AS I WRITE THIS HEADSHOTS COLUMN I AM NOT WEARING PANTS. I am not wearing pants, there are no pants within my immediate vicinity, and I have no plans to locate nor entertain the notion of pants, slacks, trousers, or dungarees. Even if the President himself walked into my rec room today, he would bare witness to no pants. Boxers? Yes. Shorts? Maybe? A sweet pair of Zubaz? Probably around midday. And my only worry, my only concern, is: Should I start Beanie Wells over Visanthe Shiancoe?
It is Thanksgiving, and I am preparing for a day of NFL football, high cholesterol snacking involving some combination of synthetic microwaveable cheese and a double Family Sized bag of tortilla chips, copious amounts of cold beer, and eventually a hard onslaught of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. There will be family. There will be thanks. But more importantly, there will be three important NFL games in week 12 of my fantasy football league.
We’re just past the halfway mark in the NFL season, and in bars, rec rooms, and cubicles across the country and around the world the same question is being asked: Who should I start Sunday? Fantasy football has become bigger than teen porn, bigger than Justin Bieber, bigger than, dare I say it, Jesus himself. Because while teen porn keeps our blood flowing and broadband streaming, and Biebs keeps those same teen porn stars wetter than a summer intern on Labor Day, and Jesus may save, but he can’t tell me whether or not it’s a good idea to start the Colts’ defense when they’re playing the Dolphins. Fantasy football is the new religion, and Headshots is here to tell you why.
1. PEOPLE HATE CHURCH
Church used to be the business. It was a great place to pick up honeys, the music was top shelf, and quite often there was a nice spread of finger sandwiches. But then The Books got tired, and the minister got caught with the choir boys, and it all went to hell. Quite literally. So God invented the eight hour pre-game show, and the 1 PM roster deadline, Sunday mornings, once reserved for psalms and making sure the priest wasn’t handsy, is now dedicated to ESPN research so that you don’t lose that second mortgage riding on your ten team keeper league.
2. PEOPLE LOVE FOOTBALL
Football IS the business. It has surpassed baseball as America’s Pastime. Have you seen Friday Night Lights? That’s, like, the new gospel. The NFL dominates the sports and entertainment market like nothing else. Fantasy leagues allow fans to live vicariously through the players every Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night. Generally, most people are horrific failures in their own lives. They didn’t chase their dreams, they didn’t marry their high school sweetheart, they’re carrying 32 extra pounds, and they need Viagra just to look at a set of breasts. But NFL players chased their dreams, they fucked their high school sweetheart, her sister, their mom, their cousin, and their friends, their extra pounds look good, and they have good hard erections all the damn time. Fantasy football allows armchair quarterbacks to pretend, just for a moment, that they won.
3. POP CULTURE TELLS US WHAT TO DO
We are slaves to pop culture. How else can you explain my Whazzup? tattoo? IN the past five years, fantasy football has been taken from single men’s mother’s basements to the Vegas strip. Bill Simmons of ESPN celebrates it like no other and gets paid good money to do so, Vegas has draft weekend packages, every NFL media entity covers who to start and who to bench, and FoxFX’s The League built a successful, and funny, sitcom around it. Pretty soon Jay-Z will reference it in a hit song and Obama will deliver his waiver advice in his weekly address, and the circle of life will be complete.
4. LORDING VICTORY OVER FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES IS BETTER THAN SEX
Well, better than sex with me, anyway. And, naturally, lording victory over friends is easier to come by than a quick “how’s your uncle?” in the alley behind Chili’s. But bragging rights is the new black, and beating down your buddies week after week in fantasy football action is perhaps the most rewarding feeling one can have in a post-high school life. It’s better than getting married, better than having kids, better than winning the lottery – because it’s earned, and better than that tugger you got from your buddy Steve’s wife in the guest washroom during their fifth wedding anniversary party. And if you win your league, the lording (and the euphoria that accompanies it) lasts from January until the next season’s draft the following fall. When’s the last time an orgasm lasted nine months?
5. FOOTBALL IS AN EROTIC FANTASY, THEREFORE FANTASY FOOTBALL IS AN EROTIC FANTASY FANTASY
Hear me out here. Football has always been the most erotic of the four major sports. I mean, no one can possibly get turned on watching hockey. Ice, Canadians, a lack of teeth. And baseball, though suggestive in its lexicon (mmm, balls, bats, getting to third base, vaginas) is anything but sexy to watch. Basketball is only hot if you’re into skinny tall dudes, and unless you’re my cousin Jon Paul, you’re not. But football, with its tight-fitting uniforms, its orgy-like scrums, handsome men crouched over other handsome men with their hands tickling their digits. Even the straightest of football fans get little half-chub my the second quarter. Simple extrapolations makes fantasy football the meta-fantasy of the original erotic fantasy. You follow? Fantasy football is like being the first Assistant Director of your favorite porn, except occasionally you get to come on the one of the actresses.
Fantasy football is now as big a part of Americana as football itself. If you’re not playing, you’re missing out. This year, Headshots currently sits fifteenth in a sixteen-team league in which the last place finisher has to pay the winner’s mortgage for the whole off-season. I still have a shot, as long as my waiver claim on Colin Kaepernick goes through, and Mason Crosby recovers from his yips. Mmm. Yips.
Mike Spry is the author of JACK (Snare Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for the 2009 QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and he was longlisted for the 2010 Journey Prize. His most recent work is Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011).
Related on The Smoking Jacket:
Headshots: Petraeus, Betray Us! A Guide to Getting Caught
Headshots: The Undecided Voter
Headshots: Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!
Headshots: Strange Bed Etiquette: 5 Rules of Engagement