Nerd Mainstreaming Vol. 1: Fantasy Football

Remember when nerds were nerds?  When anyone who was overweight, bespectacled, or understood trigonometry was insulted, beaten mercilessly, and shoved into a trash can?  Can you recall those days when a fondness for art/books/comics/computers/fantasy/games/movies/music/sci-fi/tech was what set us apart from “mainstream” society?

Yeah, well, that shit’s over.

Nerd culture has been co-opted by the masses: hipsters are wearing glasses and suspenders, your grandmother has an iPhone, and the jocks you went to high school with are fat and play fantasy games based on statistical analysis and prediction.  Yes, I speak of…

ralphwizard football


Fantasy football is D&D for jocks.  It’s a stock-market type betting system, with Matt Forte and RG3 replacing Bank of America and IBM.  It connects fans of football to the NFL in the same way that your weekly game in a friend’s basement connected you to the works of (insert favorite fantasy writer).  The creative aspects of character building and plot development have been replaced with trash-talking and pun-laden team naming, and both games tend to spawn their own set of homebrew rules.  There’s even a Wizards of the Coast-esque overlord agency: the Fantasy Sports Trade Agency.  Fantasy football and dice-based RPGs vary in one central aspect, however:

Fantasy Football is endemic.

Estimates for 2012: 35 million players creating a billion-dollar industry.  According to the Huffington Post, fantasy football will cost employers $6.5 billion in lost work-hours this year.  Of course, this is based on their assumption that each fantasy football-playing employee will only cost them only one work-hour per week; trust me, this is a low estimate.  Any truly committed fantasy football player with a desk job probably spends an hour EVERY DAY on fantasy football.  Why?  Because no one actually wants to do work at work.  Still, how can someone spend so much time on fantasy football?

It’s easy: setting your roster, checking your player/team matchups, reading the weekly player rankings, scouring the injury report, hitting the waiver wire, sending out trade feelers, posting on the message boards, and silently lamenting the collapse of your once-great team.  But the entire week is nothing more than a preparation for game day, a ritualistic second-guessing process in which the fantasy football manager rethinks all previous decisions made throughout the season in the unforgiving light of hindsight.

Fantasy football is based upon foresight: the idea that you, the manager, are making decisions based upon a player’s predicted performance in a game.  This prediction can be based on any number of factors: the player’s performance in previous games, the quality of the defense that the player is going up against, the player’s value increasing/decreasing because of a perceived injury, the player receiving more “touches” and becoming more/less involved in the team’s offense.  The manager also has to take into account computer-based predictive models that forecast a player’s expected points, as well as weekly “rankings”, created by so-called fantasy football experts who list the players at each position based upon their qualified (?) opinion.

What it all boils down to is that fantasy football is a way to put an extremely excessive amount of time, thought, and energy into something that many people would find boring, confusing, or pointless.  It is a way to delve deeply into the statistical intricacies of a sport, where most barely scratch the surface.  It is a weekly grind that can culminate it exhilarating wins or crushing losses.  It is a campaign to destroy friends, co-workers, and total strangers on a fictitious battleground of hypothetical conflict, culminating with one warrior rising victorious from the ashes of the season, crowned as the champion of guessing-who-is-going-to-do-good-more-often-than-everyone-else.  And, most of all…

…It will be a damned shame if I don’t make the playoffs.