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Fantasy football – what is the point?!

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I’ve noted with a wry grin the last couple of weeks that the AFL pre-season has officially kicked in. Though from what I hear, Carlton missed the memo. Same for my Bombers, actually…

Although I try to avoid the newspapers, the saturation advertising means that you can’t help but see the ads for the fantasy football competitions that are set to kick in with the first bounce in Round 1.

For those not in the know, Fantasy Football is known as either Super Coach or Dream Team in Australia. It’s an online competition where you can compete against your friends or complete strangers by selecting a team of players from whichever team you like, with each one having a monetary value.

You’re limited by an overall salary cap, so you just can’t pick a team of stars. Your team collects points for your overall team by the amount of kicks, marks, goals etc that they accumulate each week.

Still with me?!

A mate just informed me that there were 317,651 people who attended the AFL in Round 1, 2011. Fantasy footy is not just a new fad with only a couple of hundred blokes playing. There are over 400,000 players in Australia. So, there’s more people playing fantasy footy than there are people attending the actual games!

Distractions

There are a myriad of distractions in the world around us, shifting our focus away from what is important, from family, the environment, global poverty, faith, the broken global economic model, to that neighbour down the road who lives alone and has no family or friends. Sit down over a coffee or a beer with a friend and actually see how they are doing – how you can support them, care for them, show them love… Open your ears and be present for one moment and you’ll be amazed at what is lying below the surface of, ‘Good thanks. How are you?’

Now our focus shifts to where we live, what we wear, the size of our TV and our bank accounts, how many twitter followers we have or readers of our blog (hehe), where the last trip was and where the next one is to. We could go on. And on and on. It’s all about us. The individual.

And now add that list these types of meaningless competitions that can take a considerable amount of your time and involve no skill whatsoever.

By the way, it’s not just Australians who have cottoned onto fantasy sports. It has been amazingly popular in the US for some time in both the NFL football, as well as NBA basketball.

More than 23 million people play fantasy football in the US … more than there are human beings in Australia!

The English have it for their Premier League, there’s baseball, the cricket, ice hockey, the Super Cars has it as well. Basically, if you watch it, you can fantasise…!

And it’s all pointless.

What is the point?!

Seriously, what good can come of this much time being spent analysing and calculating useless statistical information?

How proud should we be that we can think of nothing else better to do other than follow a group of sporting individuals who in private, and recently in public forums, belittle those who follow their goals, three-pointers or touchdowns with a fervour beyond obsession.

Guilty

I tell you, I’ve been there before, having played a season of Fantasy Football as well as the NBA version, with two teams. I gotta tell you, it’s compelling!

My NBA teams in particular did very well and the amount of time I spent poring over box scores – not hours each day, but enough to ensure that my head wasn’t immersed enough in the more transcendent areas mentioned earlier. I mean, why would I? I had players to analyse, teams to trade with, drafts to consider.

A change

It’s also changing the way people are watching the game.

The lens through which we watch AFL games has shifted significantly. No longer are we simply enjoying the game, but outwardly hoping for the players on our fantasy team to collect a swag of possessions.

I distinctly remember one blowout win for St Kilda, when 3 players late in the game were playing kick to kick, simply killing time in a mundane finish. Meanwhile, I was cheering them on from home, as 2 out of the 3 were on my list!

It’s like when a group of guys get together and, bored, end up punting on the game in order to make the night interesting. Um, fellas, when you’ve reached this stage, it’s time to find something else to do with your night.

It’s been suggested that there may come a time when people are more into their fantasy team than the team they barrack for. I know of people who are already there. Of course fantasy football is not a real threat to the diehard fans who love their team, but when there’s something in it for the individual, who can predict the future…

AFL Dream Team lineups ... it's simple, really

Taking it a step further

And don’t worry, there are competitions where there are monetary buy-ins, significant ones, too. Think, $1,000+… For a country that spends more on sports gambling per capita than any other country in the world, you think that’s not a concern?

There are great friends of mine – avid fantasy football players – who have supported this journey, and this blog, who will read this piece. To an end, fantasy footy can bring enjoyment and camaraderie, but it’s severely limited compared to what awaits should we shut down our iPad and take a good look at the world around us.

We’ve latched onto another crutch to busy up our lives and immerse ourselves in the abyss of distraction, from which there is no end.

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About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

6 responses »

  1. This is a courageous post Evans, and I love it.

    Reply
  2. Dreamteam is brilliant. Love it. Watching Matt Suckling chip the ball around against the Western Bulldogs last year made my weekend (Essendon had the bye). I have serious concerns for the team posted above in that pic. Ben McEvoy and Jonathan Giles is a risjy ruck strategy. Michael Barlow is having pain in his leg. Avoid until he strings games together.

    The fact that we’re even talking about three players from clubs we don’t support is one reason fantasy footy is good. It makes every team interesting. It brings enjoyment. And the day I woke up after round 4 2007 to see that I was actually winning the entire Dreamteam competition brought unbridled joy. Then my team fell apart. But I’ll never win anything decent on the sporting field. Fantasy footy allows hundreds of thousands of people to chase a flag.

    You’d better pick a team Evans. It’s not sport…it’s fantasy. You can control avoiding sport. You can’t avoid your fantasies…hang on, now this just sounds weird.

    Now, I have to go and find a way to improve my backline. Having Swan and Ablett in the one midfield is making it hard to find that extra premium in defence.

    Reply
  3. Now I want you to read this pretending it’s someone you don’t know.
    I’m not agitated, not upset, and not angry.

    Just trying to get a point across for balance sake.

    I have no interest in Dream Team or Supercoach at all, just don’t have the time or inclination to do it effectively. So I am just as confused as you as to the huge focus on it.

    But for some it’s a hobby / interest to help relieve the tension or difficulties they have in their day to day lives. What’s often been forgotten in large part with this blog is that sport and other hobbies are a means to which people can forget the grind of their working lives, or horrendously difficult family situations to just have some fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

    You sounded a little like the Fun Police in this blog Evans, and it doesen’t become you 🙂

    Also, and you knew I would say this, blokes having a punt on a meaningless Friday night game, and riding your mate’s punt home or watching him do his $ on the last goal of the night is entertaining, nothing more, nothing less. To be critical of that and say they need to do something else with their night doesen’t comes across well at all.

    A lot of people deal with serious stress and pressure in their day to day lives, and if they use their Friday nights to kick back, have some beers, put a couple of punts on with their mates, and watch the footy then so be it, no one should cast judgement over that. The equivalent for the ladies would be to leavew the kids at home with the Mr. and then go shopping with a girlfriend, buy something she doesen’t really need and come home. Can’t fault that either, we can’t be intense and serious all of the time. Others may go to the pub, have a drink and a dance every Friday night to blow off some steam. Just because people have hobbies / interests that they use as stress relievers doesen’t mean they are not good fathers or wives, or brothers or sisters, or don’t care about the environment etc. etc..

    You’ve often talked abot balance in this blog, and with that being the goal, everything can fiund it rightful place and time.

    Btw Craig, I would have thought the Ablett Swan combo would be taking up about 20% of your cap ! 🙂

    Reply
    • Buddy I think you are entirely missing the point here.

      Fantasy sports were born in the US and they are wildly popular. Family breakdown here is wildly popular. Is that the fault of Fantasy Sports? No. Most of us like to blame Bush Jr but the fact is, he was just another piece of a very large puzzle. What is true os that us Americans, myself included, got distracted. Whatever youve got, we’ve probably got more of them, bigger shinier and with more lights. I’m assuming you are in Aus as you refer to the Aus game and no one over here understands it enough to talk about and not wind up looking stupid. Fantasy sports was just another one of these bright lights we’ve spent waaaayyyyy too much time staring into. Now that we’ve got no economy we’re all switching off the gadgets and turning to others to ask what happened. Only thing is, in many cases there is no one there to ask, we ignored each other and we’ve all run off with our neighbours. Only now do we realise that out country has been screwing the rest of the world, our govts’ been screwing us and the banks have been screwing both us and the govt. We’re a democratic country dammit and we let this happen while we all sat on our arses drinking beer and watching sport.

      Americans are that stupid, we just had too much shiny distractions. Like a kid in a sweets shop we were so distracted by all the fancy candy we didn’t realise that Mom had left a quarter of an hour ago.

      Fantasy football is just one of these sweets, and good lord its tasty, but if your country eats too many of them you’ll be left with a bitter taste in your mouth and a serious belly ache.

      Reply
      • Hey Ricky, thanks for your 2 cents worth. I loved your take on this.

        Yep, I’m based out of Aus, though there’s a fair chunk of readers who come from your great US of A.

        You touched on ‘distractions’ and it’s been a big theme of my thoughts here over the last couple of months. There will be a post in our few weeks on that very topic – a replica of a magazine piece that I was asked to write. Is fantasy football responsible for the breakdown of the family unit? Hell no. Australian Rules, NBA, NFL, WWE?! No, they’re not.

        But we’re not taking them in moderation. I love your analogy that we’ve had too many sweets and that we’ve got a serious belly ache. I would further it in saying that yes, we’ve had too many sweets, but in Aus we are yet to wake up with that horrible, ‘Oh no, I’m going to be sick’ moment that we’ve all had along the ways. We’ve simply gone to bed after yet another big night, pleased and proud of ourselves, unawares of what awaits when reality hits.

        Thanks for reading and feel free to pipe up whenever something’s on your mind…

        Bless ya,
        Pete

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