Sundays with manly men and a silly game

Fantasy sports have changed the way we consume football and Coors Lite

This week, millions of manly men such as myself will flex their beer guts and talk amazing amounts of trash while staring daggers at their laptops.

It's fantasy football draft season, baby. Grrr! Arggghh!

Can you feel the manliness emanating off the page? I know I can.

Grrr!

I'm entering into a decade of choosing what millionaires I'll stack together to make a competitive fake team.

For those with bountiful, fulfilling lives who might be blissfully unaware of this obsession, fantasy football is an online-based game in which players choose from a list of all NFL offensive players based on their projected stats for the upcoming year.

You pick, say, one quarterback from a team, two wide receivers, two running backs, etc. and fill the available slots. Then, on Sunday you watch as your "players" accumulate stats in real games that are then translated into fantasy points.

For instance, if Peyton Manning throws for a 25-yard gain, he gets one fantasy point for your team. If Adrian Petersen runs for 1,674 yards in a game (as he is seemingly capable of doing because he's clearly a mutant masquerading as a Minnesota Viking running back) then you would break the bank that week.

At the end of the weekend, if the players on your team fared better than the dude you're going head-to-head against, then you win the week. The dudes with the best season records then play each other in a playoff round and a beer-gutted winner is crowned.

This all sounds so very simple. Good, clean fun.

If only it were so.

An entire industry has grown around fantasy sports. I believe it's also a boon for football and sports bars.

Fantasy sports has changed the way we view competition in this country, for better and worse.

Walk into any sports bar on football Sunday and you'll see just as many open laptops and iPads as empty pitchers of Coors Lite.

I watch the bulk of my football at the Oak Tree Northwest Bar and Grill in Ashland. The Tree is a heady fantasy hotspot. The geeks are thick there on Sunday.

To be sure, true fans will focus on their favorite teams' games, but there's always time to sneak peeks at other games, preferably ones in which your top running back is playing.

The result is that I have become an expert on random teams that up until I began playing fantasy sport I could not care less about.

For instance, why do I know the personal histories, right down to the marital status, of five running backs on the freaking Kansas City Chiefs?

Well, because it could give me an edge in knowing who to pick for my fantasy team.

It's sick, I know. But that's how it is. I cannot apologize for my geeky behavior, nor will I.

When I told my Tempo editor I was writing about fantasy football this week she burst into laughter, caught herself, and then looked at me with a noticeable amount of sympathy.

Oh, you're one of those small, small men aren't you? her eyes said.

Fantasy football has changed the way manly men interact with each other on football Sunday.

I rock Chicago Bears gear quite a bit at the sports bar, so you know where my allegiances lie. If the Bears are winning or losing, a manly man might first make a comment about that, but then the real nitty gritty comes out.

"So, how's your team, bro?" Manly Man will ask.

Now, in decades past, this would suggest he was interested in how the Bears are doing that day. Yet, this is not the case in fantasy reality.

What Manly Man truly meant was, how is your fantasy team doing? Because that seems to matter more nowadays.

From there, Manly Man and I will enter into a Yale-level thesis defense of why we picked, say, Michael Vick over Alex Smith in a late round of a draft, we'll bemoan season-ending injuries to our players as if they were fallen comrades cut down by German machine gun fire while charging across the Somme, we'll relive draft day horror stories and successes. We'll laugh and we'll cry.

In the end, we'll be manly men, playing a silly little game.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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