Fantasy Football, more than a game.

I didn’t play Fantasy Football until the 2008 NFL season.  I’ve seen others play Fantasy Football in the past, but it had no appeal for me.  No one told me what it was, or why I should give it a try.

I was first introduced to football by my uncle as early as when I was 5 years old in 1987.  He was a die hard Dallas Cowboys fan, so I became a die hard Cowboys fan.  We didn’t watch much football in my house other than when the Super Bowl was on TV, so I didn’t follow the actual team until I was a little bit older.  At that age, I was just a Cowboys fan without knowing much about football.

As I got older, I got more into the sport.  Especially since my neighborhood friends and I played backyard football almost every weekend.  I naturally started to watch my team play on TV.  I remember watching my team have a horrible season, and then winning the Super Bowl the next year.  I remember my team winning the Super Bowl a few more times after that.  I was hooked.  From the early 90’s until I left for the Boot Camp in 2000, I was a Dallas fan.

Unfortunately, the last few years in the 90’s, I watched less football.  It was easy not to watch as much when we didn’t actively follow the sport in my house until Super Bowl, and that the team stopped being as good as it used to be.  We did other things on Sundays or on Monday nights.  I was in my late teens, and had lots of other things on my mind.  I still wore Cowboys shirts  and Dallas jackets, but when my favorite players were gone?  I followed the team even less.

That’s what helped me get into Fantasy Football later on.  I realized that I liked players as much as the team itself.  I think back to Dallas’s Super Bowl dominance when I was young, and Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin come to mind.  I literally cannot recall another quarterback, running back, or wide receiver from that era.  I knew of great players back then like Bo Jackson, Steve Montana, Jerry Rice and others only because they were mentioned on TV outside of the season or were super stars.

In the late 90’s, I went through the sports motions.  I was a Cowboy’s fan in name only.  I wore the apparel, and told people that was my team, but didn’t watch them play.  I left for boot camp in 2000 and that pretty much put an end to football in general.

When I was in the military for four years, I never had cable.  We didn’t watch football on TV or in the barracks.  I also deployed a lot.  I probably watched a Super Bowl or two on base as a big function, but only for the beer and pizza.  At this time, I stopped even being a Cowboy’s fan.  I didn’t watch any sports at all.

I remember seeing my fellow platoon mates in the barracks playing fantasy football from 2000-2004 by using giant charts with names written in.  I didn’t know what was going on.  After I got out in 2004, I stopped seeing my military buddies.  I didn’t see people I knew from high school either.  I enrolled in a community college, and didn’t have many friends.  I only had one focus, and that was to get educated so I could land a good job.

I ended up with a lot of free time and I had cable.  This was new to me, because in the military I was constantly busy.  Even growing up, I was out of the house with my family.  Now that I was a 21 year old college freshmen, I didn’t go out that much.  It was study, work on papers, and channel surf.  I remember in late 2004 discovering football on TV again.

I started watching all games that came on TV during the season.  The first game I saw on TV was a San Diego Chargers game.  I was introduced to Drew Brees, Ladainian Tomlinson, Lorenzo Neal, Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Quentin Jammer.  My interests were peaked.  I was born in San Diego county, and started to look at this team as my hometown team.  After following the team online and on a couple of other weekends, I became a San Diego Chargers fan.

It was like when I was a kid again.  I had a team, and a new found interest in football.  I was a homer though.  I didn’t take much interest in other teams or other players.  I knew of the main super stars of the league because of ESPN, but only cared about the Chargers.

From 2004 to 2007, I only kept up with my new team.  I was a devoted fan.  I had a small group of friends, but no one constant in my life.  What was constant was the sport.  I was getting farther along in my college career, and always had football to keep me busy.

I went overseas to work abroad in 2007.  I came back into a similar situation like when I was in the Marines.  I was in a danger zone with coworkers and we spent a lot of time at work and off work together on military bases.  Even some of my coworkers were my old platoon mates from the military!  My coworkers formed a Fantasy Football league in 2008, and invited me to join.  I wasn’t so sure about it.

I reluctantly agreed, and joined the league.  I was at a forward deployed site during the draft, so the site we used auto drafted for me.  They picked a horrible team, so I dropped a lot of players for available Chargers players.  Needless to say, I had a bad season.  It was fun though.

After that year, I was hooked.  I started to play in other leagues.  I played in Individual Defensive Player leagues, Standard Leagues, Low Score leagues, no flex leagues, QB/TE/WR/RB flex leagues, etc.  You name it, I played it for the next few years.

Fantasy Football for me, is more than just a game.  It was a way to keep in touch with friends, and a way to make new friends.  It was a new way to experience camaraderie.  I found that if I didn’t have many close friends in my life at a given time, I still had sports.  I’ve met strangers and had long conversations about fantasy football.  People were surprised that I knew so much about other teams players, almost as much as die hard fans of specific teams.

I started to become a fan of individual athletes as well.  I stopped looking at players as numbers on a team, but as great players.  I started to care about the athletes career’s.  I became a fan of players who were on team’s that beat the Chargers!  I remember watching games and cheering for both team’s as they scored touchdowns.  People asked me which team I was rooting for, and I told them that I just enjoyed a great play.

So for me, Fantasy Football is more than just a game.  It’s a culture.  It’s kept me occupied when I had nothing else going on, it’s introduced me to new friends.  It’s helped fill a void when I moved away from friends.  I’ve spent many years alone while working all over the world.  One constant I’ve had was football.  I’ve watched games in small combat outposts in Baghdad, at the mall in Manila, and online in Muscat.  It’s helped me cope with things, and helped keep me sane at times.  Even when the players I drafted aren’t scoring dozens of touch downs a game.

I have season rituals, and my family has become football fans along side me.  One of the greatest joys I have now is watching the games with my kids.  They have favorite teams other than the Chargers, and I’m ok with that.  I’m building memories with them that I didn’t have while I was growing up.  I’ve brought them to a stadium, and they’ve done the pre-game play 60 things the team set up in a park next to the stadium.  It’s one of their favorite memories and I’m happy I can share it with them.  For my family, it’s not just a game.  It’s a bond that brings us closer together.

As for my featured image, I won a contest for a meet & greet with Carolina Panther’s LB Luke Kuechly.  I live in North Carolina, and draft a Panther’s players each year.  It was a cool moment to meet a player I follow.  I can’t wait to meet some Chargers players I’ve followed for so long.  Anyone know where Tomlinson, Gates, and Rivers is at?

 

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