If you don’t want to read about football, stop now.
If you don’t want to read about fantasy football, stop now.
But if you want to read about brotherhood, then brutha, by all means, continue.
This Saturday, the 2010 version of The Skullz Fantasy Football League begins with our annual draft held, as usual, at the Cory S. Graham Sports Complex/Clay City Music Hall. There will be Mama Crowe’s pizza. There will be chicken wings. There will be trash talk and girl talk, groans over missed opportunities in the draft and laughter over poor picks.
Some people, all of whom happen to be women, have recently made fun of us for taking a Saturday afternoon and evening (and quite likely night) taking part in a game that involves the word “fantasy.” They don’t understand why grown men would draft real players for a fake team in a made-up league.
Well, beyond the fact it gives us an excuse to eat, drink and be merry (the Great Trifecta of Being a Man, when you get right down to it), it provides a chance to talk football (always a great thing) and show off our vast knowledge of football (an even better thing).
But there’s more to it, too. Never underestimate the importance of two things in adult men: the chance to pretend to be an athlete and the chance to feel like a kid again. With fantasy football, we get a chance to “control” players we’ll never get to meet, never get to play with, never get to do anything with other than watch them play on TV. Most guys grow up involved in some sort of athletics, and as our group plants itself fully in our 30s, this is basically as close to professional athletics as we’ll ever get. For a boy who grew up fantasizing about hitting game-winning homeruns or nailing last-second three-pointers, this is a way to hold on to those dreams, distant though they may be.
Every day, we get further and further from our youth. New aches appear, new gray hair pops up, life goes on. Fantasy football, though, gives us a chance, for a few weeks out of the year at least, to go back to those days, to hop in our figurative DeLoreans and be 10 years old on the elementary school playground.
When my friends and I were young, we loved to “pick teams.” We would choose a sport, usually baseball, and pick our favorite players at each position. Two or three people would take part, and we’d have a draft, and at the end of the day, we would look at our rosters and discuss who had the better lineup. It never once occurred to us to add up existing statistics to see which team might be superior, but cut us a tiny bit of slack: we were 10. We hadn’t quite mastered any sort of mathematics, let alone statistical equations.
Now, we get a chance to pick teams, this time with numbers to back up our prowess. Playground arguments over the better lineups are no longer necessary; we have ESPN.com to tally the totals for us. Our childhood game has followed us to adulthood and has now been validated. We’re adults wanting to be kids who wanted to be adults.
Through all of this, there’s one other part that holds the fantasy football allure together, at least for The Skullz. Two days out of the year (the draft and our end-of-the-year awards banquet, The Skulliez — 2007 and 2008) we get a chance, as Cory Graham put it, to spend time with 8-10 of our favorite people. It’s one of the few times Aaron, Brinton, Cory, John, Kyle, Ryan, Shane and I can get in one room and visit just among ourselves. For those few hours, we let all serious business fall by the wayside. Football, fantasy or not, becomes the only serious business of the day.
And when one of our league members, our friend The Drake, spends all of his days in perhaps the most serious of businesses, well, it’s good to just be relaxed for a bit. The Drake is off overseas, serving in the Navy, doing the things for us that you always hear about other people doing. He hasn’t been home since late December/early January, and his friends and family miss him, and he misses us.
Saturday, no matter where he’s stationed, no matter where his boat is, The Drake will be in Clay City, sitting in that room with us, laughing, joking and picking his teams. Granted, it will only be with us in spirit, but hey, Obi Wan Kenobi talked to Luke Skywalker all the time in spirit, and that worked out pretty well for the Rebel Alliance.
So, you ask us, “Why do you play fantasy football?” I guess my only answer is, well, why wouldn’t we?