Let’s take a break from addressing social issues in the NFL to address a different kind of issue: the way fantasy football has completely overtaken my (and probably, readers, many of your) life.
I started playing fantasy football six years ago in a league with some people I knew via my local metal music scene. It was a fairly casual league and I barely paid attention to it and I never made the fantasy football playoffs and, at some point, the next season started and I had not been asked to rejoin the league. (I think they took it a little more seriously—pretty sure someone announced some wedding-related thing with a fantasy football theme, though I could be wrong.)
In 2013 I started a league with my now wife and a handful of friends from my MFA program. We’d spend every Sunday at our local Buffalo Wild Wings. I was still bad, but I at least started making waiver moves every week.
Last year I made the fantasy playoffs for the first time. I lost in the opening round, but I TASTED THE CHANCE OF VICTORY AND IT FELT SO GOOD.
This year I decided I would commit myself to winning our league. I participated in all the mock drafts I could before our real draft, made a list of all the players I wanted and the ones I didn’t want. When our draft came, I was ready. I drafted a team that I thought was my best ever.
Through six games, I am 3-3. That is, I think, my best record through six games ever. As other people’s teams suffer injury after injury, my top three players are healthy (minus two scares last week that turned out to be nothing) and I feel really good about my chances of finally winning my league.
The downside is that I feel really, really compelled to do whatever it takes to win my league. I’ve spent two to three hours a day on the fantasy football subreddit and on various ranking sites. I deeply investigate every rumor I hear. I wake up early on Wednesday to see how waiver claims went. I am probably falling behind in grading and in school work. I am not writing poems.
I am, it seems, lost in the allure of fantasy—in this illusion that the choices I make have some bearing on the actual game.
The simulation of football becomes my reality of football. Every thought I have about the game is mediated through technology and a game that is mostly about chance.
There are positives to this: As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the NFL’s team-based approach is feeling weird to me because it’s the only sport that really and truly tries to fuck over players “for the good of the team” at every opportunity. Focusing on fantasy helps me focus on individual players more. When Odell Beckham Jr. gets penalized for excessive celebration, I feel upset for Beckham and angry at the officials because fantasy has made me care about him.
There’s a dark side to this, of course. Plenty of people only care about these players in the context of fantasy. If the player underperforms, they trash talk them on the Internet, which—ehh, it happens. If the player gets hurt, though, we often see the same kind of reaction. That’s hella uncool, as uncool as the word hella is.
This Week In Review
I’m not going to review this week of NFL football. Instead, in keeping with the theme of this column and as a way of appealing to a small group of my core readers, I am going to write a Power Ranking of my fantasy league. This is going to probably be very boring to everyone that reads this column. I am sorry.
THE SYNDICATE 2.0 POWER RANKINGS
This is really, really hard. Six teams in my league are tied for their division leads and all six of those teams are within one game of each other overall. Another team is one game back in the division.The other is bad. Let’s give this a try. Rankings are a combination of current record, current points scored, and recent production. A good game six weeks ago doesn’t mean as much as a good game this or last week, because the makeup of the teams is constantly in flux.
#1: Regina Phalange (Nick Novosel): 4-2
I don’t feel great about this ranking, but Nick’s team has the most points in our league and some really good players, including David Johnson, Cam Newton, and a really good Broncos defense. His hold on the top spot feels tenuous—Newton is on a bye this week, his bench depth might not be enough to get him through the next few weeks effectively—but for now, here he is.
#2: Shady and the McCoys Jr. Jr. (Justin Carter): 3-3
I am overrating my team so disregard this and probably put me second or third, but I just scored a league best 143 points in my last game and have five current starters ranked in the top five for their positions and a sixth, Le’Veon Bell, who missed three games but is rated by many experts as a top five running back. This is the best I have ever felt about my team, but also my quarterback is Matthew Stafford, which means I will lose one or two games that I deserve to win.
#3: Marcia Clark + The Misandrists (Karissa Morton Carter): 3-3
Karissa’s team only ranks fifth in scoring but a lot of that is strategic. She benched two starters in the first game when she realized she had no chance of winning in order to better her waiver position, which turned into Melvin Gordon, and she benched her defense to preserve a win one week when they were the only thing left on Monday night. Her team is dangerous because it has Aaron Rodgers, Antonio Brown, and more second tier running backs than anyone can know what to do with. The biggest knock, I think, is the lack of a stud running back, but Gordon is almost one and Doug Martin is healing from an injury on her bench.
#4: Basically The Patriots (Andy Briseño): 4-2
Andy: Your team has looked really good. But you just lost Eddie Lacy to a multiple week injury, Spencer Ware is probably about to lose his starting spot with Kansas City, and any team that relies on so many players from one team—even one as good as New England—is always capable of putting up really weak games.
#5: Louisidelphia Rebuilders (Kimberly Southwick): 3-3
Kim’s team was really dangerous early, but she has lost three straight games and probably owns too many Eagles players. There’s still time to turn it around—an enticing matchup with league gutter dweller Chad this week—but something has to change soon or Kim will be on the outside of the playoff picture.
#6: Team Sipes (Brett Sipes): 2-4
Negative points for the uncreative name. Brett’s team just looks and feels mediocre. Jeremy Hill. Golden Tate. I don’t see Brett threatening much.
#7: Lady Boners (Matt Bridgewater): 4-2
Matt is currently third in the league, but last week he started two injured players and he has terrible depth and I just don’t see him performing well going forward.
#8: Under The Sea Hawks (Chad Pryor): 1-5
Chad has been making waiver claims all season and really, really trying to get better. It’s that fact—that he is legitimately trying to win games and failing—that puts him last. I think he has immense upside, but his team hasn’t been scoring consistently or winning games.