One of my Christmas presents from my mother-in-law was Committed: Confessions of a Fantasy Football Junkie by Mark St. Amant. The book is a funny and engaging read about the author's own quest to win his league's title. Predictably, the book has also inspired introspection of my own fantasy sports obsession and my place within the hobby.
I am pleased to say that in reading St. Amant's book, I have been assured that there is no shortage of people who take fantasy football a lot more seriously than I do. Furthermore, the two leagues of which I proudly call myself a member are pretty low-key despite occasional bravado. St. Amant writes of how fantasy football has brought more fans to the NFL itself and I can certainly say that is the case for me. As I wrote last year, I gradually lost interest in professional football after the first Joe Gibbs Era in Washington. The fantasy game brought me back last year and I'm quite confident that I've watched more football in the past two years than I had in the previous ten. My Wife isn't too happy about that but she is, in fact, the one who encouraged me to try it. More on that later.
In one sense, I can't help feeling St. Amant's disapproval in that I am definitely MORE a fan of the fantasy game than I am of real football. As I have written, I have discovered this season that I care more about my fantasy team winning than I do about the Redskins winning. I feel differently about baseball. I can watch an Orioles game and completely forget about all fantasy implications. That said, 25+ years from now, will I remember my fantasy baseball title this year with the same fondness as I have for the Skins first Super Bowl win? Not a chance. It's been a long time since my NFL team was any good. I might feel differently if they were. Then again, the Orioles have been bad for longer and that doesn't seem to be an issue. Hmm...
While I feel that in general, I am less obsessed with fantasy sports than St. Amant or others whom he describes in his book, I must confess to an anxiety dream that I had the other night. I was trying to draft a baseball team and could not for the life of me bring up my lists of middle infielders - very frustrating!
I do disagree with St. Amant on two points. He is not a fan of over-emphasis on defense in fantasy football whereas I feel that the inclusion of IDPs in the college league this year has only enhanced my enjoyment of both the fantasy game and the NFL. He also is very dismissive of Yahoo! leagues. While I'll admit that I have no basis for comparison, they've certainly worked for me. As I've written before, I don't think the hobby would have been nearly as much fun for me before it became primarily web-based.
Committed is at its best when St. Amant writes about fantasy football widows and his own long-suffering wife Celia in particular. My Wife hates football with an intense passion and, out of consideration for her, I do make an effort to limit my own game-watching. The fact that she tends to go to bed early makes for a nice compromise. There are plenty of night games in the NFL and more often than not, the fantasy results for the week come down to what happens on Sunday and Monday nights. So, I manage to get my fix without annoying her too much. Worse for her than the games, though, is the pregame shows, which I need to watch all too frequently for game-time injury reports. Perhaps I should sort out a better system for that next year.