Hampton, you used to be a fantasy fanatic but you've left the fold. What gives, and what will it take to get you back?
Left the fold? You mean the cult, don't you? Or, really, the addiction. Because that's what fantasy became for me—an all-consuming, money-sucking, friendship-destroying addiction. It was just like cocaine is for the drug addict, except that models won't follow scummy dudes into bathroom stalls to talk about this year's wide-out sleepers. Quitting cold turkey before last season was savage, Jake, but I finally got clean. Now you not only want to know when I'll relapse, you want me to get poor Patrick hooked, too? For shame, my friend. For shame.
Okay. Look. Reformed junkies are always the most sanctimonious. I'll admit all that good stuff you wrote about fantasy sports is true—particularly the odd sense of empowerment fans get from faux-ownership. But you left out the bad parts of the fantasy fantasy, and our man Patrick deserves the truth.
Despite playing in two or even three leagues in any given season, there has only been one league that I ever cared about—the one started by guys I've known for almost my whole life. Some of us went to grade school and junior high together. We all went to the same suburban Kansas City high school, and most went on to college at KU. Even after school, we managed to stay close, in large part because the league kept us connected—through the constant online banter, or at our annual draft day weekend/testosterone fest and de facto class reunion every August.
Like any good league, we had our traditions. Chowing Gates and Sons after ever Mr. Irrelevant, for instance. Another custom, though, was bumping up the entry fee a few bucks after each season, and those bumps added up over a decade or so. Lots. Throw in the five-dollar transaction fees for every roster move, and the cost of running a team was closing in on a thousand bucks a season.
The higher the stakes got, the more the league changed, especially when co-owners joined who didn't care so much about the social aspects. It's difficult to convey in this small space just how dementedly competitive it all became, but, well... Things. Got. Ugly. In 2004, for instance, I almost came to blows with another owner—a lifelong friend—because of a dispute over Alge Crumpler. That's not unusual, either. Every serious fantasy player, pardon the oxymoron, has at least one tale of a league squabble that led to a feud, that led to the end of a friendship.
In the end, financially and emotionally, the cost just seemed too high, and waking up to realize that you can recite all 32 starting NFL placekickers from memory will make you think twice about the choices you've made in life.
Some people can drink without a problem. Some people can't. Maybe the same is true of fantasy football. Emma, like Patrick, you say you've never played a fantasy sport. What do you say? Are you ready to take that first sip?