Fantasy Football’s Stat Obsession: Bad for the Game?

Jeff MausContributor IAugust 24, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 21:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the Houston Texans at the Louisiana Superdome on August 21, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

“Drew Brees has been terrible this year!” That is an actual quote from a friend of mine who drafted Brees in the second round of our fantasy league last season. I guess he’s just stating the obvious here. Drew was pretty awful last year. I mean 33 TD’s, 4388 yards, and a Superbowl win for a franchise that had never even gotten to the big game? Hah! What a hack!

Obviously I kid, but my friend was not joking around. He had forsaken football commonsense, and was exhibiting what I like to call a symptoms of living in the fantasy world of football: Stat obsession.

It used to be Maddenitis. People would pretend that they were an expert on every team in the NFL by telling us who the best players in the game where. And where did they get this knowledge? Not from actually watching any games, but from the player rankings in Madden.

Maddenitis- noun- (The use of the NFL Madden video game to evaluate players to look super smart in front of your friends.) And now we have moved on to something almost as useless: Stat obsession.

In baseball you can look at the box score and deduce how well the players preformed. 90% of the game can be figured out through stat lines. But stats can only tell you a small portion of what happened in a football game.

For instance, let’s go back to that massive failure Drew Brees. My friend was upset with Brees’ numbers because there would be weeks where he would have huge games, followed by average weeks. He’d score 45 points one week, and 16 the next.

In week three he threw for only 172 yards and no touchdowns against the Bills. Not many fantasy points to be had there, but the Saints won the game 27-7. So he didn’t have to put up amazing numbers to beat the Bills. They did it with defense and the running game.

And it isn’t just my friend, people all over are becoming more and more focused on the stat lines of players, and not the most important statistic of them all: wins and losses.

As the number of people purely thinking of football in statistical means grow, the more the knowledge of the game falls.  Stats don’t take into consideration play calling, weather, miscommunication between players, or missed blocks.

It also doesn’t tell you the situation. Let’s say Chris Johnson runs for 1 yard on 6 carries, and one touchdown. What happened! I picked you first overall to get 150 yards and two TD’s a game! Man this guy is a bum!

What the stats can’t tell you is that the Titans decided to open it up and air it out. Vince Young hit big plays through the air and the only caries Johnson got were at the goal line.

Let’s say that he had six total goal line carries from the 1 and was stuffed on five of them, scoring on the sixth. That would account for six carries for one yard. After that the Titans got a defensive and special teams TD to blow it out, and Johnson was pulled at halftime to preserve him for the next game.

The Titans won, Chris Johnson is happy, but you're thinking he choked.

There are so many situations that could go on, and the stats tell you nearly none of them! And that is why fantasy football makes no sense, and why you shouldn’t base your understanding of the game on a system that does not truly represent the game.

I will admit though, a good argument can be made that what is good for the NFL is ultimately good for the game. The NFL has embraced fantasy football, having their own version on And their new channel NFL RedZone is a fantasy footballer’s wet dream.

Fantasy football has helped boost watchers of the game of football, which in turn leads to more money for the NFL. There are people who now know who Ronnie Brown is even though they’ve never watched a Dolphin’s game, or much football in general. But even a passive follower of the game is good for the NFL.

All I ask is that you don’t let yourself get too caught up in stats, you bunch of statoholics. Have fun with fantasy, but don’t throw a Super Bowl winning quarterback under the bus just because he‘s smart enough to think more about winning than our fantasy teams.