It's gone too far. Maybe it's not gone as far to say it's a sign of the apocalypse for organized sports but the existence of a new fantasy football situation comedy on FX -- The League -- tells us just how far off the beam the collective sports consciousness has fallen.
I don't get it. I never have. Lord knows I love my sports but I'm not among the several millions of so-called "sports fans" who invest months of their lives and sink hundreds of their dollars into fantasy sports. Call me crazy it's just that I still "fantasize" about being the quarterback, not the General Manager.
According to one half of the husband-wife team who created The League, I'm missing the major social advances provided by this recreational adjunct to real sports provides:
"For women or really anyone who doesn't know a lot about football it is one way to learn more about the game and get invested - by following individual players," Jackie Schaffer tells me "Fantasy Football has created a sort of social unit for myself and my husband. A way to stay in touch and watch games 'together' every Sunday when we're spread out across the country.."
I think the more accurate depiction of the fantasy footballers "social unit" is addressed head-on with a reality-based assessment by The New York Times columnist Neil Genzlinger who reviewed her show:
The sorry losers who take part in fantasy sports may have a hard time recognizing themselves in The League, a new FX comedy about longtime buddies who have a fantasy football league. For one thing, several guys in this league actually have sex with their spouses or girlfriends.
And what of Ms. Shaffer's contention that one learns more about real football by playing fantasy football? Fantasy Football -- fantasy sports of any kind -- not only teach almost nothing about their sports, they teach the wrong thing.
Let me put this in non-sports terms which most sports-addled fantasy players can understand.
As music fans, do we learn more about music by listening only to the crescendos? As students of politics, do we learn more by only analyzing sound bytes?
Nothing -- I repeat NOTHING -- in the last five years has contributed more to the dumbing down of the American sports fan than the reductive, banal and utterly shallow opiate of fantasy sports.
What's the harm, you say? Well, I bet you're one of those people who gets all bent out of shape when a pro athlete doesn't act like the "role model" -- on or off the field -- you wish he/she would. Mostly it's because of what you fear your kids will think.
So, what kind of role model are you to your sports-involved kid when you play "fantasy" sports which only tracks and glorifies the individual/non-team-related/non-wining or losing-related pieces of the game? At your kid's games you implore them to make the unselfish block, lay down the sacrifice bunt, be a good teammate, practice fundamentals, sit on the bench with dignity, "we win as a team and lose as a team," blah, blah, blah. You say one thing on Saturday to the kids, then on Sundays you obsess wildly over the touchdowns, yards rushing, passing yards and other statistical data which are only simplistic extractions of the game -- highlights -- not the more complex (and fulfilling) game itself and entirely itself. If your kid asks, "Why don't we do a fantasy league for my little league?" What's your answer?
If what I'm saying makes no sense to you then you are precisely the dumbed-down, hyper-commercialized sports fan who is the problem.