Fantasy sports can broaden horizons

It's not just nerds chirping their dads on draft day

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Albert Pujols

AT THE TOP OF THE BOARD. Albert Pujols will hear his name called first on a lot of draft days over the next few weeks by nerds and sports aficionados alike.

Have you ever called a 40-year-old mechanic a grease monkey? Revealed your best friend’s most humiliating sex story to his dad? Teased a middle-aged man for living with his parents?

I answer yes to all of the above. And I don’t even consider myself an asshole. Why? Because I play fantasy sports.

For anyone in the dark on the subject, fantasy sports are games in which people act as general managers in sports leagues using real professional athletes and real statistics. If I draft Albert Pujols or Sidney Crosby, their real-life homers and goals count for my team.

Try to resist the urge to stuff me in a locker or call me a loser. It’s natural to condemn fantasy sports buffs as fat people who can’t make real sports teams or as number crunchers who never get laid because they’re too busy calculating Barry Zito’s ERA for day games. But to do so is to view the hobby the wrong way.

Fantasy sports can’t replace real sports or sexual intercourse, but they still have plenty of value.

They can maintain and even strengthen bonds between friends and relatives. Since starting fantasy baseball, hockey and football leagues with my dad five years ago, I’ve spoken to him virtually every day, even if I was writing “Fuck you” more than “I love you” on the message board. My friends have also gotten closer with my dad as they negotiated trades and exchanged drinking tales through the pool.

Fantasy sports can introduce you to people you normally wouldn’t socialize with. My leagues have featured players born in five different decades. It’s joyful for a 23-year-old to slam a 60-year-old for making a lopsided trade and toss in a Viagra joke to boot. Trust me.

They provide a stimulating distraction from work. Whether you’re struggling with an essay or sitting in a cubicle, searching for a hot rookie free agent or negotiating a Larry Johnson trade with a pal beats using your brain for something constructive.

Fantasy sports broaden your knowledge and understanding of professional sports. Not only can die-hards learn about every team and player from their favourite sports, non-fans or pseudofans can find a new way to enjoy them. A friend of mine who didn’t follow hockey but loved competition joined my league in 2002; not only did he win the championship, he became a hockey lover and remains one today.

Fantasy sports carry some risks. They can damage your love for your favourite team; choosing between a win for your beloved New England Patriots or that extra touchdown you need from Peyton Manning to win your fantasy league can be a nightmare. But as long as you don’t lose touch with reality and stop caring about the real thing, you’ll be fine.

If you’re looking for a new hobby, hop aboard the fantasy sports bandwagon with me. Did I once tell my girlfriend I had to “work on an essay” and send her home because I had a baseball draft the next morning? No comment. But I’ve found a fun way to strengthen friendships and enjoy sports more than ever.

And hey, at least it’s not Dungeons & Dragons.

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