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Began In '96

The case against fantasy football

By Matt Anderson

Why one fantasy footballer left the game, and is better off for it.

It’s that time of year: the pads are popping, ESPN is freaking out about something involving the Jets and Richmond is in a frenzy over the Redskins.

Football is back, and along with it, its ever-present companion fantasy football. I’d offer you advice on who to start and who to sit, but I don’t play fantasy football. Shocking, I know, especially since I sit smack-dab in the middle of the target demographic: sports-obsessed 20-somethings. But it’s true. I don’t, and I haven’t since high school.

There are a couple of reasons why I’m anti-fantasy football. The first is that I’m terrible at it. I admit, my lack of skill colors my opinion. Year after year, I drafted players coming off monster seasons only to watch them tear an ACL in week two. That poor judgment often extended far past the draft, where each Sunday my bench players always seemed to outscore my starters.

But games can typically still be fun, even if you’re no good at them. The overriding reason why I’ve sworn off fantasy football is because I didn’t like how it turned me against my own team.

I’m a Redskins fan, and a passionate one at that. And that passion created a real dilemma when it came time to draft my own team. I could choose all Redskins players, which is plainly a colossal mistake even if they’re halfway decent (which isn’t often). Or I could draft those I thought would have good years, which inevitably pitted me against the ‘Skins throughout the season.

During my playing days, I’d find myself saying ridiculous things like, “I want the Redskins to win, but Donovan McNabb has to throw for 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns.” More likely is that I’d get one or the other, and rooting against the Redskins — my real team — just felt wrong.

So I made a change. I sacrificed fantasy football for peace of mind, and now I enjoy the Redskins without any nagging regrets. I can flip on a random game and root for the best story or a favorite player, not the guy I begrudgingly drafted just because he puts up numbers. It’s freeing, being untethered from roster changes and proposed trades and last-minute injury reports.

The rollercoaster of rooting for just one professional football team is stressful enough. Being a fantasy football fan on top of that was one burden too many.

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Matt Anderson is Began in ‘96’s Richmond correspondent. Find more of his writing at First and Den.