I live across the street from Jason Garrett. He has invited me to
go boating with him on the weekends, but I haven’t found the
The eyes of most football fans (particularly Cowboy fans) widen
when I tell them that I have more important things to do than to
spend my Saturdays on a lake with Jason Garrett. They are then either
amused or annoyed (mostly annoyed) when I reveal that the Jason
Garrett who lives across the street from me is the manager of a
nearby Red Lobster—not the touted offensive coordinator.
Last week, I tried out this little exercise in misdirection on a
Green Bay Packer fan who was chatting with me in an airport. He
registered no amusement—no annoyance—no emotional response
at all. He simply asked, “Isn’t Jason Garrett that overpaid
coordinator who came out of nowhere?”
“Are you saying you don’t remember him as an NFL quarterback?”
I fired back.
“He used to play?”
That surprised me a little bit from a Cheesehead. Dallas fans remember
Garrett as the backup to Troy Aikman in various contests, but I
thought that all Packer fans remembered him clearly from the Thanksgiving
game in 1994, when Garrett and the ‘Boys rallied against the
Pack with the whole country watching.
“I remember that
game!” my new acquaintance conceded. “I just thought
that was some scrub in at QB. You’re telling me that was Jason
Garrett? I am going to have to read up on him when I get home. You’re
stupid not to go boating with him.”
I decided against repeating that my neighbor just shares Garrett’s
name. He wouldn’t have listened anyway. He was too excited
about absorbing information that had been available to him for years—but
that he had never had any motive to appreciate.
* * * * *
Every summer, I hear from at least one person who is thinking
about kicking the fantasy football habit. The phone calls or emails
generally begin in analogous ways. Here are the top ten opening
- Now that I’m married . . .
- Now that I’m going through this divorce . . .
- Now that I have a kid on the way . . .
- Now that my kids are getting involved in sports . . .
- Now that I got this promotion . . .
- Now that I’ve taken this second job . . .
- Now that I have to travel on Sundays for work . . .
- Now that I have moved into a house that I am responsible
for maintaining . . .
- Now that I am trying to focus more on the stock market .
- Now that I’ve taken up golf [or insert the activity
of your choice] . . .
Even if the stimulus isn’t always the same, the logic is
identical in every case. There is some new drain on my time and
energy, so I have to give up some pre-existing drain on my time
and energy. When I look over the activities that I spend my time
on, fantasy football appears to the most expendable item on the
list, so I am going to give it up.
I have written elsewhere about the flawed logic that most people
use to calculate the time they spend on fantasy football. If you
were going to read the sports page anyway, did you lose time to
fantasy football simply because you thought about the implications
for your quarterback corps as you read about the Michael Vick
case? If you were going to spend 15 minutes surfing the net while
waiting for your spouse to get home, is it fair to say that fantasy
football took that time from you because you chose to spend it
reading about Ronnie Brown instead of skimming some blog on why
Farah Fawcett is just as important as Michael Jackson? If the
most important participant in a conference call is five minutes
late and the other folks kill the time by trying to determine
whether Terrell Owens’ statistical productivity is offset
by his effect on morale, then do you want to make the claim that
fantasy football is stealing your life because the time could
have been spent exchanging chocolate chip cookie recipes instead?
The fact of the matter is that for most people, fantasy football
is an interstitial time sink. It isn’t something we devote
huge chunks of time to; it’s an activity that happens by
fits and starts between other activities. It’s true that
I spend dozens of hours in the course of the football season checking
the stats on my teams, but it is not true that I set aside even
one single hour for that purpose. I will spend Thanksgiving with
my wife’s family. We will watch the Cowboys play. While
they are playing, I will occasionally walk over to the computer
to check for statistical updates on my guys. So will my wife’s
uncles. So will her nephews. If not for fantasy football, that
time would be spent chewing mashed potatoes and debating whether
the Budweiser commercial is funnier than the Geico commercial.
You can call the time spent checking stats “lost”
if you like, but I’ve already had my fill of potatoes and
lizards with British accents—thank you.
Quite simply, I reject the argument that people kick the fantasy
football habit because they lack the time for it. They quit because
they have lost interest. If fantasy football has become a chore
for you and you want to take a break for a season or to step away
entirely, then it is your prerogative to do so. You don’t
need to get married or have kids to provide yourself with an excuse.
Do not ask yourself, “How will I find time for fantasy football?”,
but “Why am I losing interest in fantasy football?”
* * * * *
The middle paragraph of “kick-the-fantasy-habit”
emails is the one that interests me. That is when the writer is
likely to say something along these lines:
“When last season ended, I was actually relieved.
I had become sick and tired of checking the same websites every
Tuesday morning, rejecting the same outrageous trade offers every
Wednesday, scouring the website to make decisions on my lineups
every Thursday, and pondering the same rumors about injuries every
Friday and Saturday.”
The NFL is a lot of things—but it is not boring. If your
approach to gathering fantasy information has become a tedious
routine, then consider the possibility that your routine is what
is failing you. Shake things up. Stop watching NFL Live
if you are sick of it. Start watching it if you are sick of the
radio programs that have become tiresome for you. The NFL presents
us with a rich tapestry that can be examined from any number of
perspectives. Most of us make the mistake of allowing ourselves
to examine it from the same perspective over and over—which
can make even that richness appear dull.
Indulge me for a moment by visiting the FFToday
homepage. If you are like me, the article that catches your
eye is the mock analysis by Mike MacGregor. MacGregor has been
a colleague of mine for years. He knows lots more about football
than I do; he is way better with statistics than I am; he is an
astute analyst and an engaging writer. I look forward to reading
his analysis of an early mock. A newcomer to FFToday brimming
with curiosity and enthusiasm would doubtless benefit tremendously
article, but I am going to make a point of reading other things
For years now, I have found that the quickest way of bringing
myself up to speed is to read early mock analyses like MacGregor’s
in the summer. When I visited FFToday over the weekend and saw
that article, my mouse moved the cursor to the link almost by
itself. And then the thought occurred to me: “It’s
June again. I am trying to catch up on the NFL. And I am starting,
as always, with an analysis of an early mock.”
The truth of the matter is that even if William Shakespeare and
Vince Lombardi had coauthored a mock analysis, I would not have
been excited about reading it. I therefore made the choice to
read TJ Thomas’ article on offensive
coordinator changes. There is no way that reading about 5
teams (Arizona, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, and KC) was as efficient
at catching me up on the NFL as reading the variously global and
detailed analysis of an early mock would have been, but sometimes
giving ourselves a change of pace is more important than being
I do not usually include reader feedback in my summer columns,
but if any readers want to share
strategies for rekindling interest in fantasy football, I
will do my best to share those strategies in July or August. Can
you make me as stoked about reading a mock analysis as that Packer
fan was about getting home to read up on Jason Garrett? I want
to look at old information with fresh and energetic eyes. I suspect
we all do.