posted on Aug, 17 2012 @ 12:10 AM
Fantasy Football, a relatively unheard of concept at the time, was gaining popularity among sports geeks who spent all day watching ESPN and espn2
(remember the deuce?) and listening to whatever local/national sports radio shows one was lucky enough to catch.
I, being among those geeks took naturally to the stat-based competitive ultra-fandom necessary for success. The NFL was different then. You didn't
see many players miss a significant number of snaps unless they were "seeing stars" or obviously injured otherwise.
On top of the "toughness" that players of that era displayed, less teams used the now famous "running back by committee", so if a star went down,
there were usually viable options up and down NFL rosters. Starters had staying power. Guys like Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders were awesome, but
Terry Allen, Terrell Davis and Ricky Watters were the guys who won you your league. It benefited the geek who went out and purchased stat guides and
paid enough attention to schedules to anticipate hot seasons.
Enter 2002 or what I call the Priest Holmes/LaDainian Tomlinson Era. Fantasy Football had hit the mainstream, and the increase in internet access
opened up a whole slew of new owners. Gone were the days of Barry, Emmitt and company, but the talent level around the league certainly did not take a
hit. The NFL knew its biggest offensive stars were the darling QBs and diva WRs of this era, so several rule changes were made to increase safety and
reduce injuries. The NFL is a business, first and foremost. When injury risks are a real threat, it is imperative for a team who desires success to
have capable backups. The more capable and/or tenured (The players are also part of a Union) the more expensive the contract.
The game was going through an evolution, and fantasy owners needed to adjust if they were to succeed. As impressive as Holmes and Tomlinson were, the
WR crop was chock full of stars, and more attention was being paid to the passing game than ever before. In the meantime, companies like Yahoo! and
ESPN were cashing in on the fantasy football madness. Easy access to team organization and stat spreadsheets almost makes it a waste of time to try
and do everything manually without a league manager site.
The NFL and Las Vegas bookies have had a strange relationship in the past. No major sport is as open about the gambling involved as the NFL is. Even
broadcast announcers and/or radio announcers will mention the point spread in close games. Super Bowls in particular draw lots of wagers, even from
people who haven't paid attention all year. Football = gambling. Fantasy football is gambling on gambling. It's the next step of gambling, where
chaos benefits the house, and hurts the once proud geek. Just as a good swindle should.
Enter today's NFL with even more rule changes and safety measures, and yet... more players are missing significant periods of time due to injury or
post-concussion symptoms. I'm not bloodthirsty. I don't want anyone to get hurt playing sports. But, I feel like all this prissy "safe" football
is another evolution in the game. This time though, I refuse to adjust. I will no longer be crossing my fingers over a waiver claim for the only
remaining starting RB once injuries take their toll. Oh, that's another thing. All the fantasy websites will have a feature article on a breakout
player who isn't owned in many leagues. What the hell? That's MY job to research who is performing well and/or earning a job. That's my reward for
being a fan of the sport and buying the Sunday Ticket package. Now, every website has so-and-so's huge picture on the main page for Pete's sake!
He's not a sleeper if there's a section called Sleeper Pickups - Who To Add I refuse to stress myself out all week about a play that could have
been ruled a touchdown but wasn't. I refuse to root for a kicker on Monday Night. I refuse to deal with sore winners talking trash all week asking me
why I didn't start a certain player, or accept a ridiculous trade proposal. 15 years, 4 trophies, 3 2nd place finishes. That's good enough for me.
Maybe I'm just bitter that my geeky obsession for sports statistics is no longer an advantage in an avenue for gambling. Maybe I just know when to
fold 'em. To those of you playing this year, may you dodge the injury bug and play the waiver wire well. Me? I'll just go back to appreciating the
sport and the effort of ALL players, instead of hating most of them, including my roster.