I'm starting to think the whole fantasy football thing is getting completely out of hand.
It hit me the other day when I found myself listening to a fantasy football call-in show on a local sports-talk radio station. These shows have been around for probably 10 years -- in fact, they're a staple of late-night talk. I've heard them before, like the white noise of a refrigerator running in the background. But this time, I was struck by the silliness of it all.
These shows are phenomenal in their specificity and comical in practice. Guys call in and ask a fantasy expert -- how do they judge them, I wonder -- for advice on their fantasy roster that week.
Most calls go something like, "Hey, yeah, I'm in an eight-team, four-tier league and we can play two running backs and three receivers. My question is about my running backs: I've got Priest Holmes, Clinton Portis and Cory Schlesinger. Which two should I play this week, do you think?"
Where else do you get such personalized, public advice? I guess you can call a syndicated radio show and ask a doctor why your leg hurts, but there might be a thousand other people listening with the same leg and the same hurt. These fantasy shows are pretty much room service when it comes to getting expert advice for free over the public airwaves.
I'd rather hear a guy talk about point spreads and the over-under. At least that's equal-opportunity information.
For those of us who don't see the appeal, fantasy football is eminently mockable. But there's a more serious undercurrent: Their appeal has changed the way a lot of people view sports. How many fans root for their fake teams first and their real teams second? Discounting Raider fans, of course, you hear way too often someone say something similar to this: "My team lost today, but that's cool. Moss had four touchdowns and Bulger threw for 400 yards, so my fantasy team kicked butt."
There's probably a psychological reason for the rise of fantasy sports -- the increasing distance between player and fan has to account for some of it -- but figuring it all out takes too much thinking. Instead, I'm guessing I speak for every non-fantasy-obsessed person when I say there's nothing more boring than a guy bragging about his fantasy team.
Unless, of course, it's the guy lamenting the decision to go with Priest Holmes on the week when Cory Schlesinger decided to score three touchdowns.
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Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.