My Concession (Sort Of) To Fantasy Football

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Thursday, September 17, 2009
By Jennifer A. Morrell
Steelers Fever Columnist


Living in the Atlanta area, I have been asked more times than I care to count just how I became a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Usually, I give the short answer: I was born that way.

Hines WardBut the truth be known, the reason is multi-pronged. I was a child of the '70s, when the Steel Curtain was unstoppable, a certain reception was immaculate, and a Terrible Towel was born. It seemed impossible not to love Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, et al. Through the years, my reasons for loving the Steelers have evolved and multiplied. I respect the way our organization is run by the Rooney family. I love my fellow fans and the true sports city that has grown millions of diehards in the Steeler Nation (yinz know who you are).

Sometimes, I think that this black-and-gold love affair steeped in nitty-gritty, tried-and-true tradition is something I can actually feel coursing through my veins. Maybe that's why I've had a hard time - a really hard time - embracing one of America's most popular money-sucking pastimes, Fantasy Football.

My disdain for the hobby has softened during the last couple of years. I don't spit fire when I see a single, solitary person occupying an entire table at a sports bar, with papers spread from corner to corner and a view of every game being televised. Whereas I used to feel the urge to throw a chicken wing at this guy (or girl), who looked more like he was doing his taxes than enjoying the game of football, today, I merely shake my head and resist rolling my eyes.

I know, I know. It's all in fun, and you can win a lot of money if you walk away the fantasy champion. But my major problem with FF is that it causes people to root for individuals, rather than teams. This goes against the very nature of what it means to be a lifelong fan of any sports team. Do I have favorite Steeler players? Sure I do. I also pull for various other players throughout the NFL and hope they do well (not at our expense, of course).

Hines Ward's fumble last week was painful to watch, but a small part of me felt a wave of naughty satisfaction. My assumption was that all those people who had Ward on their fantasy football teams were experiencing pangs of dissatisfaction, irritation, and even anger. The utter disappointment emitting from gridiron dreamers nationwide seemed palpable.

Now, I'm no dummy. I know that Fantasy Football is here to stay. The odds of the hobby dissipating are about as likely as Vegas unplugging all the slot machines and refunding everyone's money. I still remember where I was the day I opened a Sports Illustrated and saw actual editorial space dedicated to Fantasy Football. The horror!

As I edge closer to a peaceful coexistence with the FF cyber phenomenon, I am even able to force a smile or pleasantry when my well-intended friends say things like, "Hey, you'll be glad to know I have Hines Ward as my receiver," or "Hey, Jenn, Big Ben's my QB!" I suppose in the fantasy world, I should be flattered. Instead, I pray for tolerance of this...this...this thing that, in my humble opinion, waters down football in the worst of ways. When it's more about you winning than your team winning, there's a problem!

Mind you, I don't wish any harm to my pigskin-loving friends with their virtual teams and vivid imaginations. But I did like the fact that a player who many assumed was a sure bet, my Steeler, No. 86, may have messed up their PPRs or lowered their total points with his rare fumble. Hopefully, that doesn't make me a bad person. It's all make-believe anyway, right?

P.S. I recently discovered the Web site, fantasysportsinsurance.com. Really? Seriously?