Armchair owners exert power on autumn’s fantasy gridirons

September means the start of many things for us students. We go back to hitting the books, trying to add classes and cramming for tests we should have prepared for. One thing is on the minds of millions of Americans, though, and it challenges us and asks us to make the hard decisions. Some say it transcends even life itself.

This is the time when millions of average Americans return to the jobs they were born to do; the jobs many of us don’t get paid for, yet spend countless hours researching each week.

The job that causes many of us men to fail tests and lose girlfriends — simultaneously. Fantasy football is upon us and the fate of many a gridiron legend rests in the palms of our hands!

The power associated with being the owner of a fantasy football team is, essentially, absolute. You are the judge, jury and executioner. You call the shots. The success of your team relies on your decisions alone.

In this game, you are the commander-in-chief and your players are armies who do your bidding. Who gives a hoot about health care reform when there are bigger fish to fry? Deciding whether to start Tom Brady or Drew Brees are the decisions that really matter to us.

According to ESPN, “27 million players play fantasy football” and they “spend an average of nine hours a week” honing their craft. That’s a lot of time to spend poring over statistics and projections, yet so many people balk at it because they think it is childish.

While scouring the Internet, I came across a random 2006 article from the school newspaper at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Mentioning the boom in fantasy sports among college students, the article quoted an Emory student who was against fantasy football.

According to then-senior Ankoor Shah, “I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s OK for my little 11-year-old brother to play it, but not college students. People could be doing better things. Go to the library — something, anything else. And why are guys playing fantasy football anyway? Be a man and play real football.”

For a student who was studying pre-med, Shah was rather misinformed. According to WorldFantasyGames.com, fantasy players are characteristically educated, 86 percent own their home and “71 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher”.

Besides those reasons, how about the fact that it is just a fun thing to do to pass the time? Most of us will never play professional sports, or feel the weight of a team rest on our shoulders. Now we can.

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are now emotions felt by the average overweight American male. The nail-biting suspense of seeing one of our players haul in a 25-yard touchdown pass or push through the opposition’s defense to score is powerful. It is almost like a drug.

During the 2008 presidential election, ESPN commentator Rick Reilly got to meet with Barack Obama and discuss a little fantasy football. In fact, according to Reilly, Obama was the only candidate who expressed interest in teaming up and making picks for a week.

It was a bit of a social experiment to see how a possible leader of the free world handled the important choices a fantasy team owner faced. And handle them he did. Obama’s picks for the particular week — New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis — tore it up.

“You think we’re just messing around?” Obama said to Reilly. Not at all, Mr. President.

If fantasy football is good enough for the president of the United States to research then, damn it, it is good enough for me. So here’s to all the armchair owners and wishful quarterbacks out there. Now help a brother out — who should I start this week, Steve Slaton or Frank Gore?

Gerry Wachovsky is a graduate student and a columnist for the Daily 49er.


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