10 Signs You're Taking Fantasy Football Way Too Seriously

Russell Puntenney@@RussPuntContributor IIISeptember 3, 2012

10 Signs You're Taking Fantasy Football Way Too Seriously

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    There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who realize fantasy football is just a game and those who don’t.

    The people in the former camp might not even play, but if they do it’s only with the understanding that the results are largely unpredictable (see: Victor Cruz) and that the purpose is solely to have fun.

    The people in the latter?

    Now that’s another story altogether.

    Fantasy football just seems to scratch some people in this world right where they itch, and if by chance you’ve never met one whose love for the socially acceptable version of Dungeons & Dragons is so extreme it trumps all other priorities in his or her life for six months straight every single year, it might be best to just stop reading now and forget this whole thing ever happened.

    Suffice it to say you won’t like what you’re about to hear and that you may not view the sport of football, or the world around you, quite the same ever again.

    If, on the other hand, you’re a fantasy football player currently wondering which group you happen to fall under then please, by all means read on, and please make sure to pay extra close attention while you do as the very fact you aren’t sure is a warning sign in and of itself.

    You don’t want to end up like these guys, do you?

    Of course not, so listen up.

    Your fellow fantasy players (not to mention your friends and family and anyone else that happens to bump into you between now and February, for that matter) will thank you later.

10. You Form Opinions of Players You’ve Never Actually Watched

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    See if you can spot the flaw in this logic: Player X scores a lot of fantasy points, therefore Player X is a good player.

    Did you catch it?

    If so, congratulations. You’re obviously sane enough to realize that sports statistics can never tell the whole story and your relationship to fantasy football sounds like it’s probably a healthy one.

    Probably.

    If not, then that’s a real shame because this very well may be a warning sign of full-blown fantasy football obsession and the warped state of reality it implies you’re secretly living in is definitely a cause for concern.

    As 49ers quarterback Alex Smith will gladly remind you, production alone does not ensure success, and if you’re somehow under the impression that some rookie you picked up off waivers last season is going to have a solid career simply because he helped you win a fantasy game, or vice versa, you’re obviously placing an emphasis on the imaginary numbers of fantasy land way more substantial than was ever intended.

    The bottom line is this: There’s fantasy football and there’s real life, actual football and they’re two completely different things.

    If you’re having trouble keeping them separate, building a flawless fantasy roster every season might be the least of your concerns.

9. You Participate in a Mock Draft Before the Pre-Season

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    While the argument could certainly be made that spending any amount of time pretending to draft a pretend NFL team is by definition excessive, for our purposes here that seems a little steep.

    So let’s compromise.

    How about we set the cut-off at August? Fair enough?

    If you were running mock drafts before the pre-season had even kicked off back on August 5, after all, chances are you already know those simulations were a waste of time and chances are you even thought about how silly they were as you were making each pick.

    How much knowledge could one possibly gain from a draft that insanely early anyway? More importantly, just how much practice does one fantasy football player need in the first place? One month’s worth? Two? Six? (Stop nodding!)

    If you were participating in mock drafts before teams had even reported to camp this off-season, it’s time to come clean: The only reason you did so was to satisfy your yearning for fantasy football at a time when you couldn’t get your fix any other way and you know it.

    It’s not like you learned anything from those drafts and even if you did, it’s nothing you wouldn’t have learned anyway by performing them a little closer to the actual season like a normal person, when rosters were much closer to being set, injuries were better understood and rookies at least had the opportunity to grace an NFL field before people started speculating about their fantasy value.           

    Doesn’t it feel good to finally just let it all out?

8. You Refuse to Admit Someone Beat You Fair and Square

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    When you win, it’s skill, but when someone else wins, it’s luck. Sound familiar?

    Here’s hoping it doesn’t, because if so that means you aren’t just taking fantasy football too seriously, you’re taking yourself too seriously and are probably just too vain to realize it.

    Do you find an excuse to justify every loss your fantasy team suffers? Are you just as likely to downplay that same excuse, however, if someone else uses it to defend their own loss? When you lose, do you hear all the fun slowly being sucked out of the room? When you lose, does everyone lose?

    Fantasy football is a combination of both skill and luck and either everyone deserves an appropriate share of credit for winning any given game or no one does.

    You can’t have it both ways and you can’t pick and choose when and to whom you want those rules to apply.

    Is the notion that someone other than yourself made a smart decision and won as a result really so inconceivable?

    If so, this entire self-analysis you’ve engaged in might just be a lost cause.

    But that’s not your fault, now is it?

7. You Own the Same Player on More Than 2 Separate Occasions

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    Time for a hypothetical scenario.

    You draft Player X, then decide to release Player X in order to make room on your roster for Player Y. Totally reasonable.

    Two weeks later, however, you change your mind and again pick up Player X, this time off waivers, only to suddenly have yet another change of heart and decide, once again, to give Player X the boot. A little erratic but still sane nevertheless.

    Now freeze.

    Roster changes are necessary to manage a fantasy football team across an entire season. There are injuries, underperformers and countless unpredictable factors that will inevitably dictate what players you own at any given time, and it’s only natural that the same players will end up gracing your team on multiple occasions as a result. We’ve all been there.

    But if we fast forward another few weeks and inexplicably find that Player X is right back where he used to be, dangling off the last spot on your bench again like an inmate on death row, what’s a rational observer to think?

    Is it possible this player’s fantasy value is really changing this often? Is he really such an enigma you find yourself revaluating whether or not he makes your 15-player cut-off every single week? We’re only halfway through the season and you two have already broken up and reconciled more times than Ross and Rachel, what is going on here?     

    Habitual roster changes very well may be the stuff of fantasy football champions but if your goal is to announce to the world that all your waking attention is spent analyzing this childish make-believe game like it’s a matter of life and death, they’re pretty good for that too.

    At some point you have to just make a decision and stick with it.

    (Preferably before December).

6. You Talk About It Like You Know What’s Going to Happen

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    Every fantasy football player does this to some extent, but there’s a fine line between making an educated guess and flat out claiming to be able to predict the future and you probably already know if you're someone who's guilty of crossing it.

    If NFL football were in any way predictable, after all, Peyton Manning would have about eight Super Bowl rings right now and Michael Vick would still be a role model. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. That’s part of what makes the NFL so ridiculously exciting to watch and, as the cliché so memorably goes, that’s why they play the games.

    The same goes for fantasy football, however, which wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if no one ever got hurt and every player met their projections every week, and even though you might have a pretty good idea how bright a star will shine in any given game, if you really think you know for sure your fantasy roster might not be the only aspect of your life that could use a little tweaking.

    There’s only one thing more annoying than a know-it-all, you see, and it’s someone like you: A know-it-all who claims to know even that which cannot be known and who volunteers this information to the world around him like it’s proven fact.

    Nothing is guaranteed in life and, because it apparently doesn’t go without saying in all cases, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL either.

    And nothing, no matter how many analyst opinions or fantasy previews anyone happens to read, will ever change that.

5. You Talk About It with People Who Don’t Even Care

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    Even casual fantasy football players may find themselves cringing after this one because the very nature of this hobby all but forces players to talk about it, oftentimes with people who don’t play themselves.

    Here’s a quick memo signed by all of those people: Shut up.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with sharing your interests, of course, simply that by now we’ve reached a point in society where pretty much everyone knows about fantasy football and has already decided whether they dig the phenomenon or not.

    You know what other hobby is wildly popular among a segment of the population almost equal the size of fantasy football? That’s right—stamp collecting.

    In fact, did you know a misprint stamp from the 1800’s once sold for over $2 million or that in 2008 Austria released a lenticular stamp using state-of-the-art technology that recreated the visual effect of watching TV for three full minutes?

    Of course you didn’t and you know why? Because stamp collecting bores the hell out of you and if you ever really wanted someone to bring you up to speed on the latest developments in the amazing world of stamp collecting, you’d ask!

    Is it starting to sink in yet?

    Good, because no matter how polite a fantasy outsider may seem whenever you’re recounting last week’s matchup for him play-by-excruciating-play, rest assured behind that cheerful demeanor is a desperate, tortured soul who can’t for the life of him figure out why you’d think he cares how your imaginary football team is doing or what horrible deed he must have committed at some point in his life to deserve this kind of treatment.

    If you’re so caught up in the euphoria of the game you can’t even detect basic human indifference anymore, there’s little question your fantasy obsession has ballooned to off-the-chart, freak-like levels and officially needs to be addressed.

    Do the outside world a favor: From now on, just keep it to yourself.

4. You Know the Names of More Than 3 Backup Running Backs

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    Quick, name three backup running backs in the NFL today (not co-starters on a running back committee, legitimate backups).

    If you couldn’t name three, pat yourself on the back. You’re normal.

    If you got to three but struggled along the way, pat yourself on the back too. You’re probably a pretty astute fantasy player and chances are you still have an appropriate grasp on the real world too. Way to go.

    If, however, you got to two, stopped for a moment, wrote down six more names, then spent a good ten minutes deciding which was most worthy of claiming that third and final spot before making your selection, pat yourself on the back if you’d like, but make sure to pat yourself on the back of the head too.

    Hard.

    So hard you give yourself whiplash, in fact, and hopefully so hard it knocks some much needed sense into that troubled, delusional mind you stopped storing any useful knowledge in the moment you found out fantasy football exists.

    It’s not that backup NFL players are devoid of fantasy value, it’s that only a handful are worthwhile at any given time. Sure, some backups are in better position to earn playing time than others and you’d definitely be wise to keep track of those players’ statuses and to even consider adding them to your roster at some point if it starts to look like their role may increase.

    But if you’re just blindly taking roll call and familiarizing yourself with players who will never see the field unless someone gets hurt, chances are you’re wasting your time because if such an injury does happen, you know full well the name of the backup in question will be plastered all over fantasy land so fast you couldn’t avoid it if you tried.

    Unless you’re willing to spend a draft pick on him, knowing the next guy in line just for the sake of knowing is never going to help you win your fantasy league.  

    It will, however, help you come across as someone who obviously spends way too much time studying NFL rosters in the interim between fantasy seasons and if that’s your ultimate goal here, consider that mission accomplished.

3. You Withhold Information from Your Friends

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    Perhaps the easiest way to tell if your fantasy attitude has transitioned from friendly competition to all-out warfare is to analyze your communication with other players.

    Sure, even at its friendliest, competition does require fantasy owners to withhold some information from their peers, particularly who they plan to draft and when, why they prefer one player to another and other strategic choices that can affect the draft or potential trades, but there are also plenty of situations that inevitably arise over the course of a fantasy season where your status as an insecure, fun-hating prick is all but sealed if you choose to remain quiet.

    Have you ever consciously chosen not to inform an opponent he or she was starting a player on a bye week? Have you ever traded someone a player they didn’t know was injured? If a team is planning on benching its quarterback and your opponent doesn’t know, are you going to be the one to tell him?

    Obviously it’s the responsibility of every fantasy player to stay up to date on league developments and sure, it’s awfully easy to look at any of the scenarios above and just think, “So what?” If your opponent is too lazy to follow his players with even minimal effort, after all, he or she deserves to suffer the consequences of doing so even if that means losing a game or two along the way. Right?

    Wrong, and here’s why: Even though that deranged voice in your head may claim otherwise, you are not in fact an NFL team owner and this hobby you’re obsessed with, whether there’s money involved or not, is still nothing but a game.

    Do you really gain any satisfaction from winning a fantasy football game on some fluke technicality? How do you engage your friends in other games?

    If they forget to crown their king in checkers, do you insist they missed their chance? If you have a lead in Madden, do you try and run out the clock? Can you remember the last time you actually had fun? Do you even know the meaning of the word?

    Friends don’t let friends start players on a bye week.

    If you can’t grasp that concept, you shouldn’t be playing.

2. You Complain About Rules That Affect Everyone Equally

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    A certain level of compromise is necessary for any fantasy league to function, and sometimes that means consenting to rules you may not necessarily agree with.

    Some leagues start a defensive player rather than just a team defense, for example. Others do not.

    Some leagues issue payouts for scoring the most points, or for winning a loser’s bracket. Others do not.

    Whatever settings your league happens to settle on, however, once they’re set, they’re set, and if you really oppose them so passionately you can’t help but continue to whine about them even after the decisions are made, it might be time to just find yourself a new league altogether.

    This isn’t Congress we’re talking about here. Your fantasy league isn’t trying to solve the mortgage crisis or to rewrite the tax code. It’s fantasy football for crying out loud. It’s a couple of numbers on a computer screen. Get over it.

    That’s not to say everyone has to agree with every rule or that any suggestion to improve your league should ever go unvoiced.

    But it is to say that if you’re still bitter about rules that provide no individual an advantage or disadvantage under any circumstances even after the time for debate has passed, you’re obviously missing the point and would probably find something to complain about no matter what settings your league happens to enforce.

    This season, it’s time to take your commissioner off speed dial and just go with the flow.

    You might even end up actually enjoying yourself for once, who knows?

1. You Catch Yourself Rooting Against Your Favorite Real-Life Team

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    If the NFL were a religion (it isn’t, though sometimes it can be tough to tell the difference) this would be its cardinal sin.

    There’s always a conflict of interest whenever the NFL team you root for here in the real world goes up against a team that features one of your fantasy players, and how you respond to that dilemma says more about your relationship to fantasy football than anything else.

    Let’s assume you’re a Saints fan, for example, you have Cam Newton on your fantasy team and you’re watching New Orleans play the Carolina Panthers this September 16 (tickets on sale here). What’s going on in the back of your mind as you watch that game?

    Obviously the ideal scenario would be for Newton to have a fantastic performance, earn you a truckload of fantasy points but still lose the game, but what happens when it’s a three-point game and the Panthers are on the 1-yard line preparing to score what just may be the game’s deciding touchdown?

    Do you really want the Saints to stop them? Or are you secretly hoping Cam coasts right in for six so you can rub it in to your fantasy opponent that week, even if doing so means watching your beloved Saints go down in flames as a result?

    Fantasy football will always take a backseat to the amazing real-life competition that is the NFL, which doesn’t care how many yards you gain or touchdowns you score just whether you win or lose.

    Football is a team sport—the ultimate team sport, in fact—but its fantasy version celebrates only the individual. Fantasy football is fun. It’s amusing.

    But it’s not what really matters, it’s not why the games are played and, unless the outcome has no consequence for the actual NFL team you follow, it’s not why you should be cheering.

    If your fantasy team is more important to you than your NFL team of choice, you haven’t just misunderstood the role fantasy football was intended to play, you’ve blatantly dishonored the very sport you claim to love.

    Maybe you’ll think about that the next time you find yourself crosschecking wide receiver rankings across five different fantasy websites at 2 a.m. on a weeknight in the middle of March.

    Then again, if you really are the kind of player to whom these warning signs apply, maybe you won’t.

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