I used to have a basement in the house I grew up in and that was my safe place. It had a lock on the door and posters of Samantha Fox and Brook Shields plastered over the walls. In there I could do just about anything a teenager wanted to do. I could prank call girls I like from school, liquid paper the eyes of cicadas and look through Playboy and Penthouse till my eyes grew tired.
I played kick to kick in the street until past dark, hung out at shopping centres and rang people or visited them when I wanted to talk. These were the days when you rang a landline from your landline if you needed an electrician and Chatrooms, Facebook, Blog’s, Instant Messaging and Twitter were just ideas in nerds heads.
When we caught up with people we talked. Hell, we even looked at people in the eyes when we spoke to them. The only distractions we had were pretty girls that walked past and our own teenage dreams.
We went to the football and screamed at the opposition and barracked for our players. We loved everything about our club and hated everyone else. The great rivalries of yesteryear were ingrained in our souls and although we had respect for the champions of our game, we never wished them an even break.
Fast forward 20 years and the world of AFL I grew up on has evolved. The rules have changed, our attitudes and tolerance to anti-social behavior has gone a long way to stamping out racism and bigotry in our game. We still love our club with all our heart however I believe our passion for our club has tempered slightly as we have been taught not to hate.
20 years ago, I knew every player on my teams list and all of the champions on the others clubs. Today, I know every player of all 18 clubs including rookie-listed players. I still got to the football to watch my boys and cheer every goal however my mind is often distracted.
That is because I am a Fantasy Football fan.
From humble beginnings in Australia 15 years ago, Fantasy Football has become a huge industry. In America, the fantasy football product is so big it is worth 100’s of millions. While still a long way behind The States, 2013 has seen somewhat of a ‘breakout year’ for fantasy football in Australia.
Fantasy Football, namely AFLDreamteam and Supercoach is the ‘social’ way we enjoy football. We play against our mates and compete to be the number 1 player in the country. We blog about it, we tweet about it, we message about it and we hang out in chat rooms talking about it, it is the social game within the game of AFL.
The AFL in their foresight understood many years ago the importance a successful fantasy football competition would be for the league. Adding their support to AFLDreamteam, (Where as News Limited Corporation support Supercoach) was done strategically to grow the AFL’s brand. Having people watch more games their teams aren’t involved in is great for TV ratings and therefore revenue in the AFL’s coffers.
We now watch games just to see how our fantasy players are performing and regularly check in on the official AFL and club websites for updates on injuries and news. We sit at games or home on the couch with one eye fixed to the live fantasy scoring sites. Some will even go home happy if their team loses as long as their fantasy players scored well.
We now live in a society where everything we want is available at the push of a button. If we don’t know something we can ‘Google’ it. If we don’t want to go to a supermarket we can order it online and have it delivered. We message friends we used to ring for the birthday, ‘join conversations’ with people we have never met and ‘post updates ‘ to share our lives with our ‘online’ friends.
Communication is changing forever and social isolation and obsessive behaviors around sites such as Facebook and Twitter means personal interaction is dying. I was at a friends going overseas dinner last year and was stunned that every person had their phone on the table. Most would pick it up and check it every 15 minutes and some would even do it mid conversation.
As human beings, two of our core drivers are significance (checking to see if someone ‘mentioned’ me, tagged me etc) and curiosity (What could be happening to others, what email might I be getting?) and this is why smart phone operators have made their squillions of dollars.
We want answers and we want answers now. This is obvious every day when I see people on twitter for instance ask a question of a fantasy football social commentator and expect an answer instantly. If they don’t get one, their attempt for significance goes unanswered, they feel wronged and often ask the same question again or they ask another expert until they get an answer (therefor significance). If they fail to get an answer repeatedly they will then often, depending on their social skills, attack the character of that person to try to bait them into getting a response (significance)
Relationships are suffering today more than ever before with lack of communication the main reasons for these problems. We are happy talking to people online rather than be attentive to the one we are with. When the fantasy world and real world collide there is going to be a point of no return.
In a conversation with some friends at the local pub the other night we discussed how fantasy football had affected their lives. One is totally obsessed and would lie to his partner about his involvement, check scores under the table and in the toilet and refused to go overseas during the season as his obsession with his team was that strong. Another had broken up with his girlfriend over fantasy football last year and vowed to stay single so he can immerse himself in his fantasy football world.
Were these responses typical of today’s beliefs? It got me thinking, what have people given up or sacrificed for fantasy football? I quick Twitter pole and the responses were varied however most said they would give up almost anything before they gave up fantasy football. Trips, beer, junk food, attending friend’s parties would all be given up before fantasy football.
Having a balanced life is healthy for your mind and body. When obsessions start to have a negative effect on the quality of your relationships the questions need to start being answered.
Obsessions can quickly turn to addictions and like choosing to give up the smokes or stopping drinking for a month, choosing to live life without fantasy football would send many into a catatonic state.
I love social media and the connections I have made with many people who enjoy the same interests I have and the fantasy football communities are generally a great bunch of people. Each has their own story to tell and are playing for many varied reasons.
I play because I love the game of AFL and I would watch any game if I had the chance. Would I miss a party or a chance to catch up with friends because of a game? Definitely not. There are many I know that would and that is ok, as long as they can sustain their relationships and their lives by choosing this path.
Thinking back to the basement as a teenager I enjoyed the time I spent alone in there with my prank calls and stickmags. However, I can say for sure it was much more fun when I had 10 friends over drinking stolen Strongbows and sharing stories and laughs.
Today, I live my life socially and fantasy football is a great passion of mine. So is my family, my business, travel, fishing, golf, education and teaching.
Be passionate about fantasy football. Just remember, life is short and is there for the taking. Chose how you spend your time on this planet carefully, you only get one go at it!
Follow on Twitter: @StueyDen