I won my fantasy football league this year (one of the most obnoxious conversation-starters that you’ll hear repeatedly this week, by the way). It’s also the second league I’ve won in five years (sorry, I realize I’m being that guy… getting to a point, I promise).
This might lead you to think fantasy football is a thing I’m good at, or something I spent more than five minutes a week thinking about. If so, you’d be incorrect, because I have an objectively mediocre knowledge of the NFL and did not spend more than 5 minutes a week on my team.
And that’s why me winning a fantasy football league – let alone two of them – is an indictment of this outrageous game to which we collectively devote thousands of hours and dollars every year. I’m living, breathing evidence that it’s a total crapshoot, and we’re all victims.
Let’s start back in August. At my draft, one owner showed up with a spreadsheet he built to pick players. He’s one of the most dedicated and informed football fans I know. His team went 4-9.
While he tweaked the code on his FiveThirtyEight model, I prepared by perusing not one, but two player rankings, for 10 minutes combined. For my picks, I relied exclusively on 1) the ESPN draft platform’s rankings, or 2) the vibe in the room about what positions should be picked when.
Then for 17 weeks, I received notifications from the ESPN Fantasy Football app on some Thursday afternoons and every Sunday morning and remembered, “Oh right, fantasy football.” My strategy for picking a lineup was 98% those arbitrary point projections that ESPN spits out. For defense, I usually factored in the matchup a little more. That was the extent of critical thought I applied to my team.
The only time setting a lineup did take more than 5 minutes was if a player had that little “Q” next his name – which would almost certainly be the first time I realized they were injured (like I said, mediocre knowledge of the NFL, at best). I’m just not that into scouring the Internet on a Tuesday afternoon to see how some Arizona beat writer thought Larry Fitzgerald’s knee looked in practice. In fact, I likely had no idea Larry Fitzgerald might’ve been hurt until that little “Q”.
So when I did need to decide about a questionable player, my go-to move was searching them on Twitter and taking all of 30 seconds to find one reputable source. Pats reporter says Martellus Bennett is good to go? I’m sold.
But I also observed an absolutely wild phenomenon when I consulted Twitter. Inevitably, I’d see dozens of folks out there like, “Martellus Bennett or Kyle Rudolph? #FFhelp,” and they’d be getting responses from people whose hobby is doling out fantasy football advice on Twitter. Imagine explaining that to, say, a 90-year old who has no clue what fantasy football is.
“What do I do for fun these days, gramps..?? Uh, well, I use this thing called Twitter to help random men and women decide what NFL players to start for, uh, teams that they, uh, pretend they own…”
And that doesn’t even get into guys like Matthew Berry, who’ve remarkably tricked sports media and the general sports-viewing public into accepting “fantasy analyst” as a legitimate job title. Nor does it touch on the countless TV shows, podcasts, and “journalism” devoted to analyzing fantasy football – again, I remind you, a fake sport that I’m convinced has less to do with skill than slot machines.
Anyway, I finished with a 10-3 regular season record. I made zero trades and still don’t fully understand how waivers work. But I marched into the playoffs as the 1-seed, rode Zeke Elliott and Drew Brees’ ability to score garbage-time TDs better than anyone in NFL history, and clinched the title with two of my players still to play this past Sunday.
I promise this hasn’t been one big humblebrag, though. If you’re still not convinced that fantasy football is a sham, I offer you one final example:
A critical player for my team in the championship was Tampa’s Jacquizz Rodgers, who I slotted in for Zeke after learning (via the ESPN point projections, of course) that Zeke would see minimal action in Week 17. I picked up Rodgers as a bench RB mid-season after an injury to another one of my backs.
Eight weeks ago, I thought Jacquizz Rodgers was the name in a Key & Peele skit.