A couple of days ago, I was talking to a good friend of mine who had just moved back in to my area of southeastern Minnesota. Both of us are in a keeper fantasy football league that has contracts, smack talk, and just plain competitiveness never seen before outside of professional sports.
As the conversation progressed, I mentioned that I knew a guy that would take a bus every year to the Minnesota Vikings/Detroit Lions game at the Metrodome and a massive beer-swelling tailgate party would commence after the 75-minute drive from Rochester to Minneapolis. (Oh, and I guess there's a game too.)
After explaining all of this, I asked my fantasy football comrade if he would be interested in tagging along to an all-you-can-eat-and-drink football extravaganza. His answer? No.
I was stunned and repeated the scenario to him, and he repeated the same answer to me. I thought he had been dropped on his head, but his answer made me realize that there are consequences stemming from the biggest industry the National Football League has ever seen.
Because of our new fantasy league (which was founded two seasons ago), my friend said that he was no longer a die-hard fan of the Vikings, but instead a fan of players such as Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, and Matthew Stafford.
He explained that if he had gone to the game, he would be too detached from his team (and the red zone channel) and the experience would not have been as much fun for him as it would have been several years ago.
Suddenly, this all made sense to me. While fantasy football is great and inspires rivalries that not even the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots could top, it also has killed the era of the loyal fan in the NFL.
Like my friend, fans have now started to flock toward players rather than their favorite team. A prime example was my love affair with Green Bay Packers wideout Greg Jennings in the inaugural season of the league.
As a die hard Viking fan, I would rather see the Packers' charter flight be set ablaze than have Greg Jennings score three touchdowns in the Metrodome. However, on that November afternoon in 2010, Jennings did just that and I went nuts.
My roommate at the time would not forget that, and when the Packers won the Super Bowl a couple of months later, it inspired a profanity-laced tirade that his wife now refers to as "World War III."
This is what fantasy football has done. It's drawn battle lines between fans of the same team, and has made them too comfortable in their own house to experience a game live.
Is this drawback worth the enthusiasm and excitement fantasy football provides? Oh yes. But, 30 years ago it would have been unthinkable for a Denver Broncos fan to be cheering for Darren McFadden, and it now happens on a regular occurrence.
I guess this is just a new age for both the popularity of fantasy football and the National Football League.