So I was at the Bears game a couple Sundays ago, for the first time since I got tickets off of the radio and went with Heidi in 1996. I dressed for success, with success defined as "I Will Not be Cold." 6 layers later, I looked a skinny man in an orange fat-suit (see below)
But that is not why I'm blogging. I was sitting in the north end zone (end zone seats are great, especially when the Bears scored all 3 of their TDs in my end). You can acutally see me in the picture below, the orange blob at the top in the middle . You'll also notice a young man in a white Vikings jersey across the aisle from me, on the top left.
So the Bears scored a TD in the first half, and of course the fans are all high-fiving, and I look over and see this guy in a Vikings jersey ALSO clapping. I am a little surprised, and I wonder if maybe he is confused, just clapping because everyone around him was clapping. So I ask him: why are you clapping? His reply: "Greg Olson is on my fantasy team."
He is wearing a very expensive Jared Allen Authentic Minnesota Vikings road jersey, and his team has just gotten scored on, and he's cheering. Because his own personal fantasy football team just got 6 points.
Now, I did start playing fantasy football last year, because I was asked to join by some of my former students, and it has become a fun way to connect with them. But it is simply wrong when your team devotion is trumped by your personal devotion to a pretend team of players. I don't even mind if you have players from a rival team on your own team, because it's sometimes too hard to avoid. But when they do well at the expense of your own (actual) team, you shouldn't cheer. You should be sad.
One of the things that makes following sports fun is the camaraderie of your shared experience with fellow fans. There is a "we" to it. When your team does something well, you exult in it with fellow fans, high-fiving and celebrating. When they fail, you process with each other. There is something of a "shadow team" amongst the fans, what the Bears refer to as the "4th phase" of the game (in addition to the three phases of offense, defense, and special teams). But there is no "we" in Fantasy sports. It is only "I." And that guy who spent a lot of money on his jersey and his ticket to the Bears game should get his priorities straight.