“Oh, you’re one of those guys.” “So it’s like fake football?” “No thanks, Kaleb. I’m not attracted to your looks or your personality.”
These are the types of things you might hear on a first date if you talk about your fantasy football team. To the uninitiated, fantasy football seems like a game that was invented for people that can’t play real football and have lots of time to kill. The uninitiated aren’t completely wrong. But, as with anything, if you search hard enough, there are some real life lessons you can learn:
1. Don’t Compromise Your Values
My favorite team is the Tennessee Titans. Feel free to laugh. Are you done? Great. They were on TV in my area for the first time this season last week. They played a Monday Night Football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are a much better team overall and I “own” two of their players on my fantasy team. So, without even a second thought, I played those two players against my favorite team and I sat down in my Titans jersey to watch the game. What a mistake that was. For the next two and a half hours or so, I sat on the couch, glued to the television, feeling conflicted. Instead of being able to freely root for the Titans, I found myself rooting for the other team’s players and then subsequently feeling guilty about rooting against my favorite team. It was a miserable, confusing cycle. Ironically, both the Titans and my fantasy team lost that night. I’m not saying my moral compromise was the reason for the Titans’ fourth-quarter collapse that night, but it sure didn’t help.
2. Don’t Tinker
Humans differ from animals in several key ways. One of those ways is the human’s ability to sit and ponder an easy decision for hours, letting it slowly morph in their minds, until they make the worst possible decision. Hey, I’ve been there. Sometimes you talk yourself into starting Bishop Sankey over Frank Gore. It happens. In fantasy football, you do your research, you set your lineup, then you take a step back. Only bad things happen to those who tinker.
3. Sometimes, You Lose
I’m in two leagues this season. In one league, I have three wins and eight losses. In the other, I have ten wins and one loss. It’s silly and overly simplistic to put your life into such terms, but if you forced me, I would probably say my current life record is somewhere in between those two. In fantasy, you can do hours of research until you feel great about your team. Then, Sunday morning comes around. Knowshon Moreno gets hurt on the first play, AJ Green has an off day, and Matt Forte fumbles. A few more unlucky bounces and your once sure victory has suddenly turned into a blowout defeat. Sometimes, in life, we suffer blowout defeats. But instead of burying our head in the sand and acting like nothing ever happened, we pick ourselves back up, do our research, and set our lineups for next Sunday. Even if it just feels like you’re going through the motions, giving yourself the best chance to win next week could make the difference between making the playoffs and being the laughingstock of the league.
4. Nobody Really Knows Anything
There’s a famous fantasy football guru named Matthew Berry. Matthew Berry, by all accounts, is an intelligent, likable guy who gets paid quite a bit of money to write articles where he makes fantasy football predictions. Rookie fantasy football players tend to follow his predictions to the letter until they, at some point, realize that he is often wrong. There’s plenty of real life Matthew Berrys, too: intelligent, likable people with plenty of ideas about what you should do. But in life, as in fantasy football, you just never know. All the intelligence and logic and research in all the world can’t see a single second into the future. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to your own personal Matthew Berrys, only that you should listen to yourself first. If you feel passionately about taking that unmarketable major or switching to that lower paying job or dating that girl that your friends don’t really care for, that’s what you should do. And you know what? Sometimes, you’ll be wrong too. But at least you’ll always know that you went for something you really cared about. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to start Cordarrelle Patterson instead of Jordy Nelson. I just have a feeling.