Almost four years ago, my daughter called from Vancouver one sunny, August day and said “Mom, I want you to play Fantasy Football with me. None of my female friends is interested so I need you to play with me. I never have anyone to talk sports with and it’ll be fun to be able to talk football with you.”
Responding skeptically, I countered with “I don’t know a thing about Fantasy Football, Kristy, and I’m in Ontario. How would that even work?”
Pouncing on a perceived opportunity she made her case, cajoling me with assurances that the game is played on line, requires no experience, is easy to learn, we’d learn together, and closed her pitch with “after all Mom, you like football.”
Professional American (NFL) football is the only televised sport I care to watch, but prior to Kristy’s call, I’d rarely paid any attention to football season until the play offs started. And then I couldn’t tear myself away from the TV screen. As a child, Kristy grew up half an hour’s drive from Detroit, Michigan; she loved all its professional sports teams, but the Lions football team was her favourite. Every football season, she and I commiserated over their losses. “The Lions never fail to disappoint” was our sad refrain. I was intrigued by the opportunity to have those kinds of conversations with her again, so I accepted her invitation. I missed her and I hoped that playing a silly game with her would connect us more closely.
“We’re going to schedule our Draft for Labour Day weekend, Mom. You’ve got three weeks to study up and be ready to pick your team” ordered Kristy.
What did that even mean? I wondered.
“Mom: when you draft a team you pick a Quarter Back (QB), two Running Backs (RBs), two Wide Receivers (WRs), a Flex (F), who can be either a WR or RB, a Tight End (TE), a Kicker (K) and a Defense (D). You can pick players from any NFL team you like but you want to pick only the very best guys to build your virtual team with. That’s why it’s called Fantasy Football” she continued. We would sign up on the NFL Draft web site, pick a ten-team fantasy league with openings for our two teams, and schedule ourselves for a Draft date and time. Playing against eight teams of strangers seemed a bit daunting, but I liked the idea of anonymity; it would allow me some dignity as I made my rookie mistakes.
I enjoy a challenge, so Kristy’s command inspired me. Turning to Google and beginning with a “best NFL players” search, I was overwhelmed by the number of websites to choose from. With pen and paper in hand, I began putting together charts of the top one hundred players, as identified by various sports analysts. Week after week, I repeated my search, updated my charts and approached Draft Day with mountains of paper at my finger tips, listing my preferred candidates by position in descending order. At the time of log-in for our Draft, Kristy phoned me and we talked to each other as the computer assigned Team Owners random numbers from one through ten to determine the picking order. When my turn came, I got flustered; I had ninety seconds to make my choice but the clock seemed to race out of control. Kristy rescued me, calmed me down, and helped me understand the technical obstacle that had overwhelmed me. My next turn went without a hitch. With telephones in hand, and our computers in front of us, we watched in real time, as teams were assembled. Kristy and I were in a virtual room together, playing a game.
Kristy in her Mahomes jersey