I love this time of year. Apart from the promise of pumpkin beers and sweaters and boots, fall brings with it the delight of football season.
I was never that girl: super into football. Baseball was my sport of choice, but I’d watch basketball or football if it was on. I’d half-heartedly cheer for the Patriots or Packers (which are my parents’ favorite teams) or the Redskins (because they were the home team), or failing those excuses, I’d pick the team with the prettier uniform colors (i.e. Panthers and Seahawks).
The Wildcards invited me to join their fantasy football league two years ago. It was possibly a rare instance of the boys being nice, or maybe they figured adding a couple girls who didn’t pay attention to football would increase their chances of winning. I don’t think they realized just how consumingly competitive I am.
The first year, I scoured the lists of top players and read a few articles about projections, but mostly I went in fairly blind and ended up with a pretty phenomenal team that brought me to second place. Somehow, I managed to draft Gronk, Odell Beckham Jr, Julian Edelman, Danny Woodhead, and Drew Brees. If I hadn’t lost Woodhead in a misguided trade and OBJ to his attitude — and suspension — I might have won it all.
Last year, I made it to play-offs, but ended middle of the pack. It was frustrating, since I’d spent far more time and energy last season reading every scrap of information I could get, taking risks tempered with “expert” advice. Still, I learned.
For me, the best result of fantasy football is that it’s encouraged me to pay attention. And not just to the teams I like for wishy-washy reasons, but to every game. Every player. Because of fantasy, I know the names of the top players in the league. And because of fantasy, I’ve found my favorite team in the Oakland Raiders.
My husband argues this is simply because we have family in Oakland. That helps, but even once they go to Vegas, as long as Carr leads them, I’ll follow. Between the past two years, I’ve had almost their entire (possible) offensive line on my team. My brother-in-law offered me the typical challenge when one claims to love a team: name three of their players. Easy: Carr, Crabtree, Cooper, Janikowski, Murray (at the time), Jalen Richard, Walford.
At this point, I could probably name at least three players on every team in the league. That’s not all Oakland has going for it. I just love watching them. They have an obvious cohesion and a fluidity that’s beautiful. They’re good — good enough to keep every game interesting — but not so good that it would be more exciting to watch them lose (ahem: Patriots). I’ve watched every single team play any number of times, but few give me a similar thrill to the one I get when the Raiders are on the field.
And I have fantasy football to thank for giving me a team to cheer for, and interest in a sport that’s as intricate and graceful as it is straight-forward and brutal. Win or lose, I’ll always have that.
But, obviously, I want to win, too.