So, I’ve never enjoyed football. As a small child, I played it and even recall attending summer activity weeks, but it was never something I had a passion for. Instead, it was one of those activities your parents say you’re doing, so you do it. And as someone still in the single digits of their life, I took that as a fact of life. Then throughout secondary school, it’s one of the sports played in P.E. and one of the ones the ‘cool’ kids play. As the spaghetti monster I am (long and gangly) I rarely enjoyed any P.E. lessons, and while football was far from my most hated, it was hardly a fun time. Cut to adulthood and my disinterest continues. Even with major events like the Euro and World Cup, I struggle to have any interest outside of the headlines of who won the tournament, which team did something funny, whether an octopus guessed the match scores and whether the official song is worth listening to. And I’m fine with that, I don’t need to have long conversations about last week’s fixtures or talk about the latest transfers, it holds absolutely no interest for me. And so I decided to set up a Fantasy Football League with my family and now I’m obsessed.
I should start by saying that this is week 1, we’ve had two days of games and I have no idea what I’m doing. There’s five of us in our league, my two brothers who are football fans (one of them playing Fantasy Premier League each year), my Mum who watches it when my brother and Dad do (and who is currently winning), and my partner who watches the aforementioned big events like the World Cup. So between us, we have a decent mix of interests and experience with football and Fantasy Football. And so I watched my first full match on Sunday, on purpose. I had players from my team playing and wanted to see if they could score me some much-needed points. It wasn’t a resounding success, I’m still lagging in the ranking but the experience was enthralling and addictive.
I don’t know if I’m ready to state that I like football now, I think that would be presumptuous. However, the fact that I got a kick out of watching a football match is fascinating to me. While I never prescribed having a ‘favourite team’, outside of influences as a child, I can see the attraction of building your own team and, importantly, watching as your numbers go up faster and further than anyone else’s.
One of the elements that immediately grabbed me about Fantasy Premier League and Fantasy Football in general (it is extremely confusing that what I’m playing doesn’t have ‘football’ in the title) are the stats. If there is one thing I can reliably say about myself its that I love numbers, I love watching them go up and I love tinkering with lists to get the most out of my numbers. As a comparison, deckbuilding in Magic: The Gathering was always my favourite part of the game. Coming up with crazy decks that would do silly things or trying to maximise the performance of every card that I include is compelling. Playing the actual game was always secondary, and something I wasn’t particularly good at. The same can be said for my new obsession, Warhammer. I love building lists and checking out a unit’s stats. And for that same enjoyment to be transferred to football is crazy and amazing.
There are so many stats, it’s like an RPG fan’s wet dream. There historical stats, weekly stats, game fixture predictions and so many that it would be pointless to list them here. The next time a Fantasy Football fan laughs at World of Warcraft you can confidently say that there are more stats and spreadsheets in football than any video game. Admittedly, the players who the stats are about are real people who can mess with you, but Fantasy Premier Leauge is so unbelievable stat driven that just getting to terms with the possibilities is part of the fun for me.
And it’s that real person element that brings me onto another part of Fantasy Football I hadn’t anticipated, and that is gambling. You have no control over anything beyond your lineup. You can make transfers, use one of the powers (credits but same thing) and pick your captain and vice-captain, but you can’t impact the games themselves. And while you can crunch the numbers, once you set that lineup and the games begin you are basically just throwing dice at this point. And this is what makes watching the actual football so exciting.
I don’t care about the result of a fixture. I don’t care which team loses. What I care about is my players getting me points. That means that when my goalkeeper saves two shots, I’m praying he saves a third for that extra point. So that means I want people to shoot against this team, and if one of them goes it then I don’t mind but two means it impacts my points. If a team loses but my player did well then that is a great outcome. And the times when you have players going up against each other you cheer them on individually akin to spread betting on a horse race. It personalises every match to you but never loses the excitement of gambling on that throw of the dice.
But like I said, it’s only week 1. Whether I’ll keep this excitement for an entire season we’ll have to wait and see. However, I think competing with my family will keep me engaged far longer than if I had decided to take this journey alone. I’ll do another post in a month or so with an update of how my team is doing, the highs and lows of Fantasy Premier League and any other insights into the stat driven gambling of fantasy football.
Thanks for reading. I’m not sure where to direct you to from this article, but maybe something about Delayed Gratification and JRPG’s? Alternatively, for more dice rolling check out my Machi Koro review.
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