I'VE GOT this onefriend who's impossible to get ahold of. Unless, that is, I send him a fantasytrade proposal, in which case he responds pretty much instantaneously.Sometimes I go so far as to embed personal messages. Tom Brady for StevenJackson ... When's your wife due? Last week was different, though. Last week Iheard from him nine times. Naturally, our league drafted on Monday.
Yes, fantasyfootball season is back, that time of year when rational men act in irrationalways. According to a doctor friend, during the night shift at a Bay Areahospital last weekend, both on-duty ER docs were huddled around a computer,poring over draft rankings for an hour. Appendicitis? Surely it can wait untilthe fourth round. Then there's my neighbor, who has two kids and works at ahigh school. He prepared for his first day of work by—what else?—flying toVegas for a weekendlong draft. He returned on Sunday night, exhausted butrapturous. Eyes bleary, voice like charcoal, he uttered two triumphant words:Adrian Peterson.
Once, we mighthave explained away such behavior as that of the fringe obsessive. Now, I'm notso sure. I'm starting to think it's more socially acceptable to play fantasysports than not to. Nearly 20 million Americans do it; even real athletes play.When I spoke with Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday last week, he was far moreinterested in discussing his fantasy team than the NL West race (andconsidering the NL West this year, I don't blame him). As it turns out, Mattand I made the same first-round pick this season, so allow me to speak for bothof us when I say, Marion Barber, we're counting on you, buddy!
This addictiondoes not pay for itself. According to an August report from a Chicago researchgroup, fantasy football will cost U.S. employers an estimated $9.2 billion inlost work time this season. That's more than the city budget of San Francisco,more than the GNP of Jamaica. Hell, you could buy nine NFL franchises for thatmoney. And that's not even factoring in other fantasy sports or the amount ofleisure time consumed by draft recon and tense score monitoring. How tense? AUniversity of Mississippi study found that nearly half of fantasy playersrarely or never drink while watching games because they take a "morebusiness-like approach." Thanks, Bill, but no tall boys for me today. Can'tyou see I'm working here?
Who will stop thefantasy madness, you ask? The WAFS, that's who. No, not the Wisconsin Alliancefor Fire Safety, though I hear it does fine work, but rather Women AgainstFantasy Sports, a group started by Allison Lodish, a 35-year-oldself-proclaimed fantasy widow whose husband recently joined his 10th fantasyfootball league. The WAFS website features a message board for members to posthorror stories, like the tale of the newlywed whose betrothed spent theinaugural evening of their honeymoon managing his squad. The site also sellsapparel with up-the-revolution mottoes such as CLOSED FOR THE FANTASY SEASON(on, uh, panties) and I THOUGHT I WAS YOUR FANTASY. Ouch. How are we mensupposed to respond? By starting DORKs (Dudes Obsessed with RankingKickers)?
Perhaps the twosides just need to talk it out. So I called Lodish and arranged to meet at acoffee shop near her home in Kentfield, Calif. At first glance she lookedfriendly—curly blonde hair, big smile—but then so do black bears before theytear your scalp off. She explained the site's origin, saying, "Nobody'sever really come out publicly and said, You guys are a bunch of lame-asses forgetting emotionally involved in this stuff." I countered that just lastweek a stay-at-home dad won $1 million in a fantasy fishing contest(33-year-old Michael Thompson, livin' the dream!). In return, she offered someadvice, "Chris, the first step to recovery is admitting you have aproblem." She said something else too, but I didn't catch it, because I wastoo busy checking the Red Sox--Yankees box score on my cellphone. After all,there are only three weeks left in the fantasy baseball season.
When I got home,my wife wanted to know if I had "learned" anything. I thought for asecond. Sure, Lodish had a decent argument. And, true, even a pro jock—Giantsoutfielder Randy Winn, who plays in four fantasy football leagues—said, when Itold him about WAFS, "They do have a point." And, yeah, I probablycould be more productive with my time.
So I turned to mywife, figuring I should be honest, and singled out the most important thing I'dlearned during the talk with Lodish.
"Well," Isaid, "Jason Giambi was 2 for 2 with a homer...."
If you have a comment on fantasy leagues, go to SI.com/pointafter.
The Women Against Fantasy Sports website features amessage board for members to post horror stories and sells apparel withup-the-revolution mottoes.
ILLUSTRATION BY KEITH WITMER