Fantasy Football: Blurring The Lines Between Fandom And Rivalry?

It’s Saturday, and you’ve settled down before the television to watch some football. Liverpool are playing. As Luis Suarez embarks on another of his trademark mazy runs, leaving two opposition defenders for dead, you watch in dazed admiration. He twists, turns, nutmegs a defender; before unleashing a rasping drive — only to rattle the crossbar violently.

You punch the cushion almost as violently. Then you tell yourself, “It’s okay, it’s normal” — but it really isn’t. After all, as a Manchester United fan, the last thing you should want to see is Liverpool score. And certainly not that Suarez, of all people.  But you’re kind of helpless — after all, you chose to pick Suarez in your fantasy football team, and you captained him too (the blasphemy!). “He should score” — you had reasoned with yourself when picking him — “And why should I miss out on the points, eh?” And here you are, silently egging him on to score, having a mini heart-attack each time he gets a shot away.

Suarez is frustrated

That is what fantasy football has brought us to. From a harmless game of picking eleven players who you thought would score the most points in a given week, to something which forces us to grudgingly and silently cheer on our greatest rivals in quest for mini-league glory and bragging rights for a year. It starts with defiance (I hate Suarez; I won’t pick him, period).Then you see the fixture list  — some juicy home games  — and it suddenly changes into affected pragmatism (Suarez should score well, surely, whether I like it or not). And then, when at the end of the day, your captain strikes the woodwork for the umpteenth time, desperation sets in.

But this was not the case, not nearly so. There were times when we used to watch games together, cheer on our teams, curse at the television when a rival team scores; and when the game was over, regale ourselves with our rival’s failings, defeats and misfortunes. A lot of hearty banter would ensue where each person present would seek to defend his club – a Manchester United fan would point to their recent successes, while Liverpool fans religiously chanted “We won it five times”; Arsenal fans would repeatedly bug you about their invincible season, but not before Chelsea fans pointed fingers at their trophy cabinet, which had not received a new addition for many years.

Van Persie has had a stellar season, making himself a must-have

Not to say all this doesn’t occur today; of course people indulge in light-hearted banter – such a thing is too enjoyable to give up altogether. But it has definitely changed, because while cursing Liverpool and their erstwhile ‘perch’, you are painfully aware of the fact that you have Suarez up front; and you are secretly hoping that he smashes some goals in, thereby putting you a step ahead in your office mini-league. A Spurs fan grudgingly captains Robin Van Persie and cheers him on desperately as he puts Wolves to the sword. Even a Liverpool fan, whose motto in life was, until now, to cheer for anyone but Manchester United; that person also has Rooney up front and Valencia as a budget midfielder. What’s more, dig deeper and you might well find that he also secretly has had Phil Jones in his backline, just because he was being played OOP (Out Of Position, idiot!) in the midfield and hence has more chance of scoring or assisting. In another time, perhaps, a Manchester United fan would feel like killing himself after a defeat against Blackburn, but now the pain is somewhat numbed; after all, he has Yakubu upfront in his team. Even the grand finale of the last season, when Aguero sealed an epic victory for Manchester City, was often marred by mini-league triumph riding on the goal, or defeat riding on the yellow card that ensued; people even went as far as to ask, “Why couldn’t he keep his shirt on?”

“Keep the shirt on, will ya?”

A study in the US has revealed that a whopping 41% of NFL fans would rather see their fantasy team score well, than see their favourite team win on the pitch. Though the situation in UK is not that grave, more than 2.7 million people played the official Fantasy Premier League (FPL) last season, and the number looks set to increase. People have often tried to maintain principles, with many fans deciding not to players from their rival teams, but in a competitive environment like the one fantasy football creates, it is a mere matter of time before all principles are laid to rest and a Arsenal fan picks and captains Gareth Bale in the pursuit of the mini-league victory and year-long gloating rights. The lines between fandom and rivalry have been blurred like never before, and with so many people cheering on so many different teams for so many different reasons, one can only pray for the survival of English football culture as we know it.

Originally posted in Beyond The Ninety Minutes


16 thoughts on “Fantasy Football: Blurring The Lines Between Fandom And Rivalry?

  1. Nice read for first thing on a Sunday morning, Rick and sooo true! Cheers

  2. “A study in the US has revealed that a whopping 41% of NFL fans would rather see their fantasy team score well, than see their favourite team win on the pitch. ” – That’s a made-up stat, isn’t it?

  3. Nice article Rick, you’ve hit the nail on the head. One of the guys in my ML is a Liverpool fan, and he says he won’t be taking part this year because he hates wanting Rooney to score. Bet he changes his mind though, he’s almost as addicted to FPL as me!!!

  4. How very true. Despite being a Liverpool fan I would rather just watch a decent game of footy with my fpl players scoring well. Oh, that reminds me… I have to renew the son and my Arsenal membership!

  5. This is very good rick and unfortunately very true

  6. Thanks everyone for the feedback. Cheers 🙂

  7. Thats a bloody good read rick. Talented, must say.

  8. Nice effort Rick. It is all very true. On occasion I have felt so torn by my team/FF allegiances that it has become no longer enjoyable and I’ve almost jacked it in. The flip side being that there can always be a silver lining if you bet against your own team.
    I do hate the way it begins to rule your mood over a weekend though!

  9. Nice write up bro…. 😉

  10. 0H, when I first read the title I thought the article might be a piece on blurring the lines of fandom and rivlary between this site and FFS 😉

  11. Impressive article Rick, great read.

    By the way, just looked at Isacki’s ticker, WOW.

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