Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fantasy football: attracting NFL fans every day


Baseball may retain the moniker of "America's Pastime," but no civilized American can argue that it's this country's most popular sports league.

That honor firmly belongs to the National Football League, which will take center stage Thursday night when the Super Bowl-champion New York "Football" Giants take on the Washington Redskins.

I, for one, will remain more focused on baseball and college football for the next few months. Why? Because the end of a season -- baseball's -- is always more thrilling than the beginning of one, and I enjoy the college-football season more than the NFL's (at least until the bowls). Every games means so much more.

That doesn't mean, however, that I won't pay attention to nearly every NFL game each week, watching bits and pieces of several -- some from home, some from congested bars -- and keeping track of them all online.

And I hate to admit this, but fantasy football is a big reason.

Before I enter Fantasy Land, let me say this: I consider myself a sports nut. Translation -- over the years, I've developed a penchant for watching games that mean absolutely nothing to me just for the sheer excitement of the action, the drama of the final minutes. I consider myself rare in this aspect.

Being from Michigan, am I a huge Detroit Lions fan? No. I watch them when I can -- and bare with their losing ways -- but I'm no die-hard, blue-paint-wearing idiot (seriously, who would wear paint for the Lions?). But you can find me watching the end of a close Denver-Oakland game on a random Sunday evening. That's just the Sports Guy in me coming out.

But now, my interest in the NFL is headed to another level. For the first time, I am in two fantasy football money leagues this season. In one, I'm a joint owner. The other team is solely under my direction. That means checking the NFL news every day to see who's hurt, who's available and who's in their coach's doghouse. It's a bit time-consuming, but addictive as well.

And it's just another reason to watch the NFL on Sundays, Mondays and sometimes Thursdays. Normally, I might tune in -- on a mundane Thursday night -- to the final quarter of a Giants-Redskins season-opener. That is, of course, if the game is close. But with Washington tight end Chris Cooley on both my fantasy teams, I'm sure I'll watch more than a quarter this Thursday.

Call me a fantasy nerd. That, I guess, is what I'm becoming. Now, granted, I'm not even close to the upper echelon of fantasy players, who, among other things, keep track of Denver's fourth-string running back situation. Heck, I can't name the Broncos' second R.B. But random games mean even more to me now.

Not only will I hope for another epic Colts-Patriots game this season. I'll hope for a great performance from Tom Brady, whom I drafted No. 6 -- I know, risky pick -- ahead of the Colts' Joseph Addai in my solo league.

Of course, fantasy football also creates conflicts in a fan's head. For instance, my hometown Lions take on Jacksonville on Nov. 9. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew is on my joint team. What if it's a late-game situation and the Lions need a defensive stop, but I desperately need rushing yards from Drew?

Issues, issues.

I like to think that I'm still more of a football fan than a fantasy football nut, but I won't be able to determine this for sure until well into the season. It should be a revealing experience for me.

And I'm sure millions of other NFL fans experience similar conundrums. But no one's hopping off the fantasy bus. It's simply too intoxicating. Too easy to get hooked on.

To add to this, running a team doesn't take much time. Rosters are small and there's only one slate of games a week. Additionally, there's so much information available, you don't have to dig to find out who's probable, who's questionable, which running back's carries will decrease and which wide receiver has a bad rapport with his coach.

It's an easy game to play, and -- I'm hoping -- not that tough of a game to win (I'll let you know in four months).

I'm just glad I've resisted the fantasy baseball urge, and college football fantasy games are few and far between (and, with thousands of unknown players, don't interest me).

So for now I'll focus on the baseball playoff race and the beginning of the Rich Rodriguez era in Ann Arbor.

But simultaneously, I'll be keeping my eye on the number of carries the Broncos' Selvin Young, one of my RBs, gets.

Because if they dwindle, I might need to learn the name of that second-string guy out in the Rockies.


Sportsattitude said...

Jake, fantasy football is the best because the games are relatively contained within a certain time frame and you can get into a rhythm in following the sport and making your team better as the year goes on. Been in it a long time now. I tried fantasy baseball two seasons awhile back and each year my head fell off my shoulders. Never again. I respect those who play it because they've figured out how to have TWO lives. Fantasy hockey I played two seasons recently but quite frankly I'm so into the other sports I couldn't do it justice and won't again...and like fantasy basketball, the games and injuries are relentless. Fantasy basketball I've played three years and even though it's really, really hard to stay on top of everything, if you're a hoop junkie it can be done. I'm starting to warm up to the NBA again so I think I'll do it again this year. Good luck and let us all know how the teams are doin'!

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