By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange HQ
You don’t have to be a sports fan to know that, come fall, the biggest American sport is football. And right up there with the gridiron pastimes of tailgating and face-painting is the growing activity of fantasy football. Even if you know zilch about it, chances are you know someone who does. Over 40 million people across the US will unleash their pigskin nerd this season, and I’ll show you why these seemingly kooky folks may just be onto something.
For those unfamiliar with fantasy football, here’s the painless fifteen second breakdown: like kids picking teams on the playground, participants in a fantasy league (usually 10 or 12 people) pick real life pro football players for their team. Then, as the actual games are played, they accumulate points for the running, catching, and passing feats of their players. The more points they get, the better their chances of winning.
Some friends talked me into joining their fantasy league, and I figured it would be a harmless diversion, one of those arbitrary activities that give adults a reason to hang out for a bit, like bowling or karaoke. What I absolutely did not figure was that this meaningless little game would crystalize and reinforce some of life’s most important lessons for me in a way that few other experiences have. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but just hear me out.
Four Life Lessons from Fantasy Football
- WHEN EVERYONE ZIGS, YOU SHOULD ZAG
Every fantasy football season starts with a draft, that playground-style picking of the players I mentioned earlier. This is sometimes done online, but it’s certainly more fun in person. Everyone takes turns selecting a player that they believe will do well this season, and ultimately help their fantasy team. But once a player is taken, no one else can have him. And this is where an infectious group mentality sets in. For instance, once a couple of the best quarterbacks have been selected, there can be a mad scramble to nab a quarterback. Hurry now, while supplies last!
Intuitively we can deduce that this would actually be the perfect time to go the other direction and pick a great non-quarterback that’s being passed over – but it’s so darn easy to get caught up in the fervor of others. Reacting differently than the crowd is the only way to set yourself apart.
- THE CREAM RISES TO THE TOP
Once the season begins, fantasy football participants get antsy. That wide receiver they took with their top pick has begun the season with a few bad games, so they now presume that their instincts were wrong, the player’s actually a bum and they should unload him pronto. One of the fun things about the game is swapping players with fellow leaguemates. A panicked owner will offer their underperforming star for pennies on the dollar, and if you realize that people tend to place undue emphasis on recent events, you will scoop up a bargain, knowing that their quality will shine though soon enough.
- LUCK PLAYS A LARGER ROLE THAN WE’RE COMFORTABLE ADMITTING
Check out an origin-story interview of any wildly successful person, and odds are they mention that their accomplishments were a combination of hard work and… good luck. They’re not saying this out of modesty. They’ve simply made peace with the fact that, in a world as complex as ours, a healthy chunk of what happens is truly out of our hands.
Your fantasy team’s best running back has a season-ending injury in the very first game of the year. Your tight end makes a spectacular touchdown catch that’s nullified by a penalty on the opposite side of the field. Do you suddenly not know what you’re doing? Poppycock! True success isn’t about any single result, but about cumulative results over time. Today’s outcome may not be the desired one, but consistently giving yourself a better chance to succeed will eventually pay dividends (and, on occasion, cause you to use terms like “poppycock”).
- TAKE MORE SHOTS THAN EVERYONE ELSE
Most participants focus most of their mental energy on the planning phases at the beginning of the season, but the more seasoned manager knows that that things are won and lost on the fly. One of the other fun facets of the game is the ability to release lesser players who are not cutting the mustard and pick up unowned players who just might. If you are the person that is constantly taking chances on those no one else is willing to, you will inevitably have more flops, but also plenty more hits.
True, those 40 million fantasy football players out there certainly aren’t drawn to the game for its little life lessons, but it’s good to know that, for those looking, they’re not that hard to find. Now it’s time to go glean some insights from bowling and karaoke…