Ana Veciana-Suarez

Ana Veciana-Suarez: Trying to figure out the lure of fantasy football

MCT

This is my season of feeling left out. Of sitting on the sidelines, ignored and forgotten. Of hanging around my family and thinking that I’m an alien who’s dropped in from outer space.

Too many people I love are neck-high, eyeball-deep into fantasy football. Nothing else matters this fall, except perhaps the refreshments for the all-day marathon in front of the big screen TV. Me, I don’t care much about who starred and who flopped on Sunday (or Monday or Thursday), who ran for a thousand yards and who threw for half a dozen touchdowns. Unless it’s the home team.

I am what many would call a fair-weather fan. The intensity of my support for the Miami Dolphins is in direct proportion to the team’s record. I cheer some players more than others, though, frankly, this has little to do with their performance on the field and a lot more with their behavior in their off hours. I root for my team, and my team only. Whatever others do matters only in relation to how it affects my team’s standing.

Fantasy football fans, on the other hand, have no allegiance. Really. In fantasy football, or in any fantasy sport actually, you pick athletes from across the league, not just one team. You “score’’ by how well these players do in the yards they gain or the points they put on the board. So a random running back who has managed to stay healthy and picked up lots of yardage generates more interest than the team playing across town. To me that feels so…so…I don’t know, mercernary? Disloyal? I don’t get the obsession.

As the mother of fantasy football addicts, another thing irks me. The time fantasy football fanatics devote to tracking their fantasy team, whether at home or in the office, adds up to dozens of hours a week. It’s like a second job. Someone I know even forked out perfectly good money to get a special game day-only NFL Network channel that shows, in real time, all the NFL plays that are most likely to result in a score. Surely this mania has already been labeled as some kind of syndrome.

Yes, I sound like a killjoy, and apparently a short-sighted one at that. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 56.8 million people in the United States and Canada are playing fantasy sports this year, up from 41 million who played last year and more than twice as many in 2009. The average player spends $465 a year, enough for a plane ticket to the Caribbean in the winter.

So I’m considering participating in the 2016 fantasy draft. Why not? If you can’t beat the fanatical natives, join them. A third of fantasy football managers are women, after all,and I know the game well enough after decades of watching both professional teams and youth league wannabes. I might even enjoy the fellowship of a tribe obsessed.

But…but I’m stuck on this one little thing. Fantasy football is not real; only the money won — and lost — is. The rest is pretend. Pretend teams. Pretend wins. Pretend personnel moves. Seems such a waste. But heck, I’m willing to keep an open mind. Someone enlighten me please because I’m no longer content to sit on the sidelines like a has-been.

Ana Veciana-Suarez: 305-376-3633, aveciana-suarez@miamiherald.com, @AnaVeciana

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