February 4, 2013 — Are you still recovering from your INSANE Super Bowl party? Yeah, me neither. But, as I ate some nachos with my husband and watched all the people cheer on Ray Lewis, I really wanted to share my experience “playing” fantasy football. I have never been athletic or particularly competitive; I don’t even like watching pretend violence, let alone engaging in the real thing for “sport.” I did grow up in a sports-loving household—my mother still hasn’t forgiven the Dodgers for leaving Brooklyn—and I usually knew who I was rooting for.
Initially, I decided to join a fantasy football league because I thought it would be a fun hobby I could share with my husband. I also thought it would make watching games with him more enjoyable—and, much like marrying him in the first place, this proved to be another great decision.
This year, I’m proud to say I won my fantasy football Super Bowl. I played against a bunch of strangers I will never meet or know by anything other than their fantasy team and individual names—all of whom are men. How do I know this? Because any and all posts exchanged on the message boards involved the word “dude.” On several occasions, I was forced to clarify my own status: “Actually, I’m a ‘chick’” (I don’t know about you, but I personally wouldn’t describe myself as a “lady”).
Years ago, I met a woman named Kathy Redmond. Redmond is the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes (NCAVA) and meeting her taught me about the very real impact of a campus or town’s sports fanaticism on its other inhabitants. Many college athletes develop aggressive, entitled, and larger than life personalities when they realize that thousands of people will continue to adore them, regardless of their behavior, as long as they continue to score points. Knowing that most professional athletes start out as college players, it’s not a stretch to imagine this attitude expanding and worsening with early draft picks and fat contracts.
This is where my love of research comes into play, aiding me in my unique draft preparation: Yes, I want high-performance players, but that is not my main priority. Sure, that guy might be fast, but has he been convicted of domestic violence? Or animal cruelty? I believe people should be considered innocent until proven guilty. And that, in most cases, if they’ve served their time, they’ve paid their debt to society.
But that doesn’t mean I want them on my team. That’s the beautiful thing about fantasy football: my team is made up of whomever I choose—or don’t choose. I would not draft Ray Lewis, but I would draft Brendon Ayanbadejo. If I am going to root for someone, I want to be able to root for him wholeheartedly—and not just on the field, but in general. I can’t know every detail about every person’s past—nor should I. Everyone makes a bad decision at some point in his or her life and no one is perfect.
And I know not all athletes are violent and not all football fans are men—but in my fantasy world, no one is violent and everyone is a feminist. Go team!