Coming to terms with my unhealthy football addiction
Hi, my name is Sean, and I have an addiction.
No, it’s not to alcohol or drugs, but I find it to still be compulsive and generally unhealthy. What’s that? You guessed video games and impulse shopping? I admittedly indulge those vices more often than I should, but those are probably topics more appropriate for the Life section.
I’m speaking, of course, about my obsessive playing of fantasy football.
I’m hardly alone in this pursuit. Tens of millions of people play through ESPN, Yahoo, CBS Sports, NFL.com and other sites. A 2012 study even estimated that in the course of a 15-week fantasy season, the total cost in lost productivity was upward of $6 billion.
And that was just the damage done by fantasy football players in the working world. Think of the countless hours of “studying” that college students actually spend refreshing ESPN to see whether Ray Rice scored enough fantasy points for them to eke out victories.
When, you ask, did I discover the depths of my addiction? This summer, on a family beach vacation, I found myself struggling to get to sleep at night, so I needed something to do to kill some time before finally hitting the hay. I started doing online live mock drafts, practicing against the denizens of the Internet in order to prepare for leagues with my friends both in Charlottesville and at home.
And that was only the beginning. By the time I returned to New Orleans, I had joined four public leagues on ESPN.
Four. No, that is not a typo.
Four separate times in five days, I drafted an actual team to compete in an actual league against complete and total strangers whom I will never meet in person. Worse, as my Facebook friends can attest, I got genuinely excited about my teams in two of the leagues, taking to social media mid-draft to crow about how well I was drafting.
By the time I actually had my draft with my high school friends, I think I had done 25 or 30 mock drafts. It more or less took over my life. I found myself thinking about how many times Lions receivers were brought down inside the five-yard line last season, and what that meant not only for Calvin Johnson, Ryan Broyles and Reggie Bush, but for Matthew Stafford as well. Or pondering whether Stevan Ridley and Steven Jackson are high-end “RB2s” or low-end “RB1s”. Or whether to pull the trigger on Jimmy Graham early or wait until later to snag a Kyle Rudolph.
I think you get the idea.
I have sampled from the entire buffet table of fantasy football possibilities, trying every conceivable strategy – loading up on running backs, grabbing a top quarterback early, saving QB until the end in order to stockpile theoretical trade bait – in every variety of league possible: eight-team, 10-team, 12-team, point-per-reception and individual defensive player. I even used to play in a league with three friends from first year where each team started 25 different players.
Just like when I pick March Madness brackets, every year, I reach a point in the process where I flip over the proverbial chessboard and resolve to never play again. I tell myself it’s too time-consuming, that it’s insane to get invested in it, that I would be doing myself a favor by quitting. And yet, every year, I find myself making colorful spreadsheets and planning for another round of drafts.
If I don’t get a handle on this problem soon, I’m going to turn into one of the characters from FX’s hit show “The League” – 35 years old and allowing fantasy football to take precedence over my job and my personal relationships.
So this is it. I’m officially calling my own fantasy football intervention. I want to kick the habit. I want to stop worrying about whether Texans running back Arian Foster is a top-five pick, whether Roddy White or Julio Jones is the top Falcons receiver or whom Peyton Manning is going to throw to in Denver.
I’m deleting my spreadsheets, putting down my computer and trying to enjoy life instead. Maybe I’ll read a book or two. Maybe I’ll sit outside and enjoy the Charlottesville weather. Who knows? The possibilities are endless. All I know is I’m excited for a life free from fantasy football.
After this one last season, of course. What did you expect? I’m addicted.