Hello, my name’s Paul and I’m a fantasy football-oholic.
For months now, I’ve been deluding myself by describing my unsavoury love of fantasy football merely as “a hobby”. For the layman reading this, fantasy football is primarily an internet-based game in which you pick a team from a pool of Premiership players and get rewarded points based on the said players’ real-life footballing performances. Scores are tallied on a week-by-week basis, until a winner emerges based on the sum total of points they acquire over the course of a season.
I first became aware of my problem when I noticed myself glued to the TV screen watching the final few minutes of Sunday’s encounter between Aston Villa and Everton – a game that’s likely to prove as meaningful, come the end of the season, as a personal apology from Peter Crouch.
The reason for my interest lay in the fact that two of my Fantasy Football players (Aston Villa’s Brad Friedel and Stephen Warnock) were on the brink of securing a coveted clean sheet, given that Aston Villa were 1-0 ahead in the dying stages, thus ensuring both players would gain at least six points for my team.
For those last few minutes, everything else in my life grounded to a halt as I prayed Villa would survive Everton’s intensive bombardment of their penalty area. What’s more, the stakes were higher than usual as I had, up until that point, experienced a series of misfortunes, amounting to a Gameweek more ill-fated than Ian Wright’s television career. Defoe had had a shocker, Lampard actually had the temerity to miss a penalty for once in his life and Doyle… well I don’t think I can ever look at him (through my TV screen) again after he couldn’t even score against Newcastle FOR FECK SAKE!!!!
The eventual final whistle, confirming Villa’s 1-0 victory, sounded nothing less than elegiac. Finally, I was able to relate to Bill Shankley’s famous quote about football being “more important” than life or death. Coupled with the heroics of Birmingham defender Roger Johnson earlier that day, this game ensured that my team had gone from a pitiful 26 points following Saturday’s ignominious proceedings, to a more than respectable 46 points amid the culmination of Gameweek 3.
Of course, my addiction to all things football-related is longstanding. It has existed since my formative years, when I decided to completely forego studying for my Junior Cert so I could devote all my time towards helping Brighton secure Champions League football in the cult computer game, Championship Manager. I vividly recall jumping with unbridled joy when, for example, a youngster I had painstakingly nurtured for several seasons finally began fulfilling his potential. Namely, Tonton Zola Moukoko hitting back-to-back hat-tricks in crucial, end-of-season encounters. My joy, however, was short-lived. I suddenly realised that seven hours had passed and still I hadn’t started my Maths homework.
So, it was with a certain degree of trepidation that I approached the ungodly entity known as Fantasy Premier League. Yet avoiding addiction in the first season was a cinch. I partook in this seemingly innocent activity, purely because all my friends had joined and so as not to appear too elitist. Secretly though, I believed that in order to care passionately about FPL, one had to possess a Stephen Ireland-like level of emotional insecurity.
Having selected my players, I proceeded to disregard the rigorous attention to detail required to form a successful side, neglecting to make any substitutions throughout the season and finishing in a well-deserved last place as a result of my unabashed apathy. Not since Ossie Ardiles has there ever been a more careless manager of a football team, real or imagined.
At the time, I manfully responded to the constant derision from my friends/fantasy football enthusiasts by smugly reminding them that I at least had “a life”. If only I knew then of the dire fate awaiting me!
My second year as a Fantasy Football-ista coincided with a sudden rise in my interest for the game, possibly inspired by the fear of (perish the thought!) losing to a girl’s team. But whatever the reason, my addiction started here. Miraculously, I finished season 2 top of 3 out of the 4 leagues in which I was competing, ensuring my appetite for FF success was sufficiently whetted in the process.
Now, a mere three weeks into my third year of Fantasy Football, barely an hour passes without my worrying over whether I remembered to make Drogba my captain. Or imagine for a second, the unspeakable horror of watching Etherington put in another classy performance, only to realise you’ve left him on the substitutes’ bench.
Oh well, at least I’ve made the first step towards alleviating my addiction – acknowledging that I have a problem. And on the bright side, I spend the rest of my time productively, engaging in highly commendable and not-at-all-pointless activities such as, eh… writing blogs?
* And the award for most hilariously insane music video of the week and possibly ever goes to…