Over the last several years, I have said the following things on multiple occasions:
“No matter what I do, nothing seems to matter.” “I make what I think are good decisions, but they always blow up in my face.”
“I don’t even know why I do this to myself.”
“Whenever I have to guess between one or the other, I’m always wrong.”
“I can’t handle the pain and frustration. I’m done.”
This sounds like depression, doesn’t it? At best, cynicism. Without context, you might think this is someone talking about a relationship. Or maybe these are the ramblings of a wounded and desperate soul at the end of his rope. Perhaps even ready to end it all. And you’d get partial credit for a correct answer. But no, I’m not ready to check out just yet.
Yes, these are comments about a relationship all right – my relationship with Fantasy Football.
n I’ve been participating in Fantasy Football leagues for the last eight years. In my relationship, Fantasy Football has teased me, seduced me, taunted me, abused me – and helped me get lucky. I’ve threatened to walk away so many times no one takes me seriously anymore. I just keep coming back for more. I always seem deluded enough to think “this time will be different.” I’m not going anywhere. "Definition of Insanity"-type behavior.
Hell, I’m even the Commissioner of a league.
But the past two seasons have been even more frustrating than most. Covid has turned the world upside down; the sports world has obviously been impacted as well. And every time a star player tests positive in real life, someone’s fantasy team is going to be impacted; every time the NFL moves games around because of a large amount of Covid illnesses, someone’s fantasy league gets thrown into chaos.
Because I’m relatively new to the whole Commissioner thing, I joined a Fantasy Football Commissioners’ Group on Facebook. I’ve been trying to get insights of more experienced Commissioners to see how they are handling rules and schedule changes. But I’ve never been so fed up – no really, I’m not kidding, this was different – as I was this past season. I mean why spend hours and hours during the week studying statistics and reading columns of so-called experts only to have the same results as if I had thrown a dart at a board to make my decisions.
So in one of my more bitter moods, I decided to post a question on this Facebook page: “Why do we do this to ourselves? Why we do you play Fantasy Football?”
The answers surprised me.
The answers humbled me.
The answers inspired me. (I can feel your eyes rolling. Yes, I was inspired by posts on a page dedicated to Fantasy Football.)
Here’s a very brief sampling:
“I do it to give me even more enjoyment for a game I love.”
“I do it to connect with _________ (insert family, friends, college buddies, etc).”
“I have some friends that I never would’ve had otherwise.”
“I love digging into statistics and doing my own analysis. I love the process.”
“It helps me do something competitive during the colder months of the year.”
“It helps me keep my mind sharp.”
Notice anything missing in these comments? None of the more than 100 responses to my post talked about winning, bragging rights, the need to win to a championship. None. Not one.
Instead, all of these answers to my questions focused on the experience, the joy of the connection, the enhancement of their love for something. No one talked about results; they all talked about process.
And so, yeah, I was surprised.
I was humbled.
I was inspired.
Without even knowing what they were accomplishing, these men and women who responded reminded me of my tendency to focus on outcomes as the only measure of success; they reminded me that life is full of situations where we can do everything we can to make good decisions – do our prep work, talk with so-called experts in a certain field of study, analyze the shit out of variables – and it still may not work out.
Without even knowing that they were doing it, these men and women struck a nerve in me; they unwittingly reminded me that so many times in my life I’ve failed to enjoy the overall experience, failed to appreciate the moment because I was so focused on a particular desired outcome – and I have deemed anything other than that desired result to then be a total waste of my time. Winning. Or waste. When those are my only two options, I miss out on so much, while appreciating so little.
I know I’m not alone. You all do it, too. I’m not that special. How many times do we focus on getting the grade that we fail to learn anything? How often do travel baseball parents, or soccer moms, or dance moms get uptight about the long drives to the next event, the hotel food, the long hours of waiting all in hopes that their kids might be able to participate in that activity in college – all the while failing to fully appreciate how beautiful it is to spend those concentrated hours together? Or how beautiful their son or daughter is as a human being?
I’m reminded just how few things in Life I really can control. It’s an incredibly finite list – I can control my efforts and my attitude. That’s pretty much the entire list. And I’m reminded that in this world, there are going to be many, many, many times when I actually make a “good” decision that just doesn’t work out. But even in those times when stuff doesn’t work out the way I hoped, there’s still some joy to be found; there’s still a lesson to grow from; there’s still something to appreciate.
Maybe it’s no so crazy to see the Reality in Fantasy – maybe the crazy thing is the Fantasy of the Real World?