Fantasy Football: “Time-Suck” to Avoid #2 (or, Cam Newton shouldn’t be ruining your life)

Time Suck– (n) Something that’s engrossing and addictive, but that keeps you from doing things that are actually important, like earning a living, or eating meals, or caring for your children. (from UrbanDictionary.com)

Don’t let this take over your weekend!

Perhaps the greatest challenge we all face in being both a good provider an a present father is that there never seems to be enough time in a day.  Our jobs and careers demand our time; our kids need a lot of us, too.  It is really hard to find the time.

It is also hard to find the energy necessary to be a great dad.  Stress, time demands, etc all seem to rob us of energy, and prevent us from being relaxed and present.

To help us recharge and to get us into the better mental (and physical) states necessary to be a great provider and father, we need some time for our own activities.  Time with friends, physical activities, reading, music, what have you.  In the classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey referred to this as “sharpening the saw”- making sure we take enough breaks to recharge, so we don’t burn out and lose effectiveness in our roles over time.  We dedicated dads need reminders to do this, because while we focus on taking care of others first, we also have to spend some time taking care of ourselves.

Ideally, the best “me time” activities maximize our fun, relaxation and recharging, while minimizing the amount of time taken away from the rest of our lives.

Last time, I discussed golf (and got some brushback for it).  This week, Fantasy Football is on my hit list of “Time Sucks to Avoid”.

First off, let me come clean, despite my tortured life as a Jets fan, I really like football- the regular kind and fantasy.  In FF, you get to play out a fantasy of being a sports team GM, it makes watching football games not involving your favorite team more interesting, and you usually play against friends (and therefore FF has high beer-fire potential) for bragging rights or cash (depending on how degenerate a gambler you are, this is a good or bad thing).  For me, I always played only one free or very low-stakes league, and only with friends.However, the addictive nature of FF gives it a very specific kind of enjoyment.  Game day induces a lot of stress, losing causes misery, and winning doesn’t really cause happiness as much as it provides a temporary reprieve from misery.  In fact, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, who did more to popularize FF than almost anyone recently wrote:

I’m tired of fantasy football making me feel bad about myself. It’s like being in a relationship with someone who’s always mean to you. I can’t even remember the last time fantasy football and I were happy…. I really need to dump fantasy football. I don’t like the way you make me feel about myself, fantasy football. You’re mean to me.”

A typical FF season for a serious player goes like this:

Off-Season Draft Preparation

Serious FF players start preparing at least two months before the season.  They buy 3-4 publications, subscribe to a few FF websites, and pore over every offensive skill-position player in the NFL. Of course, fewer than 120 players actually get drafted in a typical league, but serious FF players obsessively study well over 300 during draft prep. (The sad trith is, these players typically do no better than someone who does just a few hours of research)

Draft Day

If you are in a fun FF league with local friends, the draft turns into a pizza-and-beer party with a draft at the beginning.  This has great beer fire potential and is a good thing.  In friend leagues online, drafts are less personal, but still fun and only a few hours long.  No problems here.

But serious FF players play in several leagues, mostly with strangers they are gambling large sums against.  I have one friend in 8 money leagues this year!  That’s at least 24 hours of drafting, mostly on-line with strangers.  Not how I would allocate my time.

Football Season

Then, very soon after the season begins, the months of obsessive and meticulous planning all go to hell.  One injury happens (Jamaal Charles last year; Maurice Jones-Drew a few weeks ago; Smith, Cutler, Vick and Roethlisberger last week, oh the humanity!), one highly-drafted player tanks (Cam Newton this year, Chris Johnson, two years *ahem* running), and one player no one even heard of emerges as the FF league MVP (dance, Victor Cruz, dance!).  Now that idiot who lucked out after making dumb picks is winning, and your genius formula is completely out the window.  Oh, the self-induced stress and self-loathing!!!

But that’s not all.  The NFL continues its assault on the institution of marriage by having games now on Thursday night, Sundays at 1, 4 and 8, and Monday night.  That’s 15+ hours a week (Thanksgiving week, there’s 21+ hours!!!).

If you are a normal football fan, you watch your favorite team’s game and take a passing interest in the other games, but would not be so addicted so that you’d waste half your weekend ignoring the kids and wife in order to watch a random matchup of, say, the godawful Bills against the godawful Rams.

If you are a serious FF player, however, you need to follow EVERY. SINGLE. GAME. Because either you or your various opponents in your 8 money leagues have a player in every game, so you have to tune in.  You are now the guy who:

  • doesn’t take his wife and kids apple-picking because the godawful Jaguars are on against the godawful Chiefs
  • obnoxiously checks his iPhone for real-time scoring updates 26 times during your wife’s cousin’s wedding
  • talks about his teams to acquaintances as if this is an interesting topic for them, and
  • finds himself rooting for such things as injuries or for your actual favorite team to lose, all so your fake FF team can win

All for bragging rights, or for a little bit of money (which you’ll lose back next week anyway).  For all but one FF player per league, the year ends in misery.  But a few months later, serious FF players will all be back with the websites and preview magazines.

So, 20 hours a week on a non-work, non-family activity? …that causes stress and borderline psychotic behavior?

Sorry.  Not enough time in a week.  Because of the self-induced stress and time-suckitude involved in FF, I stopped playing a few years ago.  If you are going to play FF, keep it simple- one fun low-stakes league with friends or for networking.  Don’t be THAT guy.

After all, Cam Newton shouldn’t be ruining your life.

Care to defend FF? Have any other “time sucks” to nominate?  Let’s discuss in the comments section.

This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.  Follow this link to the article.

10 thoughts on “Fantasy Football: “Time-Suck” to Avoid #2 (or, Cam Newton shouldn’t be ruining your life)

  1. a few random tangential things…

    i think there’s a way to enjoy fantasy football without being “that guy” who has to know everything. as with most other things, its about balance.

    as for the actual games themselves, I don’t always get to catch all of the patriots games anymore (For example last weekend they had an early game and we did a family outing, so i missed it) but i’ve found that the night game phenomenon works great for fathers and i can at least watch something each week. as a former attendee of games, i HATED night games with a passion because they end so late that by the time we got to the car and fought traffic, we ended up getting home at 2am. as a father, I like them, because my son is usually down for bed before the 2nd half starts, and so i can end up watching at least half the game, if not 3/4ths of it.

  2. JT- I hear you. It is all about balance. But I do know people who will not go to any but the most important family functions on Sundays during football season, and people who cannot hold a conversation while football is on.

    On facebook, a friend stated that she, her husband and kids all love spending a long Sunday together watching football. So, some football can even be family time.

    Thanks again for commenting. I likes your recent Eric Carle-book post!

    • Growing up my family was kind of like that Facebook commenter. We had seasons tickets to the patriots starting when I was about 12 or 13. Now that I live in Texas there’s a group of pats fans that meets up on Sundays and it’s a kid-friendly family oriented thing. In the long run I’m sure we will be like that to an extent, and I’m patiently waiting for that, but at age two it doesn’t really work. I still get my football time in though and my son is starting to learn about throwing, catching, running, tackling, and touchdown. But it doesn’t prevent us from doing other things we want to.

  3. I NEVER understood the appeal of fantasy football, and now I’m glad I never became involved with it because of its “time suck” nature. I am still a dedicated Eagles fan, but I found that even committing a few hours on Sunday afternoons interrupted family time too much. I found a way to “watch” the games by recording them on DVR and then zipping through them at lightning speed after the girls go to bed. With bypassing commercials, the huddles, and halftime, I can get through a game in less than an hour. It’s not quite the same experience but it’s very efficient!

    • FF is pretty fun, but so many people I know get addicted. As you say, there are so many things to pack into a typical family weekend, and it is hard to block out so much time for football. Plus, Eagles and Jets fans may not want to watch much this year! Thankjs, Mark, for the comment

  4. Gonna give it another try. The last time I played, I didn’t have the stresses of a Family and now most of the players are retired and or in the HOF. Doing it so I can experience a FF Draft Party!

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