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!
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.
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.
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…
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.