My older brother and I did a mock NFL Fantasy draft the other day. To be honest, I kind of dragged him into it.
I complained and repeatedly questioned his fanhood until he finally agreed to do one with me. (Man Law No. 4: Questioning a true sports admirer’s fanhood is the ultimate insult, the “Chuck Norris” of challenges).
His opposition stemmed mostly from his apathy. As he said, “It’s just not the same; especially, when you can’t even keep the players. It’s just a shade of the real thing.”
As any real fantasy nerd, such as myself, will tell you: When you draft a team, you invest yourself in it completely. You make strong commitments between yourself and the players you select. When you are in a league with friends you have personal connections and added incentive to win. Your hopes and goals, however modest in the grand scheme of things, are temporarily with a collection of football players.
Mid-way through round four, I remembered what my brother said. This team isn’t real; even if they were, who knows what will happen with the lockout. Free agency hasn’t even taken place yet.
A mock draft just isn’t enough to satisfy a fan’s passion. Similarly, this lockout isn’t even close to enough to satisfy a fan’s expectations.
As America’s most profitable and popular sport, we expect no work stoppages. Especially the longest in the league’s history.
We expect $9 billion of revenue (and growing) to be enough money to please everyone. Most of us “normal” people get excited when we win $4 bucks on a lotto ticket.
We expect the draft picks that represent hope for the future of so many suffering franchises to be signed. We want to see them take the baby steps of their professional careers. We want to monitor their progress as they become part of our teams.
The threat of no football is inexcusable. The failure of the system has resulted in a painful limbo period that only dedicated “LOST” fans could relate to.
As fans, all we want is the game. We don’t care about the politics or the dollars involved backstage; we care about the game.
And to take that away from us, to put a cease to the NFL for over 100 days, is to alienate that same fan base that generated the billions of revenue in the first place.
I do not claim to have any solutions for this ongoing dilemma. I know little of business negotiation and even less about controlling an entire league.
I do know, however, that football is a constant source of passion. A consistent opportunity for excitement, joy and the chance to see things you have never seen before.
Football is more than a game to fans. It is a dependable portion of our lives. It is something that unites two people who have never met each other, but are able to bond over the fact that they are both wearing Redskins jerseys in New York.
A fantasy mock draft is nowhere near as enjoyable as the real thing. With the constant speculation and the impenetrable unknown of players’ futures due to this lockout, how can it be?
The same can be said for the game as a whole.
The people in charge need to realize that we, the fans, only want the simplest of requests: We want the real thing.