Calling a Time-Out on Fantasy Football

You’re serious about spending 20 hours a week on a non-work, non-family activity that causes stress and borderline psychotic behavior? Just say NO! With football season fast approaching, it’s time to revisit the dangers of “The Fantasy Football Time Suck”

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)

Enjoy football, but don't let it ruin your life! photo credit: BabyBare11 via photopin cc
Enjoy football, but don’t let it ruin your life! photo credit: BabyBare11 via photopin cc

Sharpening the Saw

The greatest challenge we 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 also hard to find the energy necessary to be a great dad. Stress and time demands rob us of energy and prevent us from being relaxed and present.

To help us recharge, 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 the time to renew ourselves lest we get burned out. We While we dedicated dads 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. And in my informed opinion as a former junkie myself, Fantasy Football takes up just too darned much time and mental energy. I’m calling a time out.

Calling a Time-Out on Fantasy Football

Despite my tortured existence as a Jets fan, I really like football- both the regular kind and fantasy. FF is fun, makes watching football games not involving your favorite team more interesting, and can lead to more time spent 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.”

The Jets give me enough stress during football season. Why add any more?
The Jets give me enough stress during football season. Why add any more?

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

Off-Season Draft Preparation

Serious FF players start preparing 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 truth 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! And he has two young kids! That’s at least 24 hours of drafting, mostly on-line with strangers. Not how I would allocate my time. (I also had another friend who’s wife was out of town on business who called us, desperation in his voice and at the last minute, to see if he could have his young son sleep over at our house. We of course said yes, and wondered what the emergency was. Turned out it was that he just remembered he had his fantasy baseball draft that night at a local bar. SMH)

Football Season

Then, very soon after the season begins, the months of obsessive and meticulous planning all go to hell. Players get hurt, highly-drafted players tank, and unknown players emerge as stars. Now that lucky idiot 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 on Thursday night, Sundays at 1, 4 and 8, and Monday night. That’s 15+ hours a week (and I didn’t even mention the NFL Network, RedZone or Thanksgiving!)

Don’t Be “That Guy”

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 that you’d waste half your weekend ignoring the kids and wife in order to watch a random matchup of, say, the godawful Bills and Rams.

I might have missed out on this if I were obsessed with my FF team!
I might have missed out on this if I were obsessed with my FF team!

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

  • Doesn’t take his wife and kids apple-picking because of the godawful Jaguars-Chiefs game went into overtime
  • 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. 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 their 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. Don’t be THAT guy.

Care to defend FF? Have any other “time sucks” you would caution us to avoid? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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This is adapted from an earlier FWF post that was later republished in the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.

8 thoughts on “Calling a Time-Out on Fantasy Football

  1. I remember doing a free online football (soccer) fantasy league here in the UK a few years ago and decided not to do one again due to the amount of constant checking of fixtures, figures and stats that seems to be required in order to do well. I didn’t feel that I had the time to devote to doing it well. In some ways, I’d say it’s the sort of thing that could almost lead to enjoying sport less. I don’t know how fantasy league works with NFL and baseball, but I can imagine that it could be even more complicated due to the endless stats that seem to be associated with those sports.

  2. I think this is a little ridiculous. I love my kid, and parenting takes up a lot of my time, but it’s not the only thing that defines me, I think it’s important to have other interests and outlets. Sure, being overly invested in sports, or cars, or the stock market, can have a negative effect on your family and on your relationships, but having nothing else BUT family time and dad time can be equally damaging. It’s about moderation, like just about everything in life. I love fantasy football – despite the meaningless stress and frequent frustration – and I love my Dolphins (and Red Sox) – despite the meaningless stress and frustration – but I’m a responsible adult. I don’t let it overwhelm me to the point that I neglect my fatherly duties. I still helped put my kid to bed on draft night, and I’ll still interact with him on NFL Sundays. There’s no need to abandon it altogether, unless you have a serious problem balancing it with the rest of your life. Most of us don’t, and as such, to us normal dads who like to sports and enjoy some non-kid based activities, this piece comes off as somewhat absurd.

    • This article was fully tongue in cheek, and if you’ve seen my other writing about the importance of “me time”, exercise and taking the time to take care of yourself, this may have been clearer.

      Of course dads need some time for their own fun. In my experience people get more obsessive about ff than any other leisure activity.

      Thanks, and see ya in the fb group!

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