It’s early in the season, but I’m 0-3 and nothing has gone right. I lost the second game of the season by ½ a point. HALF. Last week the margin of defeat was 3. My team is very talented, and I believe in them. But I’ve let them down. I haven’t put my players in the best position to win, and for that, I take full responsibility. These close losses are because of my poor decisions. No, I’m not the General Manager of the Buffalo Bills. I’m the owner of a fantasy football team. Since 2006 I’ve managed a fantasy team from one sport or another, and for the first time in 16 years, I’m questioning if I still want this emotional roller coaster as a part of my life.
Depression, anxiety, sadness, indecision, panic, excitement, and worry. All adjectives to describe the emotions in the life of a fantasy general manager. And when you’re losing, most of those emotions are negative. Owning a fantasy team is the closest thing to running a real-life sports organization, and for many, sometimes it feels real. But why? For many sports fans, your fandom begins early in life, likely as a child. You probably had dreams about becoming a big leaguer, an NFL quarterback, a goal scorer in the NHL, or the next Michael Jordan. For 99.999% of us, due to a lack of the athletic abilities needed to perform on such a high level, this never was close to realistic. So, what’s the next closest thing? Easy, do something that requires zero skill. Become the greatest fantasy football general manager to ever live.
My journey started a decade and a half ago when I was 32 years old. A friend of mine called me up one day and asked if I wanted to join his new fantasy baseball league. Not knowing much about it, I said sure, why not. I love sports and meeting new friends is never a bad thing. He told me I had to research all the players in major league baseball to “get to know them” in preparation for the draft, where we would pick the real-life players for our fake teams. Sounded easy enough, so I went down to my local Barnes & Noble and purchased my first ever fantasy sports magazine. It was the worst and best decision I’ve ever made; life had changed forever.
Fast forward to present day, the fall of 2022. In recent years, I made the tough decision to retire from a glorious career of being a fantasy baseball manager. I’ve decided to focus all my energies and attention to the more popular American pastime: fantasy football. I’m currently in two leagues, because one is not enough, and three is too many. For the first time in 16 years, I’ve started both seasons winless, going 0-6 through 3 weeks. No big deal, right? Wrong. Like the NFL, if you start off too slow, each week without a win your odds of making the playoffs decrease. Without a win this week, my seasons could be over.
The enjoyment that comes from bragging to your friends versus having said friends make fun of your team’s demise, is quite the contrast in emotion. Everyone wants the former. Looking forward to each Thursday, Sunday, and Monday evening of checking your phone for score updates, rooting for your team’s players, and calculating your odds of victory, make the chilly fall and winter months tolerable. Not sleeping as much as usual on Tuesday night’s because you can’t wait to wake up to see which of your waiver wire adds were successful, is a stress fantasy managers love. Dreaming about which lineup changes to make as the last thing you think about before bed, is a powerful and productive real-life distraction. Fearing your phone notifications because you don’t want to see the league’s group chats when you’re losing is medication inducing. Winning solves everything, and if I don’t win this week, I’m in all probability facing a dark, cold winter ahead. I’m not a very religious person, but to the fantasy football gods tonight I will pray. Give me this, and I swear, I will never ask for anything ever again.