The guy who chose Devin Hester with his first pick in our draft is undefeated in my league. That shouldn't happen, albeit only the beginning of week four.
This post will not be a personal rant about my team or my league, but this baffling truth lies at the root of my larger point: fantasy football is for masochists.
Win or lose, playing fantasy football can drive you insane. Whether you are the epitome of a ranking slave, or you play your team close to the chest and always stick with your gut, you are gambling. More than likely, you are gambling poorly.
Mass amounts of people weekly spend hours contemplating individual match-ups. Anyone who plays fantasy football knows; a single change in the starting lineup can make or break any team during any given week. The problem is that even if there is a right answer, there will usually be more than one.
One may bench a player that out-performs his replacement, but perhaps another substitution positively outweighs that initial subtraction. Maybe a regular starter gets injured in the first quarter, costing his Fantasy General Manager three plus quarters of points. If a premier offensive player is playing against his FGM's defense, should that FGM cast his/her luck into both pots, or swap out whichever spot is more likely to disappoint? What of waivers, free agents, sleepers, individual on-the-field match-ups and fantasy positional match-ups?
FGMs have an overwhelming amount of information to consider on a week-to-week basis. Any, or all, of it could be the difference between winning and losing. The only real "control" anyone has is how one allows that information to shape, or not to shape, the decisions that inevitably determine wins and losses.
Winning is enjoyable, but it can be just as maddening as losing. The same decisions are still there to be made each week, with the same threat: choose wrong, and suffer defeat. To tinker, or not to tinker? Altering nothing and keeping a winning lineup intact may very well be the wrong decision. Winning may even be more stressful than losing.
The only guarantee in fantasy football is that anyone playing it will be psychologically assaulted. A FGM may not be able to start his best (or favorite) players, may manage his team horribly, may get trash-talked to no end, and may not even win a single game. But isn't this why we play- to see how bad it really could be?
Odds are against anyone who chooses to play: if one joins a league, the most likely outcome is not winning that league. The fun is in the thrill- to quote Hunter S. Thompson, if you "buy the ticket, take the ride."
How bad will the defeats be? Which odd bounce or call will effectively destroy which team's season? Who will get the worst injuries, and who will end up taking their league seriously enough to get more upset than his competitors and overact to a silly game? Fantasy football is fun because it is likely to be painful.
Similar to any horror movie, haunted house, or random hilarious violent prank that we humans go to and put each other through, fantasy football is fun because of the anticipation of something horrible happening, or of the hysterical outcomes once a fantasy disaster does strike.
Despite these horrible odds, someone in each league must win. Against our better judgement, we hope and believe that our team can be the one which defies all the odds, dominates the season, and marches on to win the league championship.
The beautiful part of fantasy football is that the same menacing randomness which cripples all but one team by the end of the season, is the same randomness that graces the winner with his glory. All is fair in fantasy football, even if you draft Devin Hester in the first round.