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Fantasy Sports Great, Some Fantasy Fans … Not So Much

Disdain for professional athletes and their performance isn’t something new. It’s just been made easier with the advent of social media, and more prevalent due to “fantasy’s” effect on direct stakes in the games.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, fantasy football
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, fantasy football

Dec 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) gets tackled by New York Giants free safety Ryan Mundy (21) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

I just had my rear end handed to me in Fantasy Football.  That’s right, Andrew Luck let me down, Lamar Miller was a colossal disappointment, and Danny Amendola’s inability to stay on the field all contributed to me losing money and repeatedly finding myself on the wrong end of low-end, not-so-friendly smack.  I hate it.  It chapped my hide.  And I fell a little less in love with all of the aforementioned and a couple of their colleagues in the process.  But you know what I didn’t do?  Threaten the lives of any or all of them by means of Twitter, Facebook, or public message boards, in a manner befitting a lobotomized adolescent after a box of Twinkies with a Rockstar chaser.

Fantasy Football is fun. It’s made every game interesting, legitimized gambling in a covert way, and made fans of otherwise disinterested people in a sport those same people would’ve previously turned a blind eye to.  Yet, in the process empowered the lowest common denominator of fans into thinking they matter and that a game named for fiction was in fact a reality they were directly involved.

In recent years the game’s taken-on a life of its own.  What used to be done with pencil and paper, can now be done on countless websites created solely for that purpose.  What used to be done in bars and living rooms, now is done online.  And what used to be an entertaining simulation for fans acting as General Managers, is now a cutthroat business and pop culture phenomenon providing entertainment for many, and fodder for some with little else on their plate.

This season, like others before it, has been a roller coaster ride for fantasy owners everywhere.  It’s always about drafting the right stars, finding the best matchups, and most importantly, timing and luck regarding peak performances at all the right times.  It’s important to make the right moves, but more important to be in the right place, at the right time, against the right opponent.  It is chance, and it’s that chance which escapes the minds of people, with little mind to escape.

Last week, Detroit players Mathew Stafford and Calvin Johnson received tweets following their game versus Baltimore—a game where the normally sure-handed Johnson struggled—threatening their lives, due to subpar performances which allegedly led to said tweeter’s fantasy loss.  It was far from the first time a fantasy owner had blurred the lines between fantasy and reality regarding a fantasy defeat, and sadly won’t be the last.  Baltimore Ravens kicker Jason Tucker was targeted following that same game last Monday Night, not because of a poor performance, but rather an outstanding one which seemingly irked a fantasy player on the wrong end of the field goal kicker’s career night.  Earlier this year, New York Giant’s running back Brandon Jacobs was forced to turn to the law stemming from a threatening tweet, after a fantasy owner suggested a poor performance in an upcoming game would result in his death, along with his wife and kids.  And countless other players have spoken to the vitriol directed at them before, and after games regarding statistics they either did or didn’t put up.

Memo to the people either responsible for or capable of such idiotic acts:  Fantasy Football isn’t real.  It’s called “Fantasy” for a reason.  Would you want “Fantasy Loser” players to get upset with you when you actually get a date?  Would you want them threating your life due to you actually moving out of your parent’s house? And how would you like it if you had to spend your bus ride home reading hateful tweets and emails regarding an unusually quiet night, pacing between the Gap and the Orange Julius with a can of mace and a nightstick snug against your hip?  Of course not and of course it would hit a tad closer to home if it were coming at you, opposed to from you directed at another.

Disdain for professional athletes and their performance isn’t something new.  It’s just been made easier with the advent of social media, and more prevalent due to “fantasy’s” effect on direct stakes in the games. It’s no longer just the Bears costing people money, but rather Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Robby Gould who are to blame, and Twitter allows people to tell them … exactly how they feel about it.

I love fantasy football.  It makes that meaningless game meaningful, that less-than-notable player notable, and that irrelevant play late in an already-decided game relevant.  But it doesn’t make you or I important, doesn’t make players on “our” teams ours, and doesn’t really mean any more than an extra handful of cash, bragging rights with our friends, and a reason to watch that game not really worth watching.  So get a grip fantasy fans, real life’s too short.

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