A Football Fantasy

Growing up, I considered myself a regular tomboy. Looking back, I suppose this was mostly attributable to the one miserable afternoon I spent watching NASCAR with my dad and the plethora of worn jerseys passed down from my cousin.

With this warped self-image came a lot of false confidence in areas that I cannot claim to have any real knowledge. My afternoon of NASCAR-watching made me feel like an expert on the sport, though in reality all I know is that they drive in circles. Or are they ovals?

I thought of myself as a fishing master, though I could never get over my squeamishness enough to bait the hook. After a few times of crying about hurting worms and fish alike, I gave up on the activity entirely.

But there was one athletic endeavor that, until recently, I felt I actually had some claim to: football.

It was a tradition for my father to drag my brother and me, wailing and protesting, into the living room to sit in dejected lumps as he shouted at the television. This was repeated throughout my childhood until Stockholm syndrome kicked in and I willingly planted myself on the couch each Sunday. It wasn’t long until I was shouting along with my father, getting riled up about plays I didn’t understand and bemoaning indistinguishable calls.

There should have been some incident sooner on in my life that would have made me realize I wasn’t really the expert that I thought I was. An ideal way to experience this revelation would have included a beneficent angel kindly informing me that I was making myself look like a fool with my ignorance of the sport.

Alas, no such angel came to visit, and I was left to confront my foolishness face-to-face this year, when my current friend group initiated me into a new aspect of the sport. You see, everyone around me is interested in an online battle that seems to override all other aspects of life. They call it “Fantasy Football.”

Until now, Fantasy Football was something that I had heard of in passing, but never really understood. It was an urban legend, something highly suspect in authenticity, like the Easter Bunny or making it to class at 9 a.m. on Fridays.

When I heard that “everyone was doing it,” I blithely assumed it was something that would be a side note, a brief hobby that wouldn’t really impact day-to-day functioning. I was so wrong.

The days leading up to crafting each person’s team was a time wrought with tension, incessant googling of statistics and non-stop blathering about numbers. The draft itself was a terrifying thing with a parade of yelling, pouting and celebratory dancing.

Now, observing these friends while they watch football games shows me how little I truly understand the sport. They approach games with more planning than the mission to Mars. Laptops open to a bazillion different webpages, streaming statistics and play-by-play accounts; televisions switch constantly between channels to keep tabs on players’ performances; online calculators are launched to calculate and re-calculate scores of their teams and their opponents. Just like the sport itself, these Fantasy competitions are completely out of my league.

Though I tried to follow along for the first couple days of Fantasy activity, before long, my ignorance became glaringly apparent. My boyfriend took pity on me and tried to explain, but what started as a simple explanation soon spiraled into the territory of the unknowable, leaving me disoriented. My blank looks told him all that he needed to know, so he pityingly patted me on the head and deemed me a lost cause.

In the end I have to accept it: I am not a football buff. I will never completely figure out this game or its Fantasy counterpart. In this way at least, I can conform to one U.Va. norm: that of a girl in pearls in the stands on Saturday afternoons, a role I truly enjoy — and also the closest I will ever come to fitting in, where football is concerned.

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