Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fantasy Football Island

Today I’d like to provide some basic info about Fantasy Football (“FF”).  Many of you may have a significant other, friends and/or co-workers who have become fanatical about FF, investing many hours (and possibly dollars) into an activity that to you seems silly, a waste of time and effort, and maybe a bit childish.  All of that is true.  But the same could be said of a lot of things.  Like blogging.  But millions of people—and I do mean millions—are doing it, and it is a big business.  There are Web sites, magazines and TV shows devoted to the topic.

Here in Naptime Huddle, I will NOT be providing FF advice, for two reasons.  One, if you’re new to football, you probably don’t want to dive into the FF pool just yet and such posts wouldn’t be useful to you.  Second, and most importantly, I suck at FF.  I’m never last in a league, but I don’t really win all that often either.  I do, however, want to explain how FF works so you don’t feel like you have to leave the room or pretend to be busy doing something else when it comes up in conversation. 

Before the NFL season starts, a group of friends/co-workers/complete strangers that is doing FF together (called a “league”) will get together to hold their draft.  This can be done in person, over the phone, online, via smoke signals.  Whatever the method, it can take one or two hours (if they’re smart and use a timed online service), or eight to ten hours if there’s no time limit for each pick, lots of potty breaks, whining, etc.  Team “owners” will take turns in some predetermined order to select players for their team. The draft order will likely be random if it’s a new league, and usually based on last season’s finish—worst going first—if it’s not new.  Players drafted must currently be playing in the NFL.  In most leagues, you don’t pick individual defensive players, just the defense for a particular NFL team (some leagues do pick individual players for defense, though, and their drafts are longer as a result).     

Each week during the regular season, team owners face off in a straight-up points battle.  A team’s players don’t need to be on the same team in real life, and it doesn’t matter if a player’s team wins its game on Sunday.  A FF team owner gets points based on the statistics of each player on his or her team that week.  Therefore, what matters is a player’s individual performance.  For example, how many yards a running back runs, how many touchdowns a quarterback throws, or how many field goals a kicker kicks.  The player’s team could get slaughtered 47-0, but if an owner’s running back rushes for 90 yards, he or she gets 9 points (at least in a typical scoring system; leagues can usually adjust how points are awarded for particular stats).

As the NFL’s regular season winds down, FF leagues enter their “playoffs”.  This will usually take place during the last three weeks of the season, but that depends on two factors.  One, how many teams the league decides will make the playoffs; two, whether or not the league decides that it’s “championship” will be played during the last week of the NFL season.  The second point sometimes causes controversy for a league.  It may sound crazy, but the outcome of games in the last week of the NFL season may not matter to some NFL teams.  It may be that a team knows it will be in the playoffs.  Or, at the other extreme, a team may be so far out of the running for the playoffs that it doesn’t matter if it wins in that last week.  In either case, the team may decide not to play its starters because they don’t want to risk injury to its most valuable players.  Therefore, if you are playing for the championship in your FF league, you may be at a disadvantage because your quarterback’s team decided to bench him.

So, being that this is “Fantasy” Football, what’s the point?  Well, for some leagues, it may be a big pot of money for the winner.  For those leagues and the rest, though, it’s a way to feel connected to the game.  It provides an incentive to watch more games, or at least be interested in players other than those on your home team, or another team you’ve sworn allegiance to.  Plus, it may be your best way to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family.  It can be exasperating, for sure, but also fun.

I hope this help give you an adequate understanding of FF so you don’t feel left out in a FF crowd, or maybe it even piqued your interest in FF.  But if you do decide to try your hand in FF, please don’t do it for money.  I don’t endorse anything that might make you hate football and, consequently, stop reading my blog!

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