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October 23, 2013

The Couch Potato: Fantasy Football is way worse than reality — for me, anyway

NEW CASTLE — The Couch Potato always seems to be a little late when it comes to pop culture trends.

Whether it be cable television (first time was 1995), a cell phone (first one was 2004), or even just the Internet (still don’t have it at my house), I’m just always a little (or a lot) behind the curve.

So it really is no surprise that I was extremely late to the game of Fantasy Football. While all of my friends and colleagues debated the value of obscure running backs and lamented their decision to draft player A over player B, I stood on the imaginary sidelines and just watched the games on Sunday without a care in the world (except, obviously, if the Steelers won).

Then about three years ago, a good friend of mine who runs a Fantasy Football league told me he had an opening and asked if I wanted to join. I decided to take the plunge and the old Couch Potato was off into the “fantastical” world of Fantasy Football.

That first year, I loved it. My team, the “Talents of South Beach” went 9-4 in the regular season before falling in the semifinal game. The second year, my “Sunshine Lumberjacks” team went 8-5 and once again fell in the semifinals. It was a bright start to my fantasy career.

However, there were problems lurking just below the surface. Anyone who has ever played Fantasy Football knows how frustrating it can be.  Your best player can have a dud of a week (or get injured) and score nothing. Even worse, your worst player sitting on the bench could score three touchdowns, which earns your team nothing. But the absolute gut-wrenching part of Fantasy Football is watching that week’s opponent’s players go off and destroy your team because you are helpless to stop it. Because of this, watching the games can be maddening. 

The Couch Potato is a sports fanatic and continues to coach and play all kinds of sports even today at the ripe old age of 31. However, in these real-life games, there is some kind of control over the outcome. I can play or maneuver my team into good positions in order to win. In fantasy games, the only control you have is setting your lineup and seeing what happens. And that is the worst part, as it obviously impossible to predict who will score the most. I always tell myself as I tinker that this is my “final” lineup, only to change my mind five minutes later. Usually the changes I make come back to haunt me in the end.

For these reasons, during that second season of Fantasy Football, I dreaded watching the games and felt anxious until the final clock ticked to zero on the Monday night game. Because I am hyper-competitive, it was really a lot of stress on my mind and body, to the point that I told Mrs. Couch Potato that I was not going back for a third season. I wanted to enjoy watching the games again.

So when this summer rolled around and my buddy emailed the draft date and some league information, I must have had amnesia and forgot that I wasn’t going to play, because I told him I was in, again. Then my neighbor decided to form a league and somehow suckered me into that as well, putting in me two leagues when I had only months ago decided that I would prefer to be in none.

The first week of the season saw me sit my late-round sleeper draft pick, Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron, who promptly scored a touchdown as I fell to my opponent by only a few points. Had I played Cameron, I would have won. So I shot off an angry text message to my buddy basically lamenting what an idiot I was and he wrote back these words of wisdom: “It’s fantasy football, who cares?”

Well, that was a piece of advice that I had never considered. I've found that the less you care about things you cannot control, the better they usually turn out. So I went down the path of apathy, fully expecting a turnaround that would provide a championship season and way less stress. I stopped tinkering with my lineup, stopped picking up every free agent who had a good week and decided to stick with my high draft picks and let them do the heavy lifting.

So, of course, after week seven of the NFL schedule, when combining my record of the two leagues that I'm in, I'm a stellar 4-10. 

I've officially decided that I'm not playing Fantasy Football next year.


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