Is Fantasy Football the Sports Version of Dungeons & Dragons?
It's that time of year again. Dude-bros across the nation are happier than kids on Christmas morning. Not even the announcement that Ben Affleck will be the next Batman can bring them down. Not even Miley Cyrus's inexplicable VMA performance could make them look up from their online spreadsheets.
It's Fantasy Football time, you guys.
But it's not just for dude-bros anymore as every year more and more people play. It's becoming as popular as filling out an NCAA bracket. Families are playing. Co-workers are playing. Grandmas are playing. And wives and girlfriends are playing so they have a way to relate to their spouses during football season. Fantasy Football is big business and I'm guessing it's the NFL's most important marketing tool.
Fantasy Football wasn't on my radar until I started dating a guy who was obsessed with sports (up until him I had dated the tortured artist-type guy and realized the only one being tortured was me). I had never seen that kind of happiness and excitement on a guy's face before. It was like he had found inner peace and something to live for. Football. Fantasy. Unicorns and rainbows.
Anyways, he always played on a few teams and I never really thought too much about it, probably because I was lucky and dated him before everyone had smartphones. Now there is no escape. If a guy isn't at home on his computer while simultaneously flipping channels on weekends (or at a bar), he's begrudgingly out in public with his head down looking at his phone.
These days I'm married to a fanatic, and over the past few years I've picked up a thing or two. I've watched how he looks at stats; his language when he talks about his fantasy team; the twinkle in his eye. I recognize that twinkle. It's the same kind of twinkle I had in my eye when I got the last Harry Potter book at midnight on the date it came out. The same twinkle I had when I went to see the fourth Indiana Jones movie (oh, the disappointment).
It's the nerd twinkle.
You don't usually associate sporty folks with nerds, but that's exactly what they become with Fantasy Football. They sport their favorite team's jerseys and colors like a nerd sports his lightsaber replica. They make special food, hang out with like-minded fantasy nerds and obsess over players and stats. They are so excited they just can't stand it. They have hope. Well, until a player gets injured and then it's a terrible disappointment (like the fourth Indiana Jones movie).
From what I've observed, Fantasy Football is pretty much just a sporty and more popular form of Dungeons & Dragons (aka D&D). I am not an expert in either Fantasy Football or D&D, but you don't have to be an expert to see the clear similarities. Here are a few examples:
I asked my husband who the ultimate player would be this season for Fantasy Football, and without hesitation he said, "Adrian Peterson. Came back seriously quick from a torn ACL. Had the best season ever for a running back. He came within 30 yards of the NFL's season rushing record, so he'd be a running back with 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns."
I asked my friend Tim, a former DM (dungeon master), what that would equate to in the D&D world and without hesitation he said, "Oh, that would be like a 13th-level male elven cleric who took out two squads of orcs with a flamestrike."
I rest my case.
But if you still don't believe me, here are a few other ways they are similar.
- "League Commissioner" meet your "Dungeon Master." They both hammer down the rules, keep the players in line and make sure everything is going smoothly. They run things. A great commissioner or DM can make the game incredibly fun to play, and a bad commissioner or DM can make it a boring experience. They both have the pressure to be creative and to keep people playing or they won't be back. And you will be known as the worst Commissioner/DM ever.
- On a football team you have quarterbacks, tight ends, linebackers and running backs. In the D&D world you have rogues, orcs, elves, paladins and halflings.
- In Fantasy Football you have seasons and games. In D&D you have adventures and campaigns.
- In Fantasy Football your team is dependent on chance. Real people playing football have a tendency to get injured or be busts. In D&D you are also dependent on chance, or the roll of a many-sided dice.
- At the beginning of the football season, a Fantasy Football league will hold a draft of some sort to make their picks. In D&D you also hold a session to make picks; players will fill out a character sheet picking their character's "race," "class," and "alignment." It also determines their ability scores like "charisma," "strength," and "dexterity."
- Both games can be infuriating when people who are not experts begin to play, because those are the players who get lucky. For example, if I had a fantasy team I'd make sure that Malcom Jenkins was on it. It's not because I know anything about his stats or researched his performance; it's because he is a New Orleans Saint who is also an Ohio State Buckeye and he has a cute line of bowties. And if I were to play D&D, I'd probably choose to be an elf because I think Galadriel is super cool and not because an elf has the best chances of helping to win campaigns. And these are the kind of people who win, which infuriates seasoned veterans. Muah ha ha.
So in closing, I urge the sports fanatics and the nerds of this fine country to gain a new respect for one another. To the bros tailgating at 8 a.m. on gameday, know that the same passionate fire lies in the heart of a cosplayer at a Comic-Con. To the Fantasy Football players of the world, know that we nerds understand that twinkle in your eye. Accept that you are one of us. And together we can all be united in nerdom.