Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Football First

18 weeks to go. 128 days, 10 hours until the sport I love most returns. Are you ready for some football? I know I am. It's unfortunate that my favorite sport is also the shortest with the longest off-season. For seven months out of the year, I suffer from NFD – No Football Depression. Yes, I made that up. It's a thing. I watch, though. Every day I check the transactions, watching to see what moves teams will make, who they will trade, surprise cuts, contract extensions, how new players will fit with the scheme and the other players. But, it's never enough. It doesn't compare to the days I get to sit at my local Buffalo Wild Wings, my neck hurting from whipping my head around as I attempt to watch every player on my fantasy team on every play. Getting together with my friends to draft our teams, engage in smack talk, getting worked up because someone drafted my guy the pick before me, these are the things I love.

Now, I love hockey. My Blackhawks just defeated the St. Louis Blues in six games to advance to the Western Conference Semi-Finals. And I got to be there for their shutout in Game 3. They wait to take on either the Minnesota Wild (yes, please!) or the Colorado Avalanche (please, no.) And I will watch. I will scream if they win and I will shed tears if they lose. I am a Blackhawk.

As much as I say I don't, I love baseball, too. Remembering when I was a kid and my dad and I would go to (old) Comiskey Park to watch my White Sox are some of my greatest memories. Seeing Frank Thomas and Tim Raines and Robin Ventura play. That feeling of stepping out into the stadium and getting that feeling when you see the size and grandeur of the field below. Getting to watch the last game of my all-time favorite baseball player, Carlton Fisk. With memories like that, how could I not love it?

But I found something new three years ago. As many have in recent years, I watched The League on TV. I had always thought about trying fantasy football, but never made an attempt. And I was sure none of my friends would be interested, so I would have to join a league with people I didn't know. But, one night, I made a general announcement as we were talking about the show. I simply said I'd always wanted to try fantasy football. Suddenly, three of my friends told me that they wanted in! I was surprised, to say the least. But, I ran with it. I started the league that night and within two days, there were ten of us. And we all found something amazing. Our love for football could be turned into a competition amongst highly competitive friends.

I play in every major American fantasy sport. Football, hockey, baseball and basketball. I have two teams in both baseball and basketball and they are part of two 4-sport leagues. I am involved in three hockey leagues, two of which are in those same 4-sports. Football. In total, including two for the aforementioned leagues, I participate in eight football leagues and plan to join at least four more before the season starts. The current eight are all rollover leagues, dynasty or redraft, that will have most, if not all of the same managers from the previous year.

So, why the discrepancy? I love hockey and baseball, so why not join more of those leagues? Strangely enough, it's because their season's are too long. I know, I complain about football being too short, but won't join longer leagues. It doesn't make sense until you take the feeling each gives you into account. It's the anticipation. Hockey, baseball and basketball all have extended season, ranging for a majority of the year. They play either every day, in the case of baseball, or multiple times a week for hockey and basketball. It drags. I'm just switching out players because I have an open slot and need someone to play. If they suck today, they can make it up tomorrow or later in the week. There is still time to make it right.

In football, you get one chance. Each week, you play once. For the few days before the Thursday night game, I become a neurotic mess. Talking to myself, reading every report on each guy, second-guessing every move I make. It's tense and it's intense. And on Sundays, as I sit at B-Dubs with a few friends to watch the games, I rarely blink. I stand up and yell in the middle of a restaurant when a WR I have makes a catch. I slam my head against the table when a RB fumbles the ball. I make sarcastic comments about my own players and loudly proclaim how much Russell Wilson sucks each week. You might think that this doesn't sound fun. Or healthy. But I love it. I love the anticipation of the week to come and the payoff when you eek out a victory by a single catch in garbage time. I love the satisfaction I get when my sleeper pick goes off week after week. I love talking to the management of B-Dubs, who all love us, about their own fantasy teams, comparing players and complaining about the same teams.

I've always loved the Chicago Bears. Good or bad (mostly bad,) they are my team. But fantasy has made me a fan of football. All of it, every team, every week, every game, every down. I can't get enough. It makes my adrenaline surge and my blood boil. It brings out my competitiveness and humor. It gives me something to work toward, something to focus on, something to level me out. I love football, even if sometimes it doesn't love me back.