Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fantasy Etiquette: 5 Barroom Rules.

It's that time of year.  Football, and its fantasy counterpart, are officially underway, and thus begins another season of mostly reasonable people turning into obsessive sociopaths because Roddy White didn't get as many targets as they hoped last week.  There are a myriad of podcasts and message boards and the KSK mailbag just churning out an endless slew of fantasy advice.  Matthew Berry is ubiquitous, God help us all. 

This is all more or less fine by me.  Personally, I've never felt any urge whatsoever to engage in fantasy sports.  I'm perfectly content watching and analyzing the games on their intrinsic merits, and I don't want or need any additional context to clutter that experience.  Also, and I often wonder how people live with themselves in these cases, I don't ever want to be in the position of rooting for a player I hate simply because he was the best guy on the board when my pick came around in a fantasy draft.  Drew Brees is one of the three best QB's in football, but he also plays for the Saints, the Falcons' most bitter rivals and divisional foes.  If he's on the board while I'm drafting, I'm a certified idiot not to take him, right?  But here's the thing: I don't want Drew Brees to have a successful season.  Ever.  I want him and the Saints to falter and flail and be ultimately lousy, every year, forever, amen.  Fantasy poses the risk of conflicting with my sacred duty as a fan to despise all those opposed to my team; of diluting my inalienable hatred.  And lord knows we can't have that.  So yeah, no fantasy for me.  But I do understand and appreciate the appeal.  You get to play GM and muck around with rosters and, if everything goes right, pick up a heap of bragging rights and some cash to boot.  And it probably does lend a little gravitas to the random Vikings-Bucs game that no one outside of Minneapolis or Tampa Bay cares even an iota about if you have someone from either team on your roster.  I'm all for people enjoying anything having to do with football.  But.


Fantasy owners of America, we need to have a little chat.  We need to establish some ground rules so that I can be around you, on gameday, in public, and not want to beat you senseless.  (Ed. Note: if you are someone who plays fantasy without going full-bore psycho about it, feel free to stop reading and go tinker with your starting roster for today.) 

Because every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday of the season, there are those among you who ruin sports bars across the land by insinuating a grating and wholly unnecessary dosage of fantasy into the proceedings.  Frankly, when your fake team's considerations become more meaningful and enjoyable than the actual games themselves, your priorities are way the hell out of whack.  Shady McCoy fumbles or the Colts' D gives up 4 touchdowns and it's a freaking zombie apocalypse for that drunk guy in the corner who is actually a Steelers fan.  People who have no connection whatsoever to the Ravens other than getting stuck with Joe Flacco as a fantasy quarterback suddenly become blithering, outraged idiots when Torrey Smith drops a pass.  The bar turns into a cacophony of cheers, profanities, and outright pandemonium as MJD saves one person's fantasy week, ruins someone else's, and the one Jags fan in the joint stares sullenly into his drink, contemplating the futility of existence.  I can't take it anymore.  Here are some fantasy-related behaviors that should be outlawed, in perpetuity, from occurring in bars. 

1. Laptop usage.  If you want to whip out your iPhone and check your stats for the day while a play is under review, or because you need to make a last-minute roster alteration, fine.  If, however, you spend more time glaring at your laptop and frantically refreshing the results of your nine leagues than you do watching actual, real, glorious football, you should be evicted from the premises immediately.  We are here to get gregariously drunk with friends and scream at 56" TV screens, not get antisocially drunk alone and stare at a 12" Dell Powerbook. It's a bar, not a f***** coffee shop.  Put the computers away.

2.  Appropriate Reactions and Decibel Levels.  Histrionics, be they celebratory or agonizing, are reserved for fans and their teams, not your handcuff fantasy back.  You know the axiom that nobody wants to hear about your fantasy team?  That's not just a gentle reminder not to bring it up in regular conversation; it applies to the barroom as well.  If your real, actual team blows a fourth-quarter lead in week 12 against a divisional opponent, you may pound your fist on the bar, scream obscenities, flip tables, smash glasses, immediately knock back five shots of vodka, or indulge in any other acceptable expression of grief and anger that occurs to you.  Likewise if they just broke off a 70-yard TD run, only, you know, you'll be much more gleeful while you break things.  Good on you.  HOWEVA, if you're wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey and a Jets cap, do not yell at the TV if Jay Cutler takes a sack.  Glower into your beer, mumble a silent curse to the gods, whatever, but keep your fantasy whining to yourself.  NO ONE CARES.

3.  Discussion of stats shall be limited to real stats.  If you want to talk about how many rushing yards the Broncos' defense allowed last year or the Tom Brady's red zone completion percentage, by all means, let's nerd it out.  However, I don't care if a receiver's value is diminished because you are or are not in a PPR league.  Any fantasy statistic that has no relation (or only an oblique relation) to what actually transpires on the field is not fit for discussion.

4.  These players don't owe you jack.  Nor, for that matter, do their coaches.  If the Texans give Ben Tate a goal-line carry instead of Arian Foster, thereby costing you precious fantasy points, guess what?  THEY'RE PLAYING TO WIN THE GAME.  They are making what they think are the best tactical decisions for their teams.  (Note: questionable if Andy Reed or Norv Turner is involved.)  When MJD sat down on the goal line a few seasons ago to keep the clock running a seal a win for the Jags, he apologized to his fantasy owners.  This was endearing and funny and totally unnecessary.  He made a heads-up play and put his team in the best position to win.  That cost you fantasy points?  Boo freaking hoo.  They're trying to put real points on a real scoreboard and make sure they have more than the other team at the end of the day.  It's bad enough how pathologically attached and entitled we are over our hometown teams, I have to draw the line at pathological entitlement in fantasy.  It's ridiculous.

5.  When in doubt, shut up.  Self-explanatory, right?  Good.

Happy football!!!

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