Fantasy football isn’t just numbers and nonsense

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?

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12 thoughts on “Fantasy football isn’t just numbers and nonsense

  1. Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken Jr., Ryne Sandberg, Don Mattingly, Gary Carter, Tony Gwynn, Darryl Strawberry, and my fav Tim Raines. Add a lil Fernando Valenzuela on the mound and Lance Parrish, Dave Winfield, Dave Parker, and Pedro Geurrero ready to pinch hit when needed. Always liked to draft Paul Molitor too, could play everywhere. Those were the days…..

  2. There’s no debating most of that lineup, Chris. I’d put Ozzie Smith at shortstop over Ripken, but I mainly wanted to see him do backflips when he took his position. I’ll put Doc Gooden and Clemens on the mound, although you might reach for Bret Saberhagen or John Tudor depending on the year.

    • Kyle, I’m sure if you had any gray hair, you would carefully and meticulously spend 15 minutes each day putting the proper coloring on each one and getting it in just the right place …

  3. The Drake asked me to post this comment on his behalf. I e-mailed him the text of the blog since he can’t access the site, and he e-mailed this back to be placed on here. So, from The Drake:

    You never fail to disappoint Mr. Hall. Most every great memory of home that I have, you have managed to put magnificently into word. The Bruce trip, which is the greatest trip of my life next to my honeymoon, my
    Navy experience, and fantasy football. Fantasy football is seriously on this list for the reason that it encompasses everything about my friends that I love and hold dear. It symbolizes the Graham estate in all its glorious through the years and different locales. It symbolizes all of my dear friends minus chad; you, Cory, Ryan, John. Football, enough said. The sunny and chilly fall days where it’s 2:00 pm on a Sunday and you know that you have nothing but football and great company for the rest of the day. Those are the things that I hold dear and always remember, and those are most certainly the things that I look forward to experiencing again.

    You will celebrate and enjoy the events without me, but I can assure you that I know well the feelings that you all will have on the day; the jokes that will be made, and hell even the horrible draft mistakes that will be made. Yes, namely Carson Palmer as a first round keeper. My point is that I know all too well those feelings, and just because I’m away, I’ll be visualizing it in my mind, damning myself for not being there, but being glad that you all are. So enjoy the times and never fear, I’ll be there in spirit, and you all will be here in spirit with me as well.

    You guys are my brothers and I would stand by you through it all until
    the end; and at the end of the day, the end of the season, when the final skullie is handed out, that’s really all it was ever about.

  4. Can’t The Drake play with you, since it’s fantasy and we have this nifty little invention called the interwebs? never having played FF myself, I would imagine you take turns picking players so that, say, you and Cory don’t both have the same dudes on your separate teams. If I’m right (which I doubt I am) couldn’t The Drake email you a list of his preferred players (adding more than he needed). Don’t read it, just print it out and take it with you to the draft. Place the print-out in rotation and when it’s his turn, someone reads his first choice. if that player has been picked already, go to his second. when his turn comes around, do it again.

    but I’m just a girl with a vagina so all this sports stuff goes right over my sweet little head.

    • The Drake DOES play with us, but because he’s stationed on a boat somewhere in parts (and ports) unknown, he has spotty Internet connections. I honestly have better connection through my phone than he does. As a result, he has a co-manger, which this year is Ryan. They’ll coordinate their draft plans as they can. So, The Drake is playing. He just won’t be there with us. You gotta love The Drake.

  5. You’ve really hit the nail on the head. The whole process is bigger than just a silly game with made up teams. It’s spending weeks debating how valuable someone may be with your friends, haggling over trades and generally getting closer to people. It’s kind-hearted trash talking and shouting “Who the hell is that!?” when Shane drafts Phil Dawson.

    I have at LEAST one quality memory associated with each fantasy draft, and I’ll have new ones on Sunday morning. Someone will draft a defense way too early, someone will take a kicker before the last round, someone will steal a player I covet and incur my wrath (and vice versa), and when the day ends we’ll all argue over who has the upper hand this year.

    Since this league started, players have retired (and un-retired), lost their luster and changed teams more times than we could name. We’ve lost members, gained members, witnessed a couple of weddings (and a fantasy-related near divorce), and spent days, if not weeks, talking to each other about a silly little game. As I said to you the other day, “I just don’t know how I lived without having this to look forward to each year.”

  6. I enjoyed reading this, Kevin. He has great friends. We will have him with us in spirit tonight too because we are getting together for Jackie’s birthday at mom’s (she is home for a few days). As much as we all have him around “in spirit”, it’s a wonder no one has made a life size cardboard cut out of him! haha
    I was just thinking today about how we would fight sometimes and sometimes just get tired of being together so much and now, what I would give to see him. I guess since the vacation in San Diego was a bust, it will be Christmas, I HOPE that I get to see him then! That will mean that it will be almost a year without seeing him….it is so hard! So, yes, any stories like that you can share…it really does help.

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