Hadfield: Why I hate Fantasy Football and you should too

There will be Patriots "fans" at bars this fall that will be rooting for these guys. 'Nuff said. Credit: Getty Images
There will be Patriots “fans” at bars this fall who will be rooting for these guys. ‘Nuff said. Credit: Getty Images

Your fantasy draft was this weekend, wasn’t it? Was it fun? Were there a lot of drafts? Did someone accidentally pick Michael Crabtree, unaware that he got hurt this offseason? Did another person take Gronk in hopes that he comes back earlier than Week 6?

This probably happened. According to estimates from Forbes.com, Fantasy Football is a $70 billion dollar industry. Thirty-two million other Americans “play” the virtual sport; meanwhile, I stand on the sidelines, horrified by its existence, its prevalence, and what it’s doing to my game, AMERICA’S GAME.

Now, before going any further, I concede that this growing market suggests I am the outlier, and the fantasy “owners” are the norm. I mean, there’s even an FX sitcom – and a very good one, at that – about Fantasy Football. But just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good for society (isn’t that right, fast food junkies?)

I’ll even go one step further and concede another point, one that dismisses any cogent reasoning against Fantasy Football I’m about to offer: If I’m being completely honest, my stance against everything Fantasy Football is self-serving and (probably) fabricated. I subconsciously loathe Fantasy Football because in a weird, misguided way it benefits me to do so. This way, dear readers, I can be the wonky sports columnist who STANDS FOR SOMETHING.

Truthfully speaking, I would probably enjoy the experience. Coming up with a clever team name; wheelin’ and dealin’ with trades and free agent pick-ups; and, of course, bragging among friends in group texts. I get the allure, I really do.

But if you’re willing to take this journey and look past that rather significant disclaimer, here are three reasons, ranked from “Dude, you just like to complain, huh?” to “Ehh, he’s got a point,” to why Fantasy Football is a terrible epidemic that needs to stop. You’re welcome, real football fans.

3. Tales from fantasy owners that NO ONE in their right mind wants to hear

Like you, I’m a busy guy. You know what I have no use for? Instagram photos of your homemade guacamole. A picture of the cocktail you’re devouring at the patio bar because, heck, IT’S 5 O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE! Or your wicked cool story about that time you almost nailed an eagle putt while playing 18 at the overpriced country club you belong to. Yet day after day, I still am tasked with consuming this inanity.

Fantasy Football presents the same issue. Because while I don’t “play” Fantasty Football, I sure do know a lot about how people’s teams are doing.

Look, while I dig the vigor, I really don’t need to hear about your stupid fantasy war stories: how TORN you are about picking Stevan Ridley in your draft because coach Belichick may give LeGarrette Blount more goal line carries, or how John Fox is an idiot because he values winning actual games and instructs Peyton Manning to kneel the ball to kill time. (YOU’RE NOT JUST KILLING TIME, JOHN … YOU’RE COSTING MY FANTASY TEAM POINTS. HAVE YOU NO SOUL?!!!)

Bottom line: Unless you plan on spending any loot you “earn” by winning your league on me, I don’t need to hear where you are in the standings. CAN I LIVE? CAN I???

2. Fantasy Football has little to no bearing on real life football

The reason I love the Madden video game franchise is the same reason I hate Fantasy Football. Madden does a fantastic job simulating football. On the other hand, Fantasy Football accentuates what is convenient and blurs everything else out.

Consider the aforementioned Ridley conundrum; or the fact Matt Stafford and Cam Newton, two guys with a combined regular season win-loss record of 30-47, could have more fantasy value than Tom Brady, who boasts a 136-39 record; or the fact that defense — you know, the personnel who make up half the roster and, according to football blowhards, WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS – is weighed significantly less than offense. The correlation between what happens in real life and fantasy success is weak at best.

Bottom Line: I’ve never played Fantasy Football, but the very little I do know about scoring systems makes the entire process seem arbitrary. It’s immensely clear that Fantasy Football doesn’t even come close – nor does it try – to awarding real life results. Of course, the staunch Fantasty Freak would say, “That’s why it’s called fantasy!” But that counterargument feels lazy. You might as well hop on over to the casino. What are we really doing here, guys? (Besides avoiding wives and girlfriends — in which case, proceed.)

1. The Conflict of Interest

The most obvious issue is the one that is most problematic. TRUE STORY: At some point this season, a player will score a back-breaking touchdown against my beloved Patriots. Maybe it’s Stevie Johnson, or Wes Welker (GASP!), or Mark Sanchez. (OK probably not Mark Sanchez). Regardless, some tool in Boston will joyfully announce, “YES! I have him on Fantasy,” and then scan the bar for a high-five that (hopefully) will never come.

Bottom Line: This person is the worst. The Judas of sports fans – he exists in every group of friends. Part of me sympathizes: being a sports fan is so much give, and not nearly enough take. You invest way too much of your own time rooting for your team and pay outrageous prices for tickets. Fantasy Football bridges that gap, and allows fans to benefit in a new, monetary way. But the rationalization about hedging your emotional bets (“Hey the Pats lost, but I won my matchup!”) is just that: a rationalization.

This conflict of interest that inevitably arises is – by far – is the biggest problem Fantasy Football causes.

So enjoy your stupid fantasy draft, the group texts, refreshing the scores after the early afternoon games, and the thrill of victory. All of it. And may the sports gods have mercy on you and the team you root for.

Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__


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