|Fantasy Football is not real Football|
|Written by Mark Grey|
by MARK GREY
Last week, writer Dave McMillian wrote an article entitled “Has Fantasy Football Corrupted My Mind?” After having countless debates with Dave in and out of the BarberShop and reading his article, I have realized the answer is yes, fantasy football has corrupted his mind, along with those of millions of other football fans out there. Don't get me wrong, I love fantasy football just as much as the next fan, but I also know that there is a big difference between fantasy and real football. So many football fans have become so engulfed in this Fantasy Football frenzy that they have allowed it to cloud their judgment and their ability to talk about real football. In his article, Dave asked the question: "Whats wrong with looking at sports through a fantasy lens?" Let me answer that question for you in two words: it's stupid.
Lets break down this silly idea of looking at sports "through the fantasy lens" and see why it makes no sense. One quick look at the dictionary to get the true definition of fantasy and I discover: fantasy - a superstition based on no solid foundation; visionary idea; illusion; hallucination. Just that quickly I now understand Dave's sports world and arguments so much more. All this time I have spent trying to find the foundation of his views, only to find there is no solid foundation; it's just illusion. You see the problem with the fantasy lens is all you see is numbers -- and I love sports way too much to reduce it to just numbers.
Before the season started, PlayersVoice formed a panel of different sports fans with the goal of creating an unbiased top ten list for each postion. The list was supposed to name the best and most complete players at every postion, not the ones who are in the best situations on the best teams. The name that caused the most discussion of the night was Chiefs running back Larry Johnson. Dave and a few others said he was no longer a top 10 back. What?! Going into last year he was top three and now we were considering leaving him out of our top 10? Dave goes on to tell me, "you're living in the past. He's done, he's lost it." That's crazy. We go back and forth for a while as Dave tells me all the things Larry can no longer do. After about five good mintues of heated debate, I ask Dave and the other Larry critics in the room when they last watched a Chiefs game. The room fell silent. Wait a second ... you mean to tell me I wasted five minutes of my life debating how good a player is with people who haven't even seen the guy play? "I just go by the numbers. What else do you have to go on," I am told. Call me old fashioned but when I give my views on the way someone plays, I would like to have seen that person play. But that's the great thing about the fantasy lens -- you don't even have to see a guy play to know if he is great or if he's a bum, you just look at the numbers.
Thanks to fantasy football, now anyone who can read a football box score thinks he/she is a football expert. The problem is that in life, numbers don't tell the whole story. If I told you I was a movie critic that didn't watch movies but I did however know how much every movie grossed and then based my opinions off of that number, would you value my opionion? I am guessing the anwser is no. What if I tried to enter a hip hop debate and said that Soulja Boy was now a better rapper than Jay Z because he sold twice as many records as him last year? I wonder how many people would agree with me there. Or how about a food critic who didn't eat the food at the restaurants but just knew the amount of business the restaurants did? All of these examples sound really silly but that's the same way it sounds when you mix fantasy sports talk with real sports talk.
I know the old saying in sports is that numbers don't lie but being a real sports fan, I know that is not always true. Last year Bruce Bowen finshed among the league leaders in three-point shooting, like he does every year, ahead of names like Ray Allen and Hedo Turkoglo. Anyone who has ever watched these three play knows Bowen is not even close to the shooter Allen or Turkoglo is, but the numbers say he is actually better. The one weakness in Jason Kidd's game that any NBA expert can tell you is his inability to shoot. One look through this "fantasy lens" and Kidd is actually a better three-point shooter than Kyle Kover, Michael Redd, and Dirk Nowitzki -- or at least his numbers say so. I don't know about you, but if I needed a player to make a three-pointer to win the game, I would take anyone of those three over Kidd in a heartbeat.
When you eliminate the actual idea of the way a sport is played and what each different player is asked to do and just go by the numbers, you are indeed living in a fantasy world. Remember just two years ago when the whole league was looking at Randy Moss through the fantasy lens? Just because his numbers were way down after playing on the worst team in the NFL for two years, people said his best days were behind him. I remember two of my brothers telling me, "he is done, his best days are behind him; he just doesn't have it anymore." Of course, they both said this without watching one single Raiders game. Being that I was forced to watch every Raiders game during Randy's tenure, I knew he still had plenty of football left in him -- he was just in a bad situation. Once Randy got out of the NFL graveyard known as Oakland and hooked up with a Pro Bowl quarterback, all of sudden he is the best wideout in football again. But for all of you out there wearing your fantasy lens, here is an inside scoop: Moss will not be catching 22 touchdowns this year, and it's not because he's any worse as a player as your lens would tell you. It's because Matt Cassel won't be throwing 22 touchdowns this year total. One thing that numbers don't tell you for a reciever is who is throwing him the ball, which believe it or not is a pretty big deal. The idea that a player can go to bed the best at his position and wake up in the morning worse because his team gets hit with injuries is flat out silly.
When judging how good a player really is, there is no substitute for watching the game. When naming the top 10 receivers in the game, no matter what the numbers said, I knew Steve Smith belonged in there. He is one of the best route runners in the game. He has great hands, he blocks, he can beat you short or deep, and he is probably the most dangerous player in the NFL with his hands on the ball. I don't care what kind of numbers he put up last year with Vinny Testaverde throwing to him. Smith draws teams' number one corners every week. Can Reggie Wayne, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, or Larry Fitzgerald say that? Is it really fair to say that Larry Johnson is done because he is playing on a team with a different no-name at quarterback every week and no other offensive weapons? If you don't think quarterback play affects the runningback, why don't you ask everyone's favorite fantasy back last year: Ryan Grant. Last year, Grant averaged over five yards a carry as everyone crowned him the next great back. Just one year later, he is not even getting 3.5 yards a carry ... does that mean he went from good to bad that quickly? No, it means that it's a lot harder to get yards when Brett Farve isn't back there. Nobody loves numbers more than I do, but when talking "real sports" you should know the story behind those numbers. Just because Marc Bulger and the Rams offensive line are strugling doesn't mean all of a sudden Torry Holt isn't as good as Wes Welker or the third reciver on the Cardinals. When you start looking at sports through the "fantasy lens" you don't get an unbiased opinion, you just end up saying things like David Garred is better than Payton Manning or Bruce Bown is a great shooter: things which just aren't true. The fantasy mind doesn't epitomize an objective sports mind, it tells you things like John Kitna has value, Niel Rackers is twice the kicker Adam Vinatieri is, or, even worse,Tim Duncan is the 12th best power forward in basketball. The fantasy world is the only place where people talk trades like Lendell White for Frank Gore. In the real world, teams were willing to give up a first round pick for pro bowler Chad Johnson. In the fantasy world, with Carson Palmer out, good luck even getting the Texans back-up running back for him. Fantasy football is a lot of fun and it's a great way to kill time during the week, but that doesn't make it an accurate measuring stick of a player's skills. So if you truly want to get an idea of how good a player is, you would be much better off just taking the Fantasy Lens off and watching the game.