This looks like a post about Fantasy Sports, but it’s really about creating events and memories.
This weekend we will be carrying out the draft for our Fantasy NFL (that’s American Football to anyone out there who doesn’t know and doesn’t mind me patronising them for a moment). It’s a big deal. Both my sons, friends of theirs, friends of ours, our neighbour – 10 people of different locations, backgrounds and ages, all coming together for a couple of hours to take part in an event that will then start 17 weeks of competition and months or years of stories.
I’m starting to understand the audience I have on this blog, and I don’t expect most readers will be very concerned with the mechanics. For those who are, it’s a 10-team head-to-head league (non-PPR) using ESPN standard rules and with three keepers in a snake draft, 13-week regular season then 2 rounds of 2-week games for the playoffs. (If I knew how to do footnotes, I’d have stuck that last sentence down there.)
But that’s not what I’m writing about – in fact, I’ve started a second blog specifically for posts on Fantasy Sports at 10TeamRoto – obviously, I’d be more than happy if anyone wants to follow me there too.
No, what I’m writing about here is why this matters. It’s rare enough to get an event that bring people together, let alone one that has an annual repetition and then becomes a focus of interaction. From tomorrow, the first time any of us sees another member of the league, it’s the first thing we’ll talk about – who had a good week, who had a bad week, who got lucky, who we’re going to start next week, what trades are going through, who’s available to pick up on waivers.
Right now, we’re all finalising our strategies for tomorrow – as I write this we are a little over 22 hours away from the start of the draft, so we’re confirming who we’re keeping from last year and figuring out what that means for who we pick where. Some people will have done lots of research, others will be coming in fairly cold. One player is new to the league this year, taking over a team from someone who dropped out, but rather than take advantage my son’s already given him some pointers on how to tackle his first draft – because it’s not about crushing the opposition, it’s about enjoying a shared experience.
Of course, we’re all going in intending to win and, as the defending champion (thank you very much) I’ve got high expectations. But if I don’t win, I won’t sulk about it, or get depressed or angry. But I will have an excuse – I don’t know what it is yet, but something will happen during the season that I’ll be able to pin the loss on, and that will become my story for the 8 months between the end of this season and next year’s draft.
There is advice aplenty for Fantasy NFL. On holiday in California last year, I counted 24 different magazines on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, all offering advice for the coming fantasy season. There’s money to be made, not just from winning some leagues (we don’t – our league is just for fun) but also from writing and broadcasting about it.
One broadcaster I follow is ESPN’s Matthew Berry, also known as “The Talented Mr Roto”. A few years ago he wrote a book, “Fantasy Life”, which dug into the community elements – how leagues have formed, how their traditions have been created, how people travel hundreds of miles once a year to meet their league-mates for the draft, the prizes for winners and bizarre forfeits for losers (tattoos seem popular).
And though our league doesn’t got to any extremes, and we can’t even get everyone to a single location for the draft, we’re following Matthew Berry’s #1 rule: It’s Supposed To Be Fun. And that’s what we’ll have – Fun. One person will win the season, and the rest won’t, but we’ll all have a story to tell.
Because we are creating narratives, and we all like a good story.