Fear and Loathing in Fake Football Land
August 18, 2012 | C.D. Carter
It never stops, the fantasy chatter, even at the urinal.
I’m at the first-ever Fantasy Football Fest in Atlantic City, tweeting like a fiend, watching people who get paid to analyze make-believe football smile politely at retired NFL players who sneer at sniveling fantasy geeks gathered around at their ankles.
It was late afternoon, I had live tweeted two mock drafts and Tony Siragusa’s bemoaning the death of defense, and I was ready for a break. I inhaled a turkey sandwich and headed to the men’s room, where the fantasy talk continued unabated.
Two guys, emptying their bladders at side-by-side urinals, pondered the escalating value of fantasy’s elite tight ends.
“Gates, I think, is the best value,” said a portly man wearing a Lesean McCoy jersey.
“You’re insane,” said his friend, a Seahawks enthusiast. “Really dude. I don’t even know if I can talk to you anymore.”
It’s very serious here.
The convention center is like a flophouse, drawing in addicts like maggots to rot. The hall is slightly cleaner than a flophouse – in fact, it’s pristine – and hardly anyone is tripping on bath salts. And yes, I feel at home here. I’m an addict like the others in attendance.
Some addictions are better than others, but if you think about anything as much as these people think about average draft positions and flex spot maximization, you are an addict. A few people I talked to today laughed when I said this – that they were addicts, that I’m an addict – so it seems the idea is mostly ignored, like the horror movie’s deformed child kept in the dark, dank attic. I think it’s time to acknowledge our fantasy addictions; as long as you remain functional, it’s cool. In fact, I propose a Football Fest panel on the subject of addiction next year. It would be an intimate setting, I suspect, as start-sit strategies are discussed across the convention hall.
Participants in mock drafts conducted to the side of Fantasy Football Fest appear more troubled than the White House’s national security team awaiting word of Osama Bin Laden’s demise. Temples are rubbed, bridges of noses are massaged, and eyebrows furrow with effort as picks are made from one end of the table to the other. Mock drafters sit among crinkled papers, laptops, and empty beer cans littering their spaces. Everyone maintains their sternest poker face, even when the Jets defense is selected in the fourth round.
The selection of David Akers, however, elicits a reaction. The drafter, a middle aged man with salt-and-pepper hair, donning a too-tight personalized Giants jersey, lets out a joyous shriek upon his Akers acquisition, a sixth round pick. A nearby boy, no older than 10, shakes his head and moans. “Jesus,” he says.
One last note, if you’ll have any more of these musings.
Everyone is a pundit. This conventional hall is filled with guys who grew up in the glow of ESPN’s army of talking heads, speaking clearly and confidently in vagaries, coiffed and smiling, saying everything and nothing all at once. Fans, like TV’s chattering heads, avoid declarative statements and spit nothings. The Football Fest organizers gave fans a chance to offer on-the-spot fantasy analysis, and many jersey-wearing fantasy freak delivered their thoughts with bravado, with swagger, with cockiness meant to mask their team biases and outdated fake football knowledge. It’s OK to be wrong. We’re all wrong, far more often than we are right. Deflate your chest a little – you’re guessing like the rest of us. Spend more time informing your decisions and less time bloviating on the obvious.
The culture of expertise pervades this place. That’s not always bad – people here care deeply about fantasy football, obsessing about it because, at some level, it makes them happy. It fills a void that others fill with work or drugs or booze or sex. But if everyone is a sage, no one is. The line between pro and amateur isn’t just blurred here. It doesn’t exist.
“In my research this summer,” one convention attendee said into the microphone while organizers peppered participants with questions, “I see Doug Martin as a major sleeper. Not many people know about him.”