Matt brings us this month’s post. For more explanation of this month’s theme, “millennials in thirty things,” check out this post.

I had a fantasy growing up—a fantasy of becoming a football star. I dreamed of making game-winning throws and leading a team to victory against the dastardly Dallas Cowboys. I pictured a Remember the Titans-like scenario, where I would lead my team to overcome great adversity with teamwork and friendship, and on top of that prove that we were the greatest collection of athletes in the world.

This was never a serious fantasy. One problem was that I had never played football. My general distaste for contact of any kind was enough to fling that dream under the wheel of the reality bus. But I still enjoyed thinking about it. I had an undersized Detroit Lions football, which I would play with alone in the backyard for hours in the fall.   No, I didn’t play with kids from school or even in the neighborhood; I just played alone. I would heave the ball high in the air, run under it, and practice my spectacular downfield diving catches. I would take my own handoff and juke around leaf piles before lunging for the first down with three imaginary defenders riding on my back. I was the backup quarterback who had to come in unexpectedly because the starter (me) had to leave with a serious injury. The sky would get dark and the snow would start to fall, and I would stay out there, the master of my greatest fantasy.

I was thirteen when my dad first introduced me to fantasy football. Already a fanatical follower of regular football, fantasy had a great appeal to me. I could, with eleven other people, pretend to be an NFL team owner, drafting players, choosing starters, and putting forth my best lineups to defeat other teams in head to head matchups. Points were based on how well the real players did statistically. Points would be given for yardage and points scored, and turnovers and points allowed would lead to negative points. The goal was to create the most dynamic statistical team.

We are in an age of living out fantasies. We write down our fantasies, turning them into books or blogs or fan fictions to keep them alive. We play video games, acting as a war hero or a savior or a rescuer of credulous princesses. We envision making the perfect decisions, living an amazing story, realizing a perfect ending. Fantasy football is no different. We want to create the perfect team to complete the perfect season, all culminating in the perfect championship victory.

Our generation is at the age where we are attempting to come to terms with our own mediocrity. We have been brought up in a progressive, freethinking culture that says we can be whatever we want to be and with hard work become successful. This is, as we are starting to find out, quite untrue. And with today’s media, everything becomes a reminder of this. I wished I could be a football star, and younger, less educated men are realizing my fantasy. The least I should be able to do is use them to catalyze my own fantasy success.

Fantasies are simple. There are no ethics, because we make the rules. We decide how points are scored. We decide who plays. We draft players like Ray Rice because domestic abuse does not exist in a fantasy. Here, stats reign. The real world is messy and undefined and littered with human failings and disappointments. In fantasy football every year is a clean slate. Every game contains the simple question, “who will produce more?” That’s it. It’s perfect. It’s understandable, and we live for it. And while we know we will never be stars on our own, maybe every once in a while we can fantasize about being great.

Fantasy football isn’t practical. It isn’t realistic or especially constructive or useful. But so many of us play it. It’s the fantasy fulfilled for so many sports fans, and I think it’s a precise way to define us.

I’m twenty-five now, and I still play fantasy football. Six years ago Laura and I started a league with some guys from my dorm, and we have continued ever since. Since then people have moved away, changed jobs, and faced difficulties, but every year we get back together to engage in another fantasy season together, and it’s enough.

2 Comments

  1. Elaine Schnabel

    Ah, the wheels of the reality bus. They crush so many dreams. Well written.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    I always thought fantasy football was a video game…

    Reply

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