature huge cash prizes. I hesitate to use any real player since I am not trying to say that I have any evidence or reason to suspect that whatever player I use for a hypothetical would indeed tank his stats, but for the sake of pure "fantasy," let's say that MJD was playing against himself in Week 16 and the Jags are 2-13 going into the game. Might he not have a slightly higher propensity for cramping up or getting a really bad headache or catching a strain of uromysitisis poisoning?
That is, of course, the more obvious or drastic case, and we'd be more likely to notice that. The more subtle possibility is that of the defender who is on a 3-12 team or playing in a game that is 30-7 in the fourth quarter. That defensive back could let a wide-out get past him or, even less noticably, a linebacker could miss his assignment by just a smidge opening up a hole for the running back on his fantasy team.
If, after reading this, you lose your championship game because of a bonehead play and you blame an NFL player of purposefully manipulating the integrity of the game for his own fantasy benefit . . . well, I guess I've done my job.
I'm on vacation next week, but tune back in two weeks from today for actual details on the owners of my fantasy league and the effect that fantasy football has on their lives.