Ah, the ongoing gender debate over Fantasy Football. It's just another example of how men and women enjoy sports differently. At the mere mention of the word "fantasy" (in relation to sports, of course), most women conjure up thoughts of men poring over stats for weeks in preparation for their top-secret fantasy draft, then gathering in some man-cave, hidden under a pile of leaves, for hours and/or days on end, nerding out together.
Then these guys emerge, and for the rest of the season, they spend countless hours each week, trading both players and insults with other "owners" of make-believe teams in their make-believe league. (Just ask ESPN's The Sports Guy and his wife The Sports Gal, how they feel about Fantasy Leagues.)
Full disclosure: I do play in a salary cap league with my family, which doesn't feature a draft, but does feature weekly "homework," so I'm not judging here -- just stating some preconceptions about Fantasy Leagues.
I've said it before -- most women are just not into memorizing countless stats and, while female fans are passionate about their teams, most don't necessarily want to devote large chunks of their busy lives to developing and cultivating pretend teams.
However, I have a friend who recently got involved with her boyfriend's fantasy league. She didn't have a pretend team of her own, but she was more like a trusted consultant or consigliare, using armchair quarterback psychology to predict the outcome of games. While her boyfriend studies the stats, she does in-depth research on the QB's personal life. She then uses her intuition and an insight into the male psyche to predict who will have a stronger game. Now we all know that much more goes into a win than just the QB's performance, but let's face it: The guy sets the tone and tempo of the game, so he often is the make-or-break variable in a game of many variables.
I'm going to take a page out of her playbook to analyze the upcoming Super Bowl match up.
Again with this Full Disclosure business: I am a Steelers fan. But, as we say at GoGameFace.com, I will attempt to be as Fair and Balanced as Fox News. So here goes.
Big Ben Roethlisberger: At age 26, Ben Roethlisberger is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. At a very young age, his name can be mentioned alongside the likes of Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and other great quarterbacks of our time -- as well as names like Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Namath of other eras. His youthful exuberance provides a much needed injection of energy into this team and now, with more senior players out of the way, he's settled into his role of captain of the Steelers both on and off the field. Big Ben's youth provides a resiliency and strength that is impressive, to say the least. (Keep in mind that he ran his head into a moving car with no helmet and walked away, and walked right into training camp ... He was carted off of Heinz field strapped to a gurney and came back a week later to play one of his most solid, thoughtful games yet. He has come a long way from the boozy Miami of Ohio grad with the questionable taste in women, who could often be found on the web site drunkathlete.com, getting wasted with college coeds.)
But although he is maturing and growing into his role, the Miami of Ohio coeds do bring up a good point. Any QB's choice in female companionship does tell us a lot about his inner confidence. (Consider the aforementioned Joe Namath and his relationship with Raquel Welch, among others.) Although the woman that Ben is reportedly dating, Missy Peregrym, is indeed attractive -- I would think that a more confident, swaggering Ben would be dating an A-List actress or supermodel. (To be fair, Missy made her acting debut in a 2006 gymnastics comedy called Stick It and had a recurring role in Heroes and now stars in the CW series Reaper. No, I haven't heard of it either.) A guy with more confidence would be dating someone along the lines of Gisele. Not Missy. Please note that Ben has also been linked romantically with Kim Kardashian -- which further makes my point.
And truth be told, he hasn't been the same since that motorcycle accident. Big Ben's weakness is his fluctuating confidence and lack of complete trust of his own judgment. He holds on to the ball too long and does his best when the coaches call quick short plays that he can execute without thinking too much first. When he goes with his gut, he's at his best. But, despite his youth and inconsistency, he is 7-2 in the post-season, compared to Warner's 8-2 record. This is his second Super Bowl; it's Warner's third. Despite the age difference, their post-season experience is rather similar. But it's Ben's youth, resiliency and instinct (when he trusts it) that give him an edge.
Kurt Warner: At 37, Kurt Warner is about 85 in NFL years. But he's got wisdom and grit. The guy's been through so much personally that he will certainly be the subject of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie shortly, if one already isn't in the works. His tale includes being drafted by the Packers and cut in the same year. Having a quarterback tryout for the Bears, but not being able to participate due to a spider bite on his throwing arm, sustained during his honeymoon. Oh and marrying a divorced woman a few years older than him, with two kids, shortly after her parents died in a tornado. (You just can't make this stuff up!) Speaking of his wife, she has played a large role in his playing career, probably more so than other SWAGs (sports wives and girlfriends). Here is an excerpt from our book GameFace:
Brenda Warner: This former marine and wife of QB Kurt Warner used to have her own radio show in St. Louis, where she spent a lot of air-time telling the Rams to play her husband more, commenting on his injuries, and even asking to be traded. She also has been known to call other radio shows to talk about her husband's on-field skills. She seems to have quieted down a bit since Kurt's move to Arizona... Random things you might like to know: Brenda and Kurt met at a country western bar while Kurt was working at a grocery store. Kurt was a stock boy, having taken the job after he was cut from the Green Bay Packers. Brenda was a bit older, divorced and had two children. Kurt married Brenda five years later, adopted her two children, and then the duo went on to have five more kids together -- for a total of seven. Maybe she just has less time to call into radio shows these days?
What does this tell us about Kurt? He's secure in his decisions. He knows what he wants and goes and gets it. He doesn't flee from hairy situations. He's comfortable with a strong wife who speaks her mind (and his, at times). He has the wisdom of an older player and the precision of a confident one. He's seen it all, and pretty much done it all. Basically, it means we're going to have a very interesting match up come February 1.
So Ben and Kurt, our 50 minutes are up for the week. We'll continue our analysis next week when we see which of you has channeled your inner demons to work in your favor on the field. In the meantime, although I'm not going out on a limb and choosing outright whether youth and resiliency will win over wisdom and grit -- let this armchair-quarterback-meets-shrink-session be a lesson to all of you fantasy-loving, stat-heads. You might try adding a bit of Page Six and/or Psychology Today to your weekly stat homework before the game next weekend.