First a correction. A couple of weeks ago I said that I’m not a particularly competitive person, except when it comes to quizzes. This was not true, as I realised when I decided to write a post about Fantasy Sports. In that arena, I’m really competitive: not quite obsessive but not far off.
I started playing Fantasy Sports in the mid-90s, when The Daily Telegraph first published a Fantasy Football game (that’s football as in “soccer” to any one reading in the USA). You chose players from the First Division (what’s now called the Premier League) and scored points according to how well they played. In those pre-internet days, all transfers had to be done by post, and the scores were published every Wednesday in the paper (participation was free, but it tended to make you buy The Telegraph once a week).
The idea had been imported from America, where Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy NFL were well-established, dating back in one form or another to the early ’60s and taking off in the ’80s. But the mechanics by which leagues worked were always going to be difficult unless people lived close to each other, until the internet changed everything.
Despite living in the UK, my sons and I have always followed a lot of US sports, and the availability of internet resources (we use ESPN but other providers are available) means we can now join other fans from around the world in testing our knowledge and skill in Fantasy Sports.
These past few years my elder son, his friend and I have played in a Fantasy Baseball league – we don’t know the other players, they’re random dudes who signed up like us, they could be from anywhere. And we’re now entering our fourth year in a friends-only Fantasy NFL league – my sons, their friends, family friends and me – which is a lovely community thing to do, and gives us all plenty to talk, argue and reminisce about through the winter (“Remember the year Webby drafted Jay Cutler in the first round? Crazy.”).
And my boys and I even did a radio show about it last year. My younger son had a weekly NFL show on the university radio, so we all went on to talk Fantasy one week and had a lot of fun doing it. Click on the BURN FM button on the right in case you really want to listen – I’m the old guy you can hear.
We’re now coming to the end of the baseball season (my son’s leading the league, I’m chasing him down from third place – well, I can’t just let him win, can I?), and the Fantasy NFL draft is just a few weeks away. We’re going to try to get the whole league together in one place for the draft this year, which will make it even more of an event than usual.
And we have a friends Fantasy Premier League game running, and I’m in a league at work (30 players, cash prizes!), and pretty soon it will be the NBA season – I’ve won my Fantasy NBA league the past two years, despite knowing next to nothing about basketball.
I think there are going to be more posts about Fantasy Sports – I’ll be thinking about our NFL league a lot (A LOT!) between now and the draft, because it’s important to me – I want to win. Actually, I should say, “win again” – I won it last year and three years ago, and would have won it two years ago but got really unlucky in Week 15…..and I’m not over it yet, and I never hesitate to bring it up with my league mates.
But I’m not a competitive person.
Except in Fantasy Sports.
Because that matters.