Jake Old: Bring on the fantasy football
It's getting to be that time of year again. Late August and early September mean the transition from summer to autumn; kids are getting back to school; summer tourism, and the traffic it brings, are winding down.
But, most importantly: It's the start of fantasy football. Within the last few weeks, leagues have already started drafting in preparation for the upcoming NFL season.
If you've never played fantasy football, then you might not care anything about hearing even the slightest mention of the game, particularly if you are an NFL fan.
Believe me, I've been there. I hated the notion of fantasy football before I tried it. Seeing professional football analysts on television trying to predict the yardage and touchdowns that certain players would be able to get seemed ludicrous to me. After all, the sport is a team game, and individual stats are meaningless if the team doesn't win.
Then my older brother created a league. After his first year of playing, he tried to get me to jump on board. I refused, especially because I saw the way he was watching football. He had several games on at once, on multiple screens, hoping to catch a glimpse of big plays from each, along a laptop in front of him, tracking every stat of "his" players.
I wanted no part of that. I enjoyed (and still do enjoy) just sitting back, forgetting that the world has actual problems, and pretending that the fact that the Titans could not convert a third-and-short throughout the bulk of the season was a catastrophic issue.
But after a couple of years, I finally relented and told my brother I would give it a shot. I would sign up, set the roster each week, and actually put forth some sort of effortv – but I absolutely would not become entrenched in this bizarre lifestyle of the fantasy football player.
I would merely be a casual player, who preferred to watch a single game of football, rather than a wall of televisions and computers that would immediately induce Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.
And so it began. Week one, I held strong. I watched the Titans game and didn't even pay any attention to what was happening on the fantasy side.
The league was comprised of family and friends, so each week, you knew who you were playing. I didn't realize it yet, but this meant particular enjoyment when I faced either of my two brothers.
While happily in my bliss watching the Titans play, I got a text from my brother, the gist of which was: I hate you, and I hate Calvin Johnson.
Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lions' star wide receiver, happened to be one of the players on my roster, and I was facing my brother in that week's match-up. I decided I would take a cursory glance at the Internet and see the stats. You know, just to keep up with the hateful text message I had received (meaning: to respond with a taunt).
I left the room, looked at the stats and saw that in the first quarter, Johnson had scored two touchdowns and had roughly 80 yards — good stats for an entire game.
It's bizarre to take pride in the athletic achievements of another person — and this is still the case when I brag on the rare season in which the Titans resemble a professional football team — but it is especially strange to take pride in individual statistic achievements of an athlete. But I did.
Somehow, over the next few weeks, the image of me sitting on the sofa, eating a pizza and watching a single football game on a Sunday afternoon morphed into me sitting on the sofa, eating a pizza, with a laptop nearby and my TV tuned to NFL RedZone — essentially a channel created with fantasy football players in mind, as it switches to any game in which a team is close to scoring — scouring every highlight I possibly could.
Three years later, I haven't looked back. I ended up having a successful season, and I can't imagine how painful the last few Titans seasons would have been without this distraction that I didn't even realize I wanted.
I keep telling myself that I'll ease up on fantasy as soon as the Titans have a playoff-caliber team. At times it seems like that might be several thousand years away, though, and I'm probably already in too deep anyway.
But I don't even care anymore; bring on the fantasy season.