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Fantasy Sports can make for darker reality

Posted on October 3, 2013 by Taber Times

I’m now in full swing in the fantasy sports world in three different sports.

My Springfield Upahs team just concluded its baseball season as my team fought for third-place money on a squad that featured Cy Young-calibre pitching, but T-ball powered hitting in the Cornbelt Confederacy. Tied for third place, I lost a money finish because of an extra 163rd game to decide a playoff team in which my competitor got a home run in the extra game between the Tam Bay Rays and Texas Rangers to beat me by a half point.

My fantasy football team Dry Witten (Dallas Cowboys fans will get the reference) sits atop the Southern Alberta Football League standings with a flawless 4-0 record, getting some horseshoe luck having scored the most points of any team. And also my Hamburg Window Shoppers are ready to do battle this week with the start of the NHL season, armed with a slew of high draft picks with a concluded draft earlier this month, hopefully mirroring the mighty Phoenix rising from the ashes of a second-last finish the previous year.

Some people absolutely love fantasy sports and others despise it and I can see it quite clearly from both camps of why they feel that way.

My favourite baseball team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, having seen one of their farm teams as a five-year-old situated out of Lethbridge. My favourite NHL team has been the Pittsburgh Penguins ever since Mario Lemieux was drafted and hey, as a youngster I thought that Penguin logo was pretty cool. Ever since the days of Tony Dorsett I have been a Dallas Cowboys fan, although their years of self-inflicted mediocrity since the early 1990s has me at a love-hate portion of the relationship right now.

I’ve followed all three of these franchises semi-faithfully when time allows over the years, but what I’ve found is fantasy sports has made me follow other teams as well.

I cared less about the Kansas City Royals of the MLB, the Chicago Bears of the NFL or the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL, but I at least watch their team highlights now because I have players on my respective fantasy sports teams from each of those franchises.

Fantasy sports has given me a greater interest in the whole picture of the sporting world, as opposed to just the snap shot of my favourite teams. It has also helped maintain current friendships and have allowed me to meet new people at these drafts with a common interest.

But for all the positives it has given me, there is also a more sinister side to it that keeps people away from the game and I can see why.

Case in point: my television viewing of this past weekend’s Dallas Cowboys/San Diego Chargers NFL game.

There I was with Tony Romo as Dry Witten’s starting quarterback in which my opponent, the Fightin’ Rebels had Cowboys’ wideout Dez Bryant as one of its starters. There I was as elated as could be seeing Tony Romo toss two touchdown passes to pad the scoring for my team, only to realize in horror they were both to Dez Bryant. How can I as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys feel despair when my team scores those two touchdowns?

Short of you being a complete Homer of your favourite team at a fantasy draft (which usually spells a bottom-third-finish in a league) you are going to often find yourself going up against players from your favourite team.

So now I’m not just cheering for a win by my Cowboys, I want my Cowboys to win by Tony Romo throwing for 300 yards (you get a point for every 10 yards passing and a bonus for a 300-yard passer) and five touchdowns (four points for every touchdown thrown), none of them to his number-one receiver in Dez Bryant…pretty realistic expectations huh? How fantasy sports can warp real-life sport can get even more sinister than that. Let’s just say I’ve caught myself this past weekend hoping for some Outbreak-monkey-like virus to make its way to T.Y. Hilton’s water bottle or Victor Cruz break his toe in an overly-impassioned half-time speech, kicking over a garbage can after trailing to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Of course my heart is not that dark, just some sort of ailment that affects every single NFL player I’m playing against in a given weekend for my fantasy football team, only for that player to get miraculously healthy again for a long and productive NFL career — until I play them again in fantasy sports of course. I’m not picky, trapped under something heavy, wife giving birth to their first child which they have to attend to, a benching from a coach after missing a team meeting, zombie apocalypse although there may be  some troubles of that last scenario only lasting one week.

I’ve even caught myself chugging down Pepto Bismol, feverishly updating the stat tracker to see how my team is fairing against my opponent’s on NFL Sunday, much like I suppose stock brokers are pounding back the ulcer-medication following the stock market. I would certainly not do what I’ve read in articles where angry citizens are tweeting one of their starting running backs on their fantasy football team to take a long walk off a short pier because of a muddled injury report had that citizen starting them when they sat out a game with a lingering injury.

How dare that player not play that game, push that bone in your leg back into place and get on the field, I have a novelty trophy to win in my fantasy football league. As much as I enjoy my fantasy sports, if you ever catch me getting to that degree of absurdity, it’s time for me to get yanked back from fantasy and back into reality with my love of sport.

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