The NFL is back Thursday night with the first regular-season game scheduled to kick-off at 8:30 p.m. EDT and send the bulk of us common folk into the depths of our favorite distraction. And with the start of the NFL season, of course, comes the start of another fantasy football season.
Fantasy football can be a great time. It can be a nice little endeavor you share with friends or coworkers that makes even the most mundane Sunday matchups a bit more interesting.
Unfortunately, that's not how a lot of us partake in fantasy football. Rather, we act like possessed maniacs. The descent into anger starts innocently enough: a little trash talk here, some impatient trawling of the waiver wire there.
Soon enough, you're cursing out league rival Ted — yes, Ted, the friend who talked you through your toughest breakup — you've alienated a dozen or so coworkers after you pounded your desk reacting to the latest DeMarco Murray injury news, and you're left to watch Sunday football games alone at a bar, the stools next to you curiously empty as you mutter infidelities about your roster.
That doesn't need to be you. You can be better than that. So here are a few tips from your intrepid correspondent to keep you sane during the NFL's fantasy football season.
Know this: You will not win
You're feeling good about your roster aren't you? Sure, the draft didn't go exactly as planned, but, you know, you landed some good players. Buddy, your roster will be trash in about five weeks. That sleeper running back you drafted? He'll suffer some gruesome knee injury — which you will inexplicably watch on slow-motion repeat like seven times — that shelves him for the year. Your quarterback will forget what a spiral is.
Shove this thought deep into your brain: you will not win. You're reading a fantasy football article. You already care too much. The league will be won by some happily removed-from-anger person with a fulfilling job, ample free time and a healthy dose of self worth.
Distance yourself from caring, and fantasy football might even seem like fun. Because winning won't materially change your life. Try not to let it change your day. Remind yourself: this is dumb, why am I angry, it's a stupid little game that I do not need to win.
That league fee was not an investment
This is related to the fact that you will not win. You will not make money playing fantasy football. This article has focused on the common brand of league-based, friend-centric fantasy football, and not its costlier cousin daily fantasy, but the same probably goes there. Regardless, think of the dollars you put into fantasy football as a purchase, not an investment. It's an entertainment expense like a movie ticket. You're paying to do this fun thing with people you like. You are not getting in on the ground floor of a unicorn start-up. You will not make money.
Keep your friends
Somebody invited you to play in this league. Yes, you have friends. People generally like you enough to invite you to do a thing with them. Don't blow it by being the person everyone hates in the league. Imagine losing friends over something you said regarding the sports version of "Dungeons and Dragons."
A lot of this boils down to trash talk. Fantasy football trash talk is fun. Your correspondent may or may not engage in such a thing in GroupMe chats with old friends. The key here is how you deliver it and to know who can take it. There's a million ways to advise how to best figure this out, but, in all seriousness, the line between funny and cruel isn't thin at all — in fact there's a pretty wide gulf between the two — use common sense.
If it's a PPR league (points per reception) draft wide receivers early, dummy
I mean that's just obvious. Everybody knows that. You don't need to take this whole fantasy football thing seriously but you should at least give it the old college try to get something out of it, right? Your draft is probably finished already, but just in case, that's a very simple thing.
Write a list of things for which you are grateful
Let's say it's Week 7. The Philadelphia Eagles are playing the Minnesota Vikings. You have drafted the running backs for both teams, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings and Ryan Mathews of the Eagles. Mathews hurts his ankle on the first play, as he is wont to do. You take a few deep breaths, "Let's see what Peterson does," you think. Sure enough, Minnesota hardly gives him the ball. By halftime he has 3.2 fantasy points and with near zero production from your running backs, your fantasy team is getting creamed.
That's when you discretely pull out your gratitude list. Sunsets, Diet Coke, your significant other and the family's summer trip to the shore. "What a pleasant trip to the shore," you'll think to yourself. You'll remember the sound of seagulls, and how, after a long day on the sand, the heat seems to slow your thinking down and your sun-ray-soaked skin feels tight to your muscles — and how, after that day at the beach, you napped, hair still covered in sand, the crashing of waves still fading in and out of your mind, a pleasant little soundtrack to cap a wonderful day.
And it won't matter that you're an idiot who drafted an injury-prone running back, practically flushing $20 down the toilet.