All of us who play fantasy football have felt that tug – do I cheer for the outcome for my NFL team or the points for my fantasy team?
Indisputably, fantasy football has increased overall interest in the NFL – it has brought in casual fans like nothing before. But how does it impact fans' rooting interests in their favorite team? We all say that we’re cheering for our team above all else, but if we really look inside ourselves, we realize we’ve all said something like “well, if Welker scores and not Gronkowski, I have a good shot at winning this week,” or “If the Packers win but Rodgers throws less than 300 yards, everybody wins!”and that’s when we see how much fantasy football has impacted our standing as fans of our favorite team.
If we are absolutely cheering for “real life” ahead of fantasy, then there is no way my husband, a diehard Vikings fan, would have chosen Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. Yet he did, and each week it literally pains him to “cheer” for Rodgers to have a good game. I told him if I was in the same situation I never would have drafted Rodgers – but am I being honest with myself? Sunday afternoon as I watched my Patriots pummel the Chargers, I was thinking, “please don’t let Gronkowski score again – anyone but Gronkowski!” Luckily, he didn’t hear me, but each time he scored it felt bittersweet – my team was building on their lead, but I saw my chances at a win in my fantasy league slipping away.
We convince ourselves that there is a way to win both – but the second we cheer for a certain player on our NFL team to have a lousy game, we’ve let fantasy football negatively impact our fandom.
Those of us lucky enough to have teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl should always cheer for our NFL team over our fantasy team. But if you are a fan of, say, the Kansas City Chiefs or the Seattle Seahawks (or the Manning-less Colts), when does it become acceptable to cheer against a player on your NFL team for the sake of your fantasy team? Some would say never, but many would take any good news during an otherwise dismal NFL season – “Sure, the Vikings stink, but at least I won my fantasy league!” At what point does the outcome of one completely squash the other?
A real fan never, ever roots against their NFL team, or any player on their team, on Sunday (or Monday or Thursday). On the flip side, a good fantasy player will forget their real-life loyalties when doing their line-up. So when the Patriots play the Jets I’ll keep Shonn Greene in my starting lineup, and I wouldn’t mind if he had a 100 yard game with a touchdown if the Pats still win. That being said, if someone asked me whether I’d pick the Patriots to win and Greene has 13 yards on the ground with no touchdowns, or Greene has 125 yards and two touchdowns to give me the fantasy win but the Patriots lose, I’ll take the Pats every day of the week.
The question we all need to ask ourselves is this: do I feel better when my fantasy team wins, or my favorite NFL team? For me, I feel a lot worse if the Patriots lose… sure, a win in my fantasy league softens the blow but in the end, I’ll swallow the loss in my fantasy league if it means the Patriots earn a “W” and increase their lead over the Jets.