Addiction to addiction

In a week, NFL training camps will begin and hopefully the national nightmare of the Bret Favre situation will be resolved. The NFL Network will overhype the overwhelming slate of mostly meaningless preseason games and fantasy drafts will begin.

I can’t minimize the excitement. But am I addicted to football and fantasy football?

Society is quick to say that a person is an addict. If a celebrity goes into rehab, they are an addict. While this may be technically true, it puts the person off the hook for the behavior. Addicts can’t control their addiction, just like a grey tabby can’t will himself to becoming an orange tabby.

The solutions to addiction are a hope for a quick fix. If you’re on drugs or alcohol, you have rehab or a twelve-step program. Sometimes you get drugs to help cope with addiction. My cure for football addiction is the offseason. But there really is no offseason. NFL beat writers used to cover football and another sport during the offseason. Those days are over. If you want to be a true football fan, and especially a fantasy football fan, you can’t just drop it in February and hope to catch up six months later.

What’s the difference between an addiction and a hobby? Six years ago when we started the AUFL, most owners didn’t do much more draft prep than reading a magazine. Now everyone’s online and making constant efforts. If a player gets injured or is suspended for ramming his girlfriend with an SUV, it used to take a week for all of the owners to find out. Now everyone’s aware within the hour. With most owners having equal information, you have two choices. You can either work harder to gain an edge or hope to “get lucky” on draft day by making a few risky choices.

If I am addicted to football, and especially fantasy football, there’s enough evidence for a conviction. I have a friend who’s considering getting cable or a satellite provider. Naturally I’m trying to talk him into getting Direct TV so he can get the NFL Sunday Ticket. There are selfish reasons for this, but at the same time he’s a fan and I did agree to pay for half of the Sunday Ticket cost. Hey, I’m reading the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, this is my win/win scenario. Considering that I spent half of my Sundays either in a sports bar (depressing doesn’t begin to describe that scene) or at home, watching the crappy national game while keeping track of the Titans on the computer, this would be a major upgrade.

As for fantasy football, I’m in five leagues and may add one more. That’s a serious time consideration when I’m about to go back to school, I may lose my job at any moment, and of course, I’m married. While it’s somewhat true that at a certain point, adding another league doesn’t really make much of a difference, it’s still time that I could be doing something more productive.

While I’ve struggled with my fantasy football demons over the past couple of years, I still enjoy it. Most of my closest friends are in fantasy leagues. It’s how we communicate. There are other ways that we could keep in touch for sure. Without making fun of Chuck’s selection of Michael Pittman in the first round of our draft five years ago, it wouldn’t be the same.

Once we get beyond the obvious local league with owners I know and see regularly, it gets a little shakier. In the zealots league that I commish, I have not met any of the owners in person other than the people who are in the AUFL. They live all over the country. In my other zealots league, I know some of the owners by their handle like Mudgator, Rock, Taz, and Rodhands rather than their real names. That’s when we get more impersonal. I’m in a Masters league, and I bet that out of the 11 other owners I know maybe two. A one-year league doesn’t always result in close friendships and becoming a Godparent, for example.

Then we have the college fantasy league, which I found out drafts two weeks from tomorrow. I’m getting my lists set up pretty well for the NFL-based leagues. Researching for college players is another game altogether. There are far fewer resources available. All I can do is gather a list of who is already on a roster (30 players per squad) and figure out where the opportunities are. Like a baseball fantasy league, more than half of the action in college fantasy is on the waiver wire. Some third-string fullback will end up running for 1500 yards and at least a dozen wideouts who caught two passes last year will catch 80 this year. I’m not too worried about that.

If I have to be labeled as an addict, so be it. I know what I am. I can have a conversation on other topics if necessary.

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