The drafts are over.
Your team(s) have been selected. Maybe you’re feeling really confident or regretting some of the chances you took. Regardless, fantasy football leagues have been formed all over the country through work places, neighborhoods, and family gatherings to give sporting fans a competitive way to be involved in the sport itself. With between 50-60 million Americans participating in fantasy football this year, there is no denying it has become a billion dollar industry in which many find identity, purpose, and mission.
While for some it may be easy to ignore this opportunity for community or reject fantasy sports altogether, fantasy football should not be dismissed as a pointless activity. If done well, you could spend the next four months doing more than simply leading your team to the playoffs. Just like any good coach or league owner, you should ask yourself, “How can you participate better this year?”
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Acknowledge all greatness
In fantasy football, nobody likes a homer. I know it is hard to believe that despite you being a fan and believing in your team, not all the players on your team are fantasy football material, but it’s the truth.
This means that inevitably you will find yourself at some point in the season with a match up of one of your skill players against your favorite team, so who do you root for? Fantasy football helps (maybe even forces?) us to make the subtle shift in our minds that allows us to see beauty on both sides of the game.
Psalm 19:1 tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” It’s a shame that often when we see an athlete or team execute an amazing play if they’re not “our team” the only thing we can muster is, “that’s cool, but they got lucky.”
The point is simple: seeing beauty should lead us to attribute it to someone. The beauty of seeing athletes (even when their not on your favorite team) do great things should lead to an appreciation directed at God. Fantasy football can teach us that it really is possible to give the other team credit without hindering your integrity as a fan to your team.
Know your sleepers
When you draft a team, you want to select the guys who will be among this year’s top five players, not last year’s top five. You also don’t want to be the loser who goes into auto-draft mode and selects players only based on their rank.
Any good fantasy football owner knows that before the draft you need to be asking yourself, “Who are the young studs ready to make the big leap? Who am I ready to invest in?” If we’re honest, drafting these players is why we like fantasy football — there is nothing more exhilarating than being the one who sees potential in a young guy and then watching him succeed the rest of the season.
What is a good investment in fantasy football? Knowing your sleepers.
What is a good investment in real life? Knowing your sleepers.
If you thought watching your fantasy player succeed was exhilarating, imagine taking a chance and watching someone in your everyday life grow and succeed. Matthew 20:32 says, "Jesus stopped.” While this seems to be a simple act, it is actually a significant step in serving others. Jesus was leaving one town and headed to another appointment. He had finished what he needed to do and was moving on.
But, he stopped!
Just like the 60 second draft countdown can cause us to make picks in a hurry, without taking time to think of who might be an up-and-comer, our pace in life often becomes so fast that we speed past ministry opportunities. Jesus stopped. He slowed down. He allowed His temporary schedule to be interrupted for an eternal investment.
Let fantasy football cause you to take a look around at your circle of friends or sphere of influence and ask, who are the young studs ready to make a big leap? Your coworker? Niece? Neighbor? Who has the Lord placed in your life that you can see potential in and you could take the time to invest in to help watch succeed.
Consistency is key
Although it can definitely be argued that fantasy football doesn’t help the idolization of sport in our culture, the good news is that fantasy football reveals that idolizing players or trusting in their consistency can only get you so far.
Knowing every stat and yard and mistake of a player reminds us that even our most trusted players can have bad weeks. One of the most fatal fantasy football mistakes is having too shallow of a bench. When you don’t spend time finding a good player to fill your flex position or trust that you don’t need good backups, you’re putting yourself one suspension or injury away from having a bad season.
Just like our friends and family in real life, we can definitely enjoy and love players, but we also need to realize that they have the ability to ultimately let us down. Instead of using this to fuel your frustration, let the ups and downs of a player’s stats allow you to praise God for not being as inconsistent as your QB from Atlanta.
Communicate with your competition
No, do not pray for them to lose or for their WR to break an ankle. Instead pray that God might use your fantasy football connection to spark deeper conversations. This doesn’t mean some sort of cheesy unnatural talk like, “My defense just scored a safety, but that safety is nothing compared to the safety I have in Jesus who died for my sins.”
I’m talking about simply moving beyond the sport and talking with your fellow league members about what’s going on in their lives. You might be in a work league and not know Jim from two cubicles down very well, and instead of simply grumbling his name when he’s crushing you on Monday night, why not chat with him at work about his favorite team or how the heck he became a Lions fan?
Or maybe you don’t play with people from work, but are in a fantasy league with your family or an old group of friends. Why not do your best to use this time to check-in with them about more than just their lineup?
Regardless of who is in your league, you have an opportunity to use the next four months of the NFL fantasy football season to intentionally talk with, pray for, and maybe even host your fellow league owners over for dinner.
As someone who knows how easy it is to take fantasy football a little too seriously, why not try to do things differently this year and come up with a lasting winning strategy?