My fantasy football team is composed of 16 players from 11 different NFL teams. I’m off to a 7-1 start, but unfortunately, I am also obsessed.
A few telltale signs of the problem: I find myself watching games that have no relevance and are completely boring. But I find that I must track the performance of my players. I’ve followed far too many Browns, Lions and Panthers games. Last week, I watched Jacksonville against Houston — on ESPN Gamecast.
About a month ago, I celebrated when Kurt Warner chose to run out of bounds rather than throw the ball away at the end of a Monday Night Football game between St. Louis and Tampa Bay. Sure, Tampa Bay had already sealed the 26-14 victory; Warner threw four interceptions and no touchdown passes. But his rush attempt earned me .25 points instead of a mere .15 for a pass attempt. And that one-tenth of a point was my margin of victory that week.
I frequently find myself staring at my computer screen and watching up-to-the-second stat updates. Each week, I vow to cut back, but it is addictive. Last week, I was asked to join a fantasy basketball league, but I had to say no to that one. Enough is enough.
In any case, concern for fantasy numbers changes the way you watch a game. Even as you cheer for one team, you can’t help but focus on specific players. For example, Ike Hilliard scored a touchdown for my beloved New York Giants last week, and I was happy. But I couldn’t help feeling disappointed that Amani Toomer, who is on my fantasy team, did not score instead. Naturally, this shift in focus becomes even more pronounced when I watch a game where neither team interests me.
The worst thing I could do is root against the Giants in favor of my fantasy team. What if I end up rooting for the Giants to give up a score to one of my fantasy players? I’m not talking about a game-deciding situation here, but there is just something wrong about that. I haven’t quite stooped to that level — at least, not yet.
That said, there are certainly some great things about fantasy football. I’ve always been a big Giants fan, but I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated too many of the other players in the league. Fantasy football makes me more aware of each team’s roster and gives me an idea of how well players perform. For example, I would probably know that Kansas City Chiefs’ running back Priest Holmes, the star of my fantasy team with 15 touchdowns, is having a tremendous season. But would I be truly aware of the remarkable year of New Orleans Saints’ running back Deuce McAllister? How about the fact that the Cleveland Browns’ fourth-string receiver, Andre Davis, has as many touchdowns as any receiver in the NFL, except for Terrell Owens? I certainly wouldn’t have come up with that one.
The Giants’ season is going down the tubes. They can’t muster any offense, and both Keith Hamilton and Hilliard are out with injuries. It doesn’t look good. Of course, I’ll still watch every game and pull for them, but the season could be a wash.
If so, I’m going to need something to fall back on. As a sports fan, what else is there? I’m not a big hockey fan, and that leaves the Knicks, who may be the worst team in the NBA. I’m really not looking forward to an awful season and the inevitable Latrell Sprewell saga.
Maybe fantasy football is just what I need to keep an active interest in sports — at least until college basketball season starts.