I’ve been playing fantasy football for decades, so this time of year has been filled with downloads, spreadsheets and, these days, plenty of podcasts offering tiers, sleepers and strategies for how to win. I’m among tens of millions who play, and considering for many younger players fantasy sports serves as a gateway drug for the gambling sites like DraftKings and FanDuel that are rapidly seizing control of sports media, it’s a business that is clearly growing.
But I’m old school enough to remember that my football drafts of the past were held in person, around a large table in a deli or a cool eatery or in a conference room (with some truly crummy pizza delivered after hours to sustain us), My baseball drafts were held in a palatial home of a top media executive who had not outgrown his childhood obsession with sports, and where I got my first exposure to satellite dishes and the ability to see almost any game on demand. (for the record, this was several years ahead of DIRECTV and more than a decade ahead of MLB.TV.)
These days, geographic separation and technology have all but eliminated the opportunity for in-person bonding, and the majority of the leagues that people play in are conducted on platforms like ESPN’s, Yahoo!’s and CBS Sports’. I have teams in my two sports on all three. I haven’t seen the majority of the players I compete with in years, and some I’ve never met. Drafts are conducted swiftly and virtually on an app. This weekend, the football league I’ve competed in longest held theirs in such a manner.
Things normally work well. Except this year, I was out and about, and we were in the middle of an unprecedented heat wave. I had been swimming just before the draft was about to start, getting a needed dip in before settling in for the task of utilizing all the printouts and tip sheets I brought along. Sure enough, my phone had been exposed to the broiling sun.
Would you be surprised that I saw this just as my draft was about to start?
So my first two picks were automatic, and they were DEFINITELY not the ones I wanted. And even after my phone cooled down and I was able to join live, the domino effect of those earlier autopicks impacted my strategy,
Cee Dee Lamb may be a talent, and is now by default the Dallas Cowboys’ number one receiver. But he’s got some injury issues, and I don’t believe in the Cowboys’ offense this year. Naturally, he’s my top draft choice.
J.K. Dobbins is likely a great guy, but he’s a running back on a Baltimore Ravens team that is led by a running quarterback that often is the team’s leading rusher in any given game. He’s also very much a question mark to start Week 1 against a Jets team that looms to be one they can run up a score on. Sure enough, he’s my top-seeded running back.
Nope, I don’t like my team this year.
Had we been in person, we would have been in an air-conditioned venue, my phone would not have been fried and I would have been able to respectfully SPEAK to our commissioner and I likely (yes, in my league, nothing is an easy discussion) would have been able to draft who I did want.
I have another draft tonight in a new league one of my longtime buddies from my legacy league, that I actually used to see frequently in person, invited me to participate in. It’s a virtual draft, of course. Rest assured I will not be outside in the sun this time.
But, boy, do I miss being able to share a bloody mary and nachos with these guys. And every time I see an injury report on J.K. Dobbins this week, I’ll be reminded exactly how much of a void there is in not having that opportunity.