The fantasy football playoffs are upon us, and you’re either nervously tinkering your lineup, worried about the prospect of some unknown backup running back randomly scoring a slew of touchdowns, or you’re over and done with it all, having failed to make the postseason.
It seems like it all just started too. So much hope and excitement in August when you’re going over the big board, mulling over Adrian Peterson or Peyton Manning as your top pick, or how much to bid for Arian Foster and Eddie Lacy. It’s a clean slate, and anyone can win, and in August, you’ve forgotten all the past heartache and aggravation that forever and always joins fantasy football.
That’s because coaching decisions, injuries, suspensions, and above all the fluctuation and unpredictability of the football season set in. We try to foresee and control a world that cannot be contained, and it results in massive highs and tragic lows. Sadly, there are far more of the latter, as defeats linger long as weeks go by.
Throughout the year, we peruse websites, reading news stories, injury reports, and depth charts. We listen to insiders and analysts and former players and current coaches. We use our instincts, determining whether we think a streak will continue or if the opposite is finally due. We expend all this energy to try to understand what to make of an NFL where even the best at covering it only get it right about 70% of the time.
At some point it becomes a drug. Everyone is doing it, you can’t escape fantasy coverage, and even if you’re on top, it’s hard to quit. The fun is fleeting, but we’re so deep into it that we don’t realize. We’ve all become programmed to play fantasy sports and it’s hard to escape.
But we should. Unfortunately come next August we will all start again (myself included, regrettably), determined that this year will be different or confident in a repeat championship if you were one of the lucky ones. Lest we forget, here are the reasons we all know true to stop playing fantasy football.
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10 You Will Most Likely Lose
At the end of the season, only one of the 10, 12, or 14 teams in the league will win, and in fantasy, there is no respectable showing, and there is no solace in losing. That’s because, almost inevitably, there will be a case where someone on your bench could have helped you win and you’ll end up regretful and bitter.
Even if that isn’t the case, and you simply lose to a better team, it still hurts. It’s not like you could have tried harder, and it’s not as if there are expectations set on your team to surpass to make you feel better. It’s a clean slate at the start, anyone can win, and when you don’t, it’s painful. The Oakland Raiders may only win two games this year, but they will sure enjoy looking back upon beating a division opponent at home in primetime and knocking off their bay area rival and playoff contender. This doesn’t really happen in fantasy.
9 It Changes the Way you Watch the Game
Remember a time before fantasy sports, at least before it really began to dominate our culture? We simply rooted for our team and embrace the ecstasy of winning and the agony of losing. Now, however, we have players we watch. We are rooting for individual stats instead of teams. We now love garbage time, where a team trailing by a lot in the fourth quarter is just chucking it up, racking up points for receivers. We may even for some reason be compelled to watch the New York Jets play the Tennessee Titans this weekend. We end up not only taking an interest in bad football, but we may even go so far as to being bothered by great games because our star player doesn’t contribute enough. The Packers and Falcons played a thrilling primetime game last night, but if you had Randall Cobb and needed a good show, you were probably upset at only 58 yards.
8 It Affects How You Pick Games
Whether you’re doing it for fun in an office pool or actually trying to win some money, a fantasy mindset inherently interferes with one’s ability to pick games accurately. Granted, it’s hard to choose winners as it is, but when you incorporate how you approach fantasy to picking games, you’re doomed. It mainly has to do with the fact that we are overvaluing individual skill players and undervaluing coaching, game plans, and defense. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White may be solid starts, but their team isn’t that good, with a weak defensive line and questionable coaching. The same can be said of offensive players on the Saints and Bears. They can misguide you into thinking teams are better than they are because they have individual talent. The Chiefs, Bills, and Rams have each maybe two players you really want on your fantasy team, but they have solid defenses and strong coaching and are frequently undervalued. Individual fantasy talent is one thing, but it’s easy to confuse that with overall talent.
7 No One Wants to Hear About Your Team
Just about everyone plays fantasy, everyone understands it, and no one wants to hear about it. You need Aaron Rodgers to score at least 20 points tonight? So do a lot of other people. Everyone has a great trade story, everyone has a tragic loss, and everyone is playing all the time, so it’s completely uninteresting unless you’re talking to someone in your own league. And you can forget those people who don’t play, you better believe they don’t care. We are all proud of our own teams when they win, but these are things that just shouldn’t be discussed in public.
6 You Can Lose Humanity
When a star gets injured, thoughts don’t turn to the player but to fantasy, and how it affects your team, your game, and your league. You think about the next man up, go through the waiver wire and depth charts, and completely disregard, without pause, the injury. Maybe a player goes out in the first quarter and you can cruise to victory. What’s worse is of course when you’re trailing at the end of the early games Sunday and you could even get to a point where you are rooting for an injury. Or at least a player to need some help on the sideline for a quarter or two. You may handcuff your star running back, but what if you grabbed a backup with the possibility of an injury to the starter. Maybe you’re not rooting for something to happen, but if it does, you’re ready. It’s uncomfortable at best.
It’s tragic, and more than a few players (particularly Arian Foster) have vocalized their animosity towards such an impersonal and self-serving populace. And because everyone plays fantasy, we’ve come to accept these practices as okay.
5 It Pits You Against Your Own Team
Successful, professional gamblers aren’t really fans; or at least they don’t let that get in the way. They play to win. Fantasy users on the other hand are almost always football fans, so playing this game and enjoying the real game come into conflict.
This happens plenty often, especially if you’re a fan of a team that isn’t particularly good. You’re not sitting Peyton Manning or Demaryius Thomas even if they are playing your precious Chiefs. What if you have Andrew Luck and you’re a Houston fan? There are certainly situations where fortunate hedges take place, but what an uncomfortable and disingenuous place to be. Inevitably there will be a situation when you’re starting a player that is playing against the team you’re rooting for, and it creates all sorts of conflicts. That’s when a decision is made and it tests your allegiances. Do you want to win fantasy at the expense of your team? Or are you willing to lose some small hobby and give yourself fully to the club to which you profess dying love and support?
4 More Free Time
This one is a no-brainer. Now you don’t have to watch Tennessee play New York, and maybe you can sit out on a weak Monday or Thursday night game. On top of that, maybe you can get some work done during the week or enjoy a Sunday morning out and about instead of tinkering with your lineup and reading practice reports. Just think of the possibilities. Football will still be there, and there will still be plenty to discuss and dissect. You’re just lightening the load a bit, now better able to focus on other things.
3 The Frustration
Everyone has a story of losing late Monday night, where a late interception, one last rush to run out the clock, or a defense allowing a team to barely clip the 300-yard mark swings a game the other way. We’ve all surely scored the second highest point total of the week in our league, only to happen to be playing the team that scores the most point that week. Or how about those surprising and random high scoring performances, where you happen to be facing off against Ryan Fitzpatrick when he throws six TDs or Matt Asiata running for four scores. Last year, it seemed every other game Calvin Johnson would be tackled inside the five. Remember when Maurice Jones-Drew wouldn't take a touchdown from the Jets, instead going down at the one to run out the clock? Sure you do.
2 The Stress
Counting every single yard, totally up points in your head, and relying on certain players to gain precious points from Thursday night to primetime Monday is exhausting. Sunday morning can be the worst, with injury reports up in the air and not knowing at all if your Patriots or 49ers or Bengals or Browns running back will get the majority of the carries. What of the weather? And does that even mean anything? Did your player miss a meeting during the week so that he sits out a quarter? And of course, who do you play in your flex position? These decisions would be described as tough if it took a genius mind to figure them out, or even someone who toils day and night trying to figure out the answer. But they don’t, and that’s because of our final reason to quit fantasy football.
1 It’s Random
This is it. Everything we’ve listed and analyzed all feeds into this tragic notion that we don’t really want to accept. Ultimately, it’s random. Watch someone win your league with Justin Forsett, C.J. Anderson, or Tre Mason. Peyton Manning took you to the playoffs, but where was he against the Bills? Sure, Le’Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray showed up, but what about Demaryius Thomas, Jimmy Graham, and LeSean McCoy? You would have been well served by Cam Newton, Jarius Wright, Percy Harvin, and Charles Johnson, Jared Cook, and the Giants D, but they were at best unreliable and at worst absent during the season – they probably didn’t take you to the playoffs. Kickers are completely random; I feel like we all know that but we think it’s different in other positions. It’s not really.
The best thing to do is run a test in your league. See if the person who got the best player at each position was able to make the playoffs. Then again, it doesn’t matter how well a player does across the year, it matters which player does well each week, and that could be anyone (Hello Jonas Gray. And goodbye). Sure, there are a few reliable players at each spot, but you’ve nine positions to fill and you can’t start Andrew Luck in all of them.
And because it’s random, there is absolutely no meaning. There exists no value, no validation, no purpose behind it all. Of course, I say this now after not making the playoffs in my league having won the two years prior. But you don’t want to hear about that. Then again, I’m sure I’ll bounce back next year.
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