It was a cool summer’s day, perfect football weather. As I pulled to the curb, possible choices raced through my head. I stepped out of the car and walked toward the house. My new jersey glistened in the August sun. My actions on that day would mean the difference between victory and defeat. Little did I know that my choice of drafting Jamaal Charles, would lead to my later demise. I was never really good at playing football, maybe because I wasn’t athletic enough. Nonetheless, I loved watching football because it was a fasted paced alternative to other sports. A few years back, I stumbled upon fantasy football, which is a way for fans interact in a social context with the main talking point being football. And so, on that day many years ago, my love for the game began.
I walked into the living room of my friend, Tyler, who was our fantasy league commissioner. I noticed when I came in there were several tables set up, each with plenty of food and drinks. The tables surrounded a big white draft board, which would show our selections as the day went on. The others still had not arrived and, while I waited, I paced around the room. Soon the draft was underway. We ran our league based on the snake draft concept. Each person would be allowed one pick per round, with the last person starting the following round of picks, like the coils of a snake. Another form of draft available would be an auction draft, in which each member is given a certain amount of money, and then they must outbid each other to win certain players. Before the draft, doing your homework is very important.
I took the seat nearest to the board so that I could view the previous selections made. Over the previous week, I had studied game film and I came into the draft with good intentions of selecting a running back early. I had a sense of who I wanted, but driving in that day, I started to have doubts. It is important to have a good strategy prior to your planned draft date. Running back and wide receiver positions should be taken early, unless there is a high quality quarterback available. Though I am a diehard Bears fan, I will never take a Bears player early because it is important to not take a player from your favorite team. If this is done, your emotions are sure to get involved and interfere with your better judgment. There are certain sources, such as ESPN and NFL.com, that will try to rank and project the player’s performance for the upcoming year, but these sources are unreliable and often wrong. When I draft, I choose the players based on their performance throughout the preseason and training camp. I also try to draft players that are high risk/high reward. Unless I’m in a league where I have to pay a fee to get in, there is no loss from drafting unsafe players. These techniques are key and are the reason why I dominate in fantasy, with five leagues titles that were won with skill and not based on luck. But there is always a chance things don’t go as planned with unexpected variables that could throw off one’s whole season.
After the draft was over, I drove home feeling good about my team. Once I arrived back home, I greeted my parents and then proceeded to my room. I pulled up the fantasy web page hoping that our draft results were online, but with no avail. It was at that moment I realized I had not created a team name. When I would try to compose a new name, I would try to make it relatable to my team or myself. I chose Any Given Sunday because it is one of my favorite films about football. As soon as I finished, the draft results were up and I could view my team. I felt that, I had a strong lineup, as well as a bench that was full of trade bait. Once the lineups were up, trades started to spring up across our league. My philosophy is to not trade players prior to the season, since I haven’t had the chance to see them play. Never try to fix a well-oiled machine.
As time went by, I watched everything unfold, good players being traded for bad players, people complaining about refs, and unnecessary drops; it was chaotic. This being the first time playing with my friends, I wondered if this was going to be a yearly occurrence. It wasn’t. It was the first year that we expanded from a ten to a twelve person fantasy league and a few of the newer members were gullible and easy to take advantage of. Though I was a new member I had been in several fantasy leagues in the past, and considered myself knowledgeable in football. They approached me with the idea that they could “trade rape” me, but I knew that wasn’t possible. Trade rape was a term we got off the television show, The League, which is a show about members of a fantasy football league. It is when one member takes advantage of another member’s lack of knowledge to receive certain desired players. When I made a trade I usually tried to be fair but, like anyone else, I would have liked to get the upper hand. Once the season comes around, these completed trades could be the difference between making the playoffs or going home early.
As opening day approached I became increasingly excited. Every day I would check my usual source to see updated information about me players and possible projections. I would study the wavier wires to pick up any decent un-owned players. And then the day came. My lineup was set, my jersey was clean and ready to be worn and I was prepared to watch some football. Though it was a great day to watch football, I became depressed with the fact that I couldn’t watch the game. I had already previously planned something at that time thinking the first game was a different day. To top that, I couldn’t use my phone during that duration, and I was in jeopardy of missing the whole game. Later I would learn that the game wasn’t even worth watching, as the game was very low scoring. Already my team was off to a bad start, but I learned that any game could be changed on any given play.
It was Sunday and my friends and I got together to watch some football. With all of us being Bears fans, we started off watching the Bear’s game. The Bears had a strong victory against the Falcons leaving us with little doubt they could control their division. After the game was over we had some lunch and proceeded to talk about fantasy football. It seemed as if that was all we talked about. My friend had NFL ticket which is a satellite option which allowed us to jump back and forth from game to game. This was great for people like us, who don’t want to watch the whole game, but instead track the performance of our players. As the day went on, I learned that my team didn’t know how to play football. I knew I was going to lose this week, but the worst was still to come. Charles, my first round pick, was playing the Detroit Lions that day. The previous season Charles had become one of the top running backs in the game, creating potentially scary matchups for defenses who had to stop him. Halfway through the game, Charles had rushed for fifty yards, when the accident occurred. Running out of bounds after a play, he was tripped by the Lion’s mascot and he couldn’t find the strength to get up after the play. Then I saw any fantasy owner’s nightmare, the cart driving on the field toward the downed running back. Later that day we learned Charles had a torn ACL, an injury that occurs to many sports players, but is usually one of the worst and hardest to recover from. I was worried; I had lost my team’s greatest asset and my season was practically over.
Though Charles was lost, my team went on to recover. Through certain waiver pickups and trades, my team ended up with a respectable record of 8-5. I just barely missed playoffs and my first year was cut short. Disappointed about my previous effort, the offseason meant major changes for my team. I decided to keep none of my players and draft those from a certain pool. I don’t know if this was the smartest decision because, as it turns out, my new first round pick, Chris Johnson, is turning out to be another bust this year. Though currently I’m sitting at a negative record, there are many weeks ahead and anything is possible on any given Sunday.
The purpose of my essay is to inform and tell my personal story regarding my experiences surrounding fantasy football. I try to tell my experience through the story of my 2011 campaign, while also pausing to tell some information about fantasy football in general. I hope to reach out to those who enjoy watching football, but have not tried fantasy football. It is a great entertaining game, as long as you play with people you know. My audience is those who are thinking about playing fantasy football, but are on the bubble of whether they want to play.