Well, now that I have your attention, perhaps the first thing I should say is that fantasy football is probably not destroying families. Or, at least not too many of them, anyway. But two events recently remind me of the ways we are, as a society and even as a race, becoming bizarrely atomized and increasingly living in a parallel universe. In this weird other land, we willingly believe lies and allow ourselves to be deceived, and at the same time, carve out our own individual lives apart from those around us.
I’ll start with the second point first. What has always struck me as strange about fantasy sports is the loss of the communal priority of team sports. In case you’re not familiar with fantasy sporting, imagine a sports league where you get to be the general manager of a “team.” You draft, sit, replace and play players, all taken, one at a time, from different teams across the real league. You research players, play the odds and try to win bragging rights among others in your fantasy league. So basically, you build a fake (hence, the “fantasy”) team comprised of real players from real teams across the real league. And if “your” players individually do well when they play the real game, you win. If not, you lose.
What strikes me as strange about this is the situation you might find yourself in, where you are cheering for your fantasy players who just happen to be playing against your hometown team. Certainly, fantasy owners face this dilemma weekly, and I’m sure they all say that they hope their team wins, even as their fantasy players have a good game. I’d rather not be in such a position. Indeed, it seems to me that rooting for the home team – and your rooting against my team – is a real good, a unifying aspect of society. There is a wholesomeness in standing by your team, good or bad, because, well, they’re your team. But in Fantasyland, your team is an amalgamation of players from other towns and this amalgamation changes yearly if not weekly. That doesn’t make Fantasy sports wrong, it’s just a change from how simple it used to be when cheering on teams.
I wonder if there isn’t loyalty to the mascot now. Are fans as willing to stick through it thick and thin? Is there real joy when your team finally wins the big one (as there will be for me in 2016 when the Cubs finally win the World Series)? My concern about fantasy sports is that we tend to look at the athletes with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. The game is reduced to statistics, which, if you ever actually watch a game, you know can be deceiving.
Now, it was only a matter of time before the fantasy world of sports met financial markets. Fantasy sports started out as a hobby, and still is for many, but now it is also huge business. With the advent of weekly fantasy leagues playing for money (Fan Duel and Draft Kings), the hobby of fantasy just became a real moneymaker for some, and a real money loser for many more. As it turns out, this supposedly ground-level, fan-based gaming opportunity is just like Vegas. The house always wins. These two weekly leagues were instantly saturated by professional gamblers, people who spend their entire week choosing players, doing research, crunching numbers, all in an effort to destroy you, the 50-hour/week working fan who thinks he knows a little something about football.
In other words, the appearance of equality in these weekly leagues is a lie. It’s not an equal playing field. You will almost certainly lose.
And who can forget the fantasy lives of over 30 million that were exposed with the hacking of Ashley Madison, the website for adulterers? What struck me about that story, though, was not just that people were trying to commit adultery. (Even Moses was well aware of our desire to commit adultery.) No, the equally troubling part was that the core business was built on a mountain of lies, that is, lies in addition to the lie of adultery! As men took a tour of the website and were considering joining, they were engaged by “women” online. The men couldn’t respond to these women, though, unless they took out their credit card and opened an account. In fact, these men were not even talking to women, but computer code written to emulate a person, specifically designed to fool men into joining. Most of the women on the site weren’t even real people; they were just robots. You probably have read that many suicides followed in the wake of that hack, and it was all built on one lie after another.
It used to be that to live in “fantasyland” was a problem. Now, it’s paraded as a good, or at least acceptable part of our society. It feeds into a culture of instant gratification and personalized tastes that the church simply can’t compete with. Is it any wonder that the church is losing influence, all while millions and millions are willing to live in a fantasy world where they are conned as a matter of course? It seems the least we can do is speak against the “fantastic” life, and encourage our friends to enter the real life. Such a life should involve at the very least rooting for the home team above all others, and embracing the good family life that God has provided you.