My relationship with football is a sordid one at best. In middle school, I tried out for the football team. This was not your ordinary California everyone’s-a-winner football team — most notably because it was in West Texas, where football comes second only to the Lord Jesus Christ.
At 5 feet 2 inches and 120 pounds wet, I wanted to be the star of the Midland Lee Rebels (as in General Lee, as in our mascot was a giant plush General Robert E. Lee — we won’t be getting into that). As hard as it is to believe, I wasn’t a very good player, and surely not good enough to join the ranks of our star-studded team. (Several players would go on to be drafted into the NFL.) I settled for a lineman position on the backup’s backup team and my career ended when I graduated to high school, where I took up golf.
My love for the sport would never wane, however, and so it was that I stumbled across a hobby that my wife would later describe as something she wishes I had found after she was dead. Fantasy football: role playing for jocks.
In fantasy football, you and your friends (or strangers on the Internet) join into leagues of, typically, eight to 12 managers. A draft is held before the actual NFL season begins, and you pick and choose your roster. The result is, with any luck, a team of tried and true football warriors who will win out, at least for you. You see, in fantasy football, it is said that a score is a score. How it’s made is irrelevant.
This is where fans of football and fans of fantasy football butt heads.
For a fan of the sport like myself — who has a masochistic ability to watch the Dallas Cowboys every Sunday regardless of their chances — I can pledge my loyalty to the team. For the manager of a fantasy football team who cares more about its point total, the idea of a “team” is irrelevant.
It works like this: Let’s say we have my boy Tony Romo as my fantasy quarterback. He is also the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys (most of the time). On the field, down by 30 in the fourth quarter, his two touchdown passes wouldn’t matter much. But in fantasy, those two touchdowns, thrown during what is referred to in the NFL as “garbage time,” would amount to a dozen points for my fantasy team.
Each yard a running back picks up on the field translates to a fraction of a point; each catch a receiver makes is half a point; each field goal a kicker makes, depending on how far he kicks it, is several points. You get the gist. By the end of the three-day football weekend (Thursday, Sunday and Monday), the points are totaled and the team with the highest score wins.
You can see how this would make watching the NFL a difficult task. Some fantasy players pledge no allegiance to a team, choosing rather to select individual players to do well. This has caused a rift — and as fantasy football grows in popularity (you’ve no doubt seen the many, many advertisements for daily fantasy leagues), the rift becomes wider.
But for a person like myself, who once had aspirations of becoming the next Cole Beasley, I enjoy the best of both worlds. I get to watch my team and every other team give it the ol’ college try once a week, while I accrue points from coast to coast.
The winner of my fantasy league, Over 9000, receives a trophy with Dragonball Z’s Vegeta atop. For us Monday-morning quarterbacks, it’s as close as we’ll ever get to the Lombardi.
Chris O’Neal is currently batting .500 across two leagues. Follow him on Instagram @atchrisoneal.