We here at GG are football fans. I haven’t always been, but for whatever reason it really started to light up my brain right around the time I went to college. It’s a violent, brutal game, sure, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel at least a little morally compromised watching grown men throw their lives and futures into the wind all for the smallest possible glimpse of glory or, worse yet, because they don’t know what else to do with their lives. I can’t help it, though — football, at its finest, is a beautiful game to watch. It doesn’t take much effort to figure out most of America feels the same way.
Being this passionate about a thing — anything, really — lends itself to a lot of interesting side-effects. Chief among them in this case? Fantasy football. It’s a game where you select players in draft format and your “teams” play “games” against each other, and a “winner” is determined by whichever team’s “players” accumulate the most stats during the week.
Does this sound lame to you? If so, you’re not alone: a Google search for “fantasy football dungeons and dragons for jocks” yields just under 5,000 results as of this writing. It’s a common refrain from the nerd crowd, who are all-too eager to prove that they’re no different than the “jocks” who allegedly persecuted them back in their adolescent years.
But what irks me most is that this comparison is short-sighted at best and completely unfair at worst. Tempting though it may be to call fantasy sports a “nerd” activity, it’s mostly borne out of wishful thinking and hypersensitivity.
To be fair, fantasy sports and “nerd” games like D&D, Magic, Warhammer and whatever else do share some similarities: neither one involves actually physically DOING much of anything. As a result, both are mostly based on numbers and probabilities. Fine, I’ll accept that. But fantasy football is based on another thing that no such nerdy hobby is based on: reality. Sure, you aren’t physically PLAYING a game…but physical games ARE being played in real life, and that at least counts for something. Football games — or any other sport, really — are wildly popular social events that offer much, much more than just the fantasy elements. Besides, casual fans and/or mostly uninterested fans play fantasy football all the time — it’s not a nerd activity to them, it’s a way to enhance the experience they were already looking for.
Could you argue that Dungeons and Dragons is “social” in that it’s played with a small group, or that Magic is “social” because they hold tournaments? Sure, to an extent. Are there sports fans who get overly fanatical about studying players and depth charts and pre-season trends and minor league/college players? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, each group is a minority of the overall population, and those who are so desirous to ostracize the “jocks” for their “nerdy” hobby are letting a small percentage of the fantasy sport pool represent the much, much larger one. I’m not arguing that what’s most popular is most right, mind you, I’m arguing that it takes considerably more fanaticism, dedication and, yes, even “nerdiness” to commit yourself to “nerdy” hobbies. It takes more effort to, say, learn how to master the cancels in Super Smash Bros. or how to optimize your stab damage in Pokemon than it does to play fantasy sports of any kind — and most people in the latter category just play the game very, very casually. That, to me, makes a huge difference.
I originally meant this to be a little more fair and unbiased, so allow me to do just that, you stupid dumb nerd loser assholes: if you want to compare D&D to anything, compare it to fantasy BASEBALL. Ever hear of Strat-O-Matic? It’s literally a card and dice game where the cards represent real players. How about APBA or OOTP Baseball, the computer game that’s basically a digitized version of Strat-O-Matic? Baseball, as a sport, is almost literally a series of ongoing duels between pitchers and hitters: they take place one at a time, and, while each one is a random and unpredictable moment of chaos, the end result levels off into extremely predictable results over larger and larger sample sizes. What does that sound like to you guys? A nerd game for nerds? Fine, maybe I’ll agree — but if nothing else, you should at least remember that baseball games ALSO at least actually happen.
I guess the point is: as someone who is probably both a nerd AND a fantasy football player, I can see both worlds pretty clearly…and honestly, they really aren’t as similar as nerds might hope. Not that the jocks will care, mind you — their heads are buried in StatTracker, because Peyton Manning just launched a deep TD pass and they just took the lead!