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Fantasy Football: The First Online Social Network

My buddy Hoss calls fantasy football Dungeons and Dragons. “I’ll trade you my warlock for two of your sorcerers!” He often jokes in a high-pitched voice when the subject comes up. To him: Fantasy football is a time-sucking annual geek party that rears its nerdy head every fall. He just doesn’t get it!

The fantasy football haters might argue, that at best, we are pseudo-fans. Just the other day Texans’ running back Arian Foster tweeted about his injury, “4 those sincerely concerned, I’m doing ok & plan 2 B back by opening day. 4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick!”


I would think a little gratitude wouldn’t be too much to ask for honoring you with the top pick in my draft! (How dare you!)

Sure it brings in fringe fans! But it also gives the fans of crappy teams something to root for late in the season when their perennially pathetic teams are phoning it in and making plans on whether to hold out for training camp next year. Before fantasy football, December Sundays in Detroit were meant for Christmas shopping, shoveling snow, or cleaning out the garage; they certainly weren’t for watching the Lions get their arses handed to them by the Vikings thus securing next year’s number one pick!

Excuse the rant – that’s not my point anyway! My point is… there’s something Arian Foster and my hater-friend don’t get. There’s a reason why fantasy football is so important to Americans and it has very little to do with football - WE’RE TALKING MAJOR SOCIALLY SIGNIFICANT THINGS HERE!

Do you have any idea how many women play fantasy football? The answer is A LOT! I looked it up; according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, thirty million people played fantasy football in 2009. That is nearly the entire population of the state of California and that was two years ago! Depending on who you believe, anywhere from 12% to 25% are women. That means between 3-7 million women duke it out with the boys on a weekly basis.

Think about that for a minute!

That’s Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs every Sunday – a kind of battle of the sexes intertwined around America’s most testosterone-driven game. A weekly tug-of-war with women winning their fare share and talking trash to the guys who find it hard to swallow that ‘they were outwitted by a girl.’ The only question; Will he pull the… ‘she was lucky’ card. (And boy o’ boy watch the message board explode if he does!)

I remember when my good friend Cara won the championship in her first year! (Oooh! How that rankled a few of the guys!) Another dear friend of mine, Suzanne, had Tom Brady in his record setting year of 2007. She kicked butt all season long. I’m sure it was a point of contention, because unlike Cara, she wasn’t much of a football fan and only did it to be part of the office circle! (Now she’s got her pink Chargers shirt and knows the names of the players! That’s a new fan born!)

My favorite situation though is the old spouse vs. spouse head to head matchup, the week when husband and wife face each other, especially with something on the line late in the season. Would love to be a fly on the wall listening to their conversations, especially if the hubby gets the beat-down from the old lady. (Oh that would be priceless!)

Fantasy Football has made Sundays a truly co-ed experience. Now, I’m not trying to say women weren’t fans before fantasy football, I’m just saying it’s been a game changer; the desire to participate and be part of the group has brought a lot of women into the tent and made them fans. It’s a fun game and now more than ever, women are playing and playing well. That’s pretty special:


The most significant phenomenon fantasy football has done in my life and I’m sure countless others is:

It’s helped keep friendships alive:

I’m 42 years old. Many of the people I play fantasy football with I’ve known since college. As many of us know, after twenty years, even good friends have a way of growing apart. Many of us live in different cities and different states. As families have sprouted up and commitments have grown, it’s become very easy go long periods of time without talking to the old buds, but then there’s fantasy football to the rescue every year – bringing us back.

The fantasy football draft is one of the most sacred times of the year – not just because we get to choose our teams. I know that, for a couple of hours each year, the whole gang is online together – picking our players, typing away in the chat room, shooting the bull on the phone while we await our turns. It’s a reconnection our busy lives and the great distances between us rarely afford – and it doesn’t end there.

Over the course of the year, there’s message board smack talk, the ‘let’s get it on’ texts before our head to head matchups, and the granddaddy of it all, the victory phone call after securing the win! It’s not just that it gives us a reason to interact, but it gives us motivation to actually do it. How many times do we say to ourselves, I need to give this or that friend a call, but fail to do it because we’re too busy, or too something, to make the effort. It’s funny how a big victory over an old buddy can break down that barrier lickety-split!

More than anything fantasy football has become an important social element in our society – a yearly re-birth of friendships now woven into the fabric of our culture – dominating our Sundays and bringing us all together.

 So, as Arian Foster blasts the fantasy football community for being concerned about his injury… as my buddy Hoss cackles at the ‘geeky-ness’ of it all… keep in mind all the good things that fantasy football has brought us.

Clarence the angel told George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, “No man (or woman) is a failure who has friends.”

Fantasy football is not just a game anymore.

It’s a tie that binds friends together! And that’s a pretty cool thing if you ask me.



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