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To the average gamer the abbreviation FF usually means Final Fantasy. However, we are Nerds that wear many hats with many nerdy passions, and for some of the NA crew FF stands for Fantasy Football come August. I realize this isn’t an article about Mass Effect, but stick with me! … I expect to lose some of you here, but I hope I don’t. I’m here to tell you that Fantasy Football is not just for sports fans anymore, and has just as much in common with tabletop gaming as it does with actual football. Above all else, it’s about having fun, and engaging with friends and family. So let’s branch out and take a closer look…
So what is Fantasy Football?
It’s quite simple really — you assume the role of a fantasy team owner, within a group of other owners (friends, family, etc.) in a league. As an owner, you build a team of real-life NFL players and compete head-to-head during each week of the football season against other owners in your league. Matches are determined by the owner with the most points, and points are earned based on your players’ real-life performance in their actual football games. So, if you have Aaron Rodgers on your team, and he throws a couple of touchdown passes in his actual football game, you (as a Fantasy Football team) earn points for that week. At the end of the football week, you get a Win or Loss, then the scores are reset and you get ready to face your next opponent (maybe your boss, mom, or significant other). There are playoffs and a league champ is crowned at the end of the season!
So how is this a game?
Thank you for that question, me. If you’ve ever played a tabletop or card game you know there’s a bit of strategy, planning, and math involved. You see, the beginning of every fantasy football season starts with a Draft — think of it as a card draft in a game like Magic the Gathering or Nightfall. Each owner, takes a turn picking real players to be on their team, and typically you will need 1 Quarterback, 2 Running Backs, 2 Wide Receivers, 1 Tight End, 1 Bonus Player (called a Flex), and 1 Team Defense. The order in which you draft these players is part of the strategy, and you must also consider other players’ drafting strategies as you plan your own. (Maybe I want a QB first, and you want the top RB with your first pick, maybe you build a Blue Deck, and I build a Green Deck) Owners also draft a number of reserve players, who sit on the Bench… so yeah, that’s your deck, crypt, private reserve, party, etc.
Each week, you will need to take a look at your bench, and current roster, and determine which players will net you the most points for that week. Also, after the draft, there are mechanics in place that allow owners to trade players. You can also drop players from your team into the “Free Agent” pool and pick up new players.
If your a stats / math nerd, this is right up your alley. Fantasy football has more quantitative and qualitative data than you can shake a stick at. For each individual player you can look at historic performance, weekly scoring averages, how they perform on different types of surfaces, playing indoors or outdoors, etc. (All of this is easily available online). You can seek out player news to see if a player is injured, or how the coach plans to use that player in their game plan… or you can do none of that and just pick the people you like, it’s all about doing what you want and having fun with it.
Why is it fun?
Fantasy football is fun because you play against people you know. It’s a reason for friends to socialize each week. Any gamer knows that playing online with friends always beats playing with PUGs. So yeah, there’s a ton of Smack Talk leading up to the match each week. You can also give funny names to your team (Flacco Seagulls, Over the Dwayne Bowe, or Twincest for our podcast friends). You can also play metagames throughout the season, leagues often play for prize money, but it’s not required at all. You can give out weekly awards for biggest blowout, or best smack talk. Teams also assign avatar graphics on their homepage, which often leads to some excellent photoshop work including the owner of the other team. Annoy your friends about player trades via text message, it’s hilarious… to me at least.
Why else is it fun? Because its totally unpredictable. Fantasy football experts will post “top picks” and points projects for players… but sports are extremely unpredictable — in the end, no one really knows what is going to happen, and with minimal effort you can make educated guesses to give yourself the best chance to win, or at the very least, talk trash and have a good time.
It’s also inclusive, kids and grandmothers alike can play fantasy football and win. Leagues often hold Draft Parties where everyone gets together for food, drink, and fun. You can determine the initial draft order any way you’d like (SSBB tournament, perhaps?)Let’s say you know someone who watches football, but you don’t, well now you have a reason to watch — you can cheer on your fantasy players during their real life games. And if you do watch football, and only like one team, you have a reason to enjoy the other games. You can double up too, it’s totally acceptable co-manage a team with a friend.
Sounds like a lot of work?
In this day of the Internets, fantasy football is done all online. All the math, all the stats, all the organization is completely online and web-based. You can even grab apps for the more popular websites to manage your team on your Microsoft Surface, or whatever new-fangled gadget you have. NFL.com, ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS (just to name a few) all host fantasy football leagues, and nearly every basic league is Free to play in. (You might pay a small fee if you want to customize the rules and scoring for your league, but is by no means required).
So where do you stand? Are you a fantasy football nerd, or a nerd interested in fantasy football? Do you have a funny fantasy football story to tell, or a killer team name that you’re really proud of? This season’s leagues are just getting started, so it’s not too late to start!
Cover image credit: http://www.good-wallpapers.com/fantasy/17605