By Adam Drake
Grace, our 80-year old receptionist, walks into my office, her eyes turned down with sympathy. Truly the grandmother of the company, it is hard for even her to muster a consoling tone. My Fantasy Football team last year against my coworkers was truly horrible. Grace, who I’m positive was born before football was invented, is coming to see if I’m all right after another beating by one of my snickering coworkers. My failures on the virtual gridiron last year were the stuff of legend, and I WILL NOT let it happen again this year.
“Adam, listen man, I just wanted you to know that we’re thinking about doing another fantasy league this fall, and we all understand if you don’t want to be part of it. I just figured I’d let you know if you were interested.”
This is how it all started. Bryan was wearing his Pats jersey, and mixed his sincerity with a splash of muted sarcasm when he delivered the backhanded invite. Standing up from my desk, I grabbed both his shoulders, looked him directly in the eye, and with a confidence I hadn’t possessed in years, said, “Bring. It. On.”
I immediately read every single blog, book, and magazine about Fantasy Football I could get my hands on. (Never mind binge watching The League.) This year was going to be different. This wasn’t my rebuilding year. This was the year I would become the national goddamn champion and make all those smug mugs in the account team kneel before me!
The truth of the matter is, I truly enjoy Fantasy Football. Despite getting destroyed week after week, it keeps me entertained and has made me appreciate watching more of the games. But why? Why are we so drawn to this curious phenomenon, where we draft and trade real people like Pokemon cards?
The answer is simple: because it’s engaging. Outside of drinking at the local pub or working out, I don’t spend a lot of time hanging out with a bunch of friends. But Fantasy Football gives us a chance to talk (or bust balls or ovaries — yes, we have women in our league) throughout the week, and comment on successes and failures. We regularly get together with laptops and iPads in hand, to watch the games and check our stats throughout.
Not only does it give us an excuse to convene, but Fantasy also makes the sport of football more interesting. Football has always been fascinating — the intricacies of the game are vast, and despite the image of typical meatheads, it actually requires tactics, strategy, and outstanding physical shape. Where most people watch the game as two teams competing against each other, Fantasy Football allows you to concentrate on individual athletes, on the numbers they put up — not just touchdowns and field goals; but rushing yards, passes, kicks, and the like. In a nutshell, Football becomes intricate.
Finally, you have a real sense of ownership. Growing up in Connecticut, sandwiched between the New York and Boston teams, I never felt an allegiance to either city, and never had “my team.” And while I lack the yearly salary to actually own a football franchise, playing Fantasy has given me a reason to actually care about the results. I’m overjoyed when certain teams win, or certain players perform well, and I relish in the defeat of others. For instance, I forgot that Arizona had a football team (sorry Arizona), but my draft of Jonathan Dwyer to my team changed all that.
Honestly, I never thought I’d enjoy Fantasy Football. It never had any appeal to me. Statistics? Spreadsheets? It sounded like the worst parts of college. But after some convincing, I not only found myself enjoying the game, but also truly engaged in every aspect. I’m 3-0 this season, people. I’m feeling confident, and I can’t wait to rub my successes in Grace’s loving, elderly face.
Adam Drake is Creative Director for the Sweat Life, a former four-year varsity rower for the University of Miami, and currently rows for the Maritime Rowing Club. He is the co-founder of Kayak for a Cause, a charity event based in Connecticut. As a writer, Adam has developed television shows for Comedy Central, Bad Boy Worldwide, and Sky, written ad campaigns for clients such as Bacardi, Starbucks, Dove Men+Care, and HBO, and was a contributor to the pop culture site YesButNoButYes. In his spare time, he enjoys skiing, boating, and working on his tremendous collection of unfinished novels.