Throwback Thursday: Fantasyland

The following is an article written a year ago to the day for my old blog. With my Fantasy NBA draft coming up on Saturday, I decided I should run the here on Something Clever on Throwback Thursday. Please note all information is a year old as the article is unedited.

My name is Daniel and I am an addict. My addiction isn’t one you’ll see on the show ‘Intervention’ though. There’s no TV commercial warning people about the dangers of it, but it has become as big a part of my life as a drug addiction would (I imagine). My addiction is fantasy sports and more specifically fantasy NBA. Fantasy sports are a multibillion dollar industry, particularly in the US, although in recent years it has exploded around the rest of the world too.

You see for most sports fans, we realised a long time ago that we were never going to make it as professional athletes, so the dream changed from playing the game to running the game. We are all armchair critics about what teams should do and all want to either coach or be the general manager of our favourite teams. Signing and trading players and building a team of athletes to win a championship. This is as close as we will ever get and it’s probably why fantasy sports has become an empire.

To quickly explain for the uninitiated, fantasy sports involves picking teams of players and using their real life statistics to calculate who wins. Basically it’s a maths game masked as a sports game to make us feel less like the nerds we are.

I almost kicked my addiction this year when for the first time in a decade since I started playing that I strongly considered quitting. You see with how serious I and my friends take it, the game is mentally exhausting over the course of about seven months a year and at the end of it, most of the guys end up disappointed with how they did after all the effort they put in. After years of effort without reward, it was all getting a bit much for me. Fortunately for me, another friend in my league, someone whom I only met through the league and he ended up giving me my career, was in the same boat and so we decided to team up and share the burden.

You see as much as we felt a desire to walk away; we knew that walking away from the game meant a lot more than that. Fantasy basketball is not only a big part of our lives; it has become a sort of glue that maintains it. I’ve made friends through it and also maintained friendships that in all likelihood may have ended years ago if we didn’t have this thing keeping us together. I can go months without talking to some of the guys, but as soon as we see each other we always know what we have in common and can talk about.

At weddings and birthdays and other social gatherings where more than one of us are in attendance, conversation always finds a way to turn towards the subject, whilst wives and girlfriends and other friends look at us like we are insane and try to change the subject unsuccessfully. In fact there are even cases of guys having actual relationship issues stemming from how important our league was to them. You might even remember in the film ‘Knocked Up’ where a wife suspected her husband of cheating and it turns out he was actually at his friend’s house for their fantasy baseball draft. “I got Matsui” he proclaimed happily, whilst she looked on in shock and horror. Fantasy sports is our mistress.

Our fantasy draft (where we pick our teams) is this Saturday and at this point it has evolved from a mere two hour exercise into more of an alternate Spring Carnival. We are having lunch on Friday and then the annual post draft barbeque to analyse how we all did and begin the months of trash talk. The emails and texts and calls have already been going for weeks as we study and prepare. I put more effort into my preparation for our fantasy draft than I did for any exam in high school or university and that’s not even an exaggeration.

Our league has even drafted a constitution based on previous incidents of controversy over the past decade to attempt to prevent future instances and keep everything as clean as possible. Because our league is almost half lawyers, it’s written in full legal terms and amendments have to go through a process. We’ve even had threats of overthrowing our commissioner when people don’t like certain rulings. However, we really aren’t all that different to millions of other guys out there doing the same thing.

There is even a hilarious sitcom called ‘The League’ about guys just like us who take their league just as seriously. Not only do we all see a lot of ourselves in that show, but it proves to us just how common what we are doing is, even if not by most of the people in our lives.

At the end of the day we are basically like Trekkies or Dungeons and Dragons fans, but our obsession is basketball.

Some of the guys think I was never really that close to quitting, that I was always going to come crawling back as the season approached and that I love it too much to walk away. The truth is I really was very close to giving up something that has meant so much to my life. But now that I’m back, I couldn’t possibly be more committed or obsessed once more.

I only hope that you have something with your friends that means as much to you.

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