With the National Football League into the full swing of pre-season, my Facebook site has gotten inundated with invitations to enter various fantasy football leagues and put teams together. (This is my real life persona I am referring to, of course. Dear Jon does not have a page yet. For one thing, what would I do about a photograph?) It appears that approximately every male I have met who is savvy enough to use a computer, thinks he can form a league of his own and go head-to-head in choosing from the NFL's talent pool with any other male.
I am not saying that women are never involved in fantasy football. The involvement of females pretty well guarantees that Tony Romo and Tom Brady are among the quarterbacks first picked. Also, I have a sister who has gotten involved in fantasy football. She chooses her starters based on such objective statistics as, "This person has a Polynesian name I can't pronounce. That person's name sounds like a brand for a graham cracker. I'd rather go with a Rainbow Warrior than with a guy who will crumble under pressure." She usually advances to the championship.
Women might be involved in large numbers, but among my Facebook friends and contacts all my invitations to fantasy football this year --there have been approximately 157 -- have come from men.
I do not do fantasy football and I never have. Now don't get me wrong: I don't mind the invitations, if you don't mind the snub. To those of you who invite me to fantasy football, I want to show you the courtesy of explaining why I will not enter a team this season and, though I am reluctant to ever say never, why I do not plan to in the future. Since I don't want to rewrite my answer 157 times, I figured I would turn it into a Dear Jon article.
At this point Dear Jon could resort to comedic cheap-shots such as, "Number one, I actually have a life even during autumn." Everyone knows that the "I'm too busy" reason for not doing Fantasy Football is the same as saying, "I'm a responsible adult managing work and family. How on EARTH do YOU find TIME to do something as TRIVIAL as fantasy football?"
The truth is that "I'm too busy" does not stop me from doing other hobbies, such as singing in community choirs and going to night school towards a graduate degree that I might actually earn in about 15 years unless I get booted out of the program. So anyway, fantasy football IS a fun way to connect with friends and be part of a community, and that is why the "I've got a life" cheap-shot won't be said here.
The real reason I won't get near fantasy football is that I already care TOO MUCH about football. For sixteen weeks my outlook on life from Sunday afternoon until about Wednesday is determined by the fate of the Green Bay Packers. In recent years my autumns have been miserable enough. Now a bunch of fanatics think they can IMPROVE their experience of football by increasing the number of their emotional attachments.
Suppose that Green Bay wins a game because Aaron Rodgers has thrown three touchdown passes to Donald Driver. I'm shouting myself hoarse and traumatizing my four year-old with my touch-down celebrations, which is me dancing alone in a step that looks like a cross between a polka and a Hawaiian hula dance, complete with stomach jiggles.
But wait, neither Rodgers nor Driver play on my fantasy team, and oh no, the guy in the lead in fantasy points has Driver, while my team is playing AGAINST the guy who has Rodgers! Meanwhile, I started a receiver for the Bengals, some dude who legally changed his name to El Speedo Stupido, who could not even play because he was arrested in Kentucky on Saturday night on the charge of running a steroids ring that sells the juice to fight-dogs. My week-end in football is ruined when my favorite NFL team's quarterback has the game of his life? No, thank you.
I know the argument cuts both ways. Fans of miserable teams can find consolation if their fantasy teams do well. This is why fantasy football is so popular in the upper midwest. Fantasy football also mitigates bitter conflict between fans. It is really hard to want Jay Cutler of the Bears to be knocked out of football if he is the starting quarterback for your fantasy team. So the trash-talk diminishes. A Packers fan in a northside Chicago sports bar, sees Cutler goes down, and cusses just as loudly as all the other patrons, because he has Cutler starting for his Fantasy Team "The Lake Michigan Cheese-graters."
Those are all plusses for fantasy football. The big minus is that I doubt that the typical male can track with all the emotional complexity. Fantasy football should probably be reserved for women, in that it will keep them interested enough to watch games with their husbands or boyfriends all Sunday afternoon, and they have all the estrogen resources they need to sort through the complex and multiple griefs. A woman sorts it out and cries, and has forgotten everything by the middle of Monday. A man cannot sort it out, gets frustrated, and wants to punch something. With so few things that can be legally punched, a man stews all week long. A man should not join a fantasy football league unless he hangs a punching bag over his entertainment center.
Not as big a minus, but it is still a big minus, is that with the real NFL fans may have to endure a season or two of 4 wins and 12 losses while our team rebuilds. In fantasy leagues you have to start from scratch every single season with a whole new draft and everything. Now if fantasy rules followed NFL rules, so that I could have picked up Brett Favre in 1994 and kept him for the next 10 seasons as a "franchise" player for my Lake Michigan Cheese-graters, never to be picked up by anyone else, then great, I'll do fantasy football. That is not how it works, though.
I am absorbed in the green and gold. I already have a lot of fantasies about the Packers, involving undefeated seasons and unbreakable records for consecutive Super Bowl victories. I will just leave it at that. I will make a deal with football fans everywhere, however: The season that the Green Bay Packers move to another city, I will start a fantasy team, "The Lambeau Leapers." (Have I ever explained to you that one of the reasons I gloat about the Packers is that they have THE BEST ownership model in all of professional sports? That will be something to think about as you decide whether you should cheer for the Los Angeles Bears just for old times' sake.)
Nevertheless, here are some Fantasy Football tips for 2009.
Tom Brady is not over. Pick him up. Tony Romo will produce. Any football player with the name "Manning" is good for the roster.
Avoid Brett Favre of the Vikings like you would avoid a skunk with small-pox.
Jay Cutler is a role of the dice. So is Devin Hester. So is anything that depends on a productive, high-scoring offense from the Chicago Bears. I would take a good look at Greg Olsen, though, for tight-end.
Kurt Warner peaked again. Who knows what this season will bring? This season teams will be gunning for the Cardinals. Even so, expect a big year from Larry Fitzgerald, who broke the long one in the Super Bowl that gave the Cardinals the late lead.
I would want Chad Pennington on my team. The Dolphins got their act together last season and there is no reason to assume that Pennington will fade.
Get that receiver for the Detroit Lions, I think his name is Calvin somebody. As for anyone wearing a San Diego Chargers uniform: Who knows?